Disintermediation

“Disintermediation.” It’s a big word. Kinda wonky. One of those jargony terms sometimes used to make one feel smarter or better informed than one really is. Borrowed from the world of finance, the word more broadly describes the act of removing the middleman, or intermediary.

I just plain love the word. Especially when talking about the Internet and how it is changing the way people consume news and other information.

The other day I used the word “disintermediation” to kvell about Darcy Burner’s new Trail Mix videos, an online video diary the candidate is currently producing and editing herself. I wrote:

First the Internet enabled politicians to connect directly with voters, disintermediating the legacy press out of the equation. Now tech savvy politicians like Darcy Burner are attempting to use the Internet to connect directly with voters, disintermediating political advertising out of the equation… and the high-priced, professional media consultants who create it.

To which the Seattle Times’ David Postman responded:

We’ll see about that. The spots are refreshing and obviously something very different and much more personal than what we see in a campaign. But at this point they’re just sidelights. Burner worked closely in ’06 with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and her campaign showed plenty of signs of being shaped by “high-priced, professional media consultants.”

Self-produced YouTube ads in the spring before the election year are one thing. There are plenty of examples of creative use of the Internet in campaigning. But I’ve yet to see a major candidate commit to Goldstein’s “disintermediation” once they become serious contenders.

Hmm. I suppose I allowed my enthusiasm to get the best of my rhetoric, for I want to be clear that I am not for a moment suggesting that Darcy can or should entirely disintermediate the consultancy class any more than she can entirely disintermediate professional journalists. Postman is right that it is still quite early, and as we head into the heat of the contest Darcy’s campaign will surely take on a more traditional and “professional” look and feel.

So I am not advocating that Darcy entirely “commit” to disintermediation. I’m merely suggesting that she should not abandon it.

It is hard to be disappointed in Darcy’s amazing, come-from-nowhere, 2006 campaign… I mean, apart from the obvious fact that she didn’t win. But I share Postman’s take that her “personality was largely lost in some of the ads.” Her paid media may have been well produced, and the strategy entirely defensible in light of her number one perceived weakness — her youthful appearance and her supposed inexperience — but the end result is that few voters got to know the candidate as the smart, funny, wonky, passionate, personable, hard working, and occasionally quirky Darcy who us bloggers grew to know and love.

At the start of the campaign it was all about beating Reichert. By the end of the campaign I couldn’t imagine another person who I would rather have representing me in Congress.

That admittedly emotional attachment to a political candidate is not something one can create through a traditional campaign. The medium of 30-second TV spots won’t allow it, and the stodgy, solemn gatekeepers of the legacy press simply won’t permit it. Yet for all the usual complaints about our elections — the venal, nasty tone of the campaigns and the shallowness of our political dialogue — it is this failure to establish an emotional connection between the candidate and the voter, this lack of trust and affinity, that is the largest obstacle to conducting a real public debate.

For if you do not trust the candidate, if you cannot establish an emotional connection, then you can dismiss everything and anything they say as just another cynical, disingenuous, political sound bite. That in fact was the strategy of the Reichert campaign and the Times’ viciously dishonest editorial. And to some extent, it worked.

And that is why disintermediation is such an important tool, because it is the best means for candidates in large districts to directly reach a larger number of voters, and the only opportunity for some voters to truly get to know their candidates outside the reality distortion field generated by paid and earned media filters. What could be more honest than a campaign video filmed and edited by the candidate herself? Given the choice between that, and Frank Blethen’s opinion or an adman’s pitch, why would any voter want to choose one of the latter?

No, the vast majority of voters this cycle will not follow the election on YouTube, and so yes, Postman is somewhat right in describing these videos as a sort of sidelight to the real campaign. But in doing so I think he underestimates the collateral benefits of efforts such as these. Disintermediation does not replace traditional campaigning, it augments it, and in so doing, helps shape the way the traditional media shapes the public perception of the campaign itself.

In writing about Darcy’s homemade videos, Postman, arguably the most influential and widely read political writer in the state, is introducing these clips to a much broader audience than they might otherwise garner, and perhaps more importantly, finds himself covering Darcy within a context she chooses to define. Likewise, he is engaging HA — one of the WA progressive community’s premier tools of political disintermediation — in a dialogue about the notion of disintermediation itself.

I know… very meta. But it illustrates the point that disintermediation is not simply about removing the media middleman, it is about forcing the remaining middlemen to acknowledge the role they play, and to adjust their coverage accordingly.

The more people who get to know Darcy for who she truly is, the harder it becomes for a Kate Riley or a D.C. media consultant to caricature her one way or the other. And that’s good for both Darcy and the voters.

Comments

  1. 1

    Richard Pope spews:

    “By the end of the campaign I couldn’t imagine another person who I would rather have representing me in Congress.”

    Goldy — if I lived in your congressional district, I would vote for Darcy Burner over Jim McDermott any day of the week.

  2. 2

    Richard Pope spews:

    My two observations about the videos — (1) too bad neither one of them is from the 8th congressional district. If Darcy spends more time in the 8th CD next time — especially in the south end (including Pierce County) — she might actually be able to win, and (2) it is really unfortunate to start a campaign for a two year term more than 18 months before election day (it was bad enough to start 16 months in advance last time).

    Oh — they were actually pretty good videos. Even Stefan posted them on his website, with commentary more objective than usual.

  3. 3

    headless lucy spews:

    I went to a meeting in Sammamish featuring Ms. Burner and was impressed with her as a Congressional candidate.

    … and I contribute money, work the phones, and generally push the boulder a little bit forward each election cycle. There were several hundred of my type at that meeting, and the more well known she becomes, the more of us there will be.

    I really enjoyed shellacking the keesters of the Wingnuts in ’06, and I and my millions of Democrat cohorts will be there in ’08.

  4. 4

    headless lucy spews:

    re2: Why would I want to read any commentary from someone (Steve Sharansky from San Francisco} who bans people from his rigid little wingnut sideshow just because they don’t treat the blathering and uninformed wingnut commenters that cingregate there with kid gloves?

  5. 7

    RightEqualsStupid spews:

    Who the fuck cares what this piece of shit Postman says? This cowardly dick-sucker sits at the feet of Frank and does the bidding of the Publicans. He’s got the credibility of Dick Cheney!

  6. 9

    Brenda Helverson spews:

    Last election, The Reicherthole had lots of Republican support. The Party of Corruption won’t be able to devote quite as much attention to his little campaign this time around – they have lots of other House and Senate seats to defend and many of these campaigns will give them more bang for their buck.

    It will be a lot easier for Darcy to hang Disaster of Epic Proportions bush and Presidents Rove & Cheney around The Reicherthole’s neck this time around. Even the fools are starting to realize the truth. Last time was for name recognition. This time is for victory. With luck, even the Democratic Consultants won’t be able to blow this one.

  7. 10

    proud leftist's harry ass spews:

    9

    If the democrats (party of voter fraud) were unable to unseat Riechart after two years of media lies then they wont in 2008 or beyond. The fact that the dems have control of congress makes them (oh no) accountable. The dems cant lead, never have and never will. It will be a different story in 2008 as far as congress is concerned.

  8. 11

    K spews:

    Come on now harry ass, two major dailies (Times and the Late KC Journal) clearly supported Dave. Media tilted his way. You tried and failed to prove fraud (except for some deceased Republican voters). You don’t really believe the silly post you made.

  9. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Investment is fleeing and circulation is shrinking in traditional print and broadcast media. Capital and talent are piling into new and innovative ways of communicating via the internet. If Postman can’t see the handwriting on the wall, he needs both a portfolia and resume makeover.

  10. 13

    proud leftist's harry ass spews:

    11

    Liberals think the media is biased if they write one or two articles that doesn’t go along with the liberal template. For an empty skirt Darcy got plenty of publicity. Cry me a river.

  11. 14

    Donnageddon spews:

    PLHA said @13 “It will be a different story in 2008 as far as congress is concerned.”

    So, you have finally realized that Republicans will no longer have any representation in after the 2008 election?

    I look forward to an actual conservative party coming into being. I won’t vote for them, but at least they will actually represent a realistic world view.

    Neocons have killed the Republican party. Game over. It is dead.

  12. 15

    K spews:

    I wasn’t whining, harry ass, you were. Nor was it me alleging media bias. That also was you.

    You can’t even read your own writing.

  13. 16

    proud leftist's harry ass spews:

    K says:

    Come on now harry ass, two major dailies (Times and the Late KC Journal) clearly supported Dave. Media tilted his way.

    Later:

    K says:

    I wasn’t whining, harry ass, you were. Nor was it me alleging media bias.

    Yea, sure. Were you related to John Kerry?

  14. 17

    proud leftist spews:

    harry ass @ 10
    Take a look at this figure: ‘ That figure is called an apostrophe. An apostrophe is used when we contract words. For instance, when we (we being those of us who speak English fluently) shorten a word such as cannot to its contracted form, we substitute the apostrophe for the letters n and o and come up with “can’t.” We also use the apostrophe when we contract “will not” to “won’t.” There are other uses for the apostrophe, but we are not ready for that lesson, yet. Our next lesson in basic English skills will involve the concept of capitalization of the first letter of proper nouns. Bear with me, lad.

  15. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 Richard, if I lived in your district I would vote for Darcy over Dave Reichert on any Election Day you can name.

  16. 20

    kirk spews:

    The whole idea of ‘trusting a candidate’, and ‘feeling’ about them one way or another is one of the things that’s fundamentally wrong with our present day political system. It’s all too easy to manipulate feelings via tv ads. Supporting someone because they have a specific world view and a program of things they’d like to see changed or accomplished is what a real political system should offer up.
    It’s too bad Alex Alben was hit by Berendt’s buddy Dave Ross because his editorial about climate change in the Seattle Times expressed actual thoughts about issues our society’s facing. That’s way more important than two people ditzing around with a video camera in an SUV.

  17. 22

    righton spews:

    Goldy, to your point., Darcy is indeed doing a good job of framing her image…

    boring, dense, stuck on herself

    I can’t believe you all brag about being so dang smart all the while peddling such a lightweight.

    Poor Maria, having to hang out with Patty and her long lost kid sister Darcy… probably has to explain everything twice now.

  18. 23

    bj spews:

    I never watch campaign adds, so it was Darcy’s personal story that spoke to me. It’s true that I’m a wonky, highly-educated, pacific northwest mom of a young kid, so I might be a special case. But, I too went from beat the republican as the goal (and I had thought the last time around that the only way it was going to be done was with a woman candidate), to really liking the idea of Darcy in Congress, and seeing her as the future of American government.

    She’s our candidate for the next time around, too.

    bj

  19. 25

    ManofTruth spews:

    Dear Harry`s Ass,

    You might try using some of that paper next to the toilet next time. Sheryl Crow won`t mind and you won`t smell as much.

    Of course maybe you actually like smelling like what you are. No accounting for taste or the lack thereof.

  20. 26

    alex spews:

    I can’t beleive what I read and the Darcy I worked with must not be the same Darcy. Some of you are SOOOOO fooled. I hate Bush too, but let’s find a candidate with some damn experience. Darcy never ‘finished’ anything in her life, flighting from college major to college major, job to job. She was a consistently poor performer. She got terrible job reviews.

    If Darcy had not so blatently lied about her job experience, or lack thereof, she might have had a chance. She’s way high-strung, tempermental, and a BS artist. She disappears for long periods of time. She doesn’t follow through. She condescending and yells at people who disagree with her. She lies. She’s ‘fragile’ when pushed.

    She’s a very smart fake and a fraud. She uses her family when they agree with her, and calls them morons when they don’t.

    Let’s get an adult with experience to run….

    As limited as Reichert’s record was, he had a long one. He didn’t lie about it. He was consistent

  21. 27

    spews:

    alex @26,

    So… um… “Alex”… you worked with Darcy where? In Boston? (Yeah… I can track IPs.)

    Fucking profesional troll, coming in at the end of a comment thread, hoping to leave the last word. Coward.

    As for Reichert, his entire political career is based on a lie. He did NOT catch the Green River Killer. He’s the guy who fucked up the investigation, and let him go on murdering women for another 18 years.