The most important lesson we should all learn from the 2012 election

“You idiot! Get back in there at once and sell, sell!”

As we set about the process of compiling and canonizing the 2012 election post-mortem, one thing we keep hearing over and over is how utterly stunned the Romney camp was at their loss. Republicans across the board apparently expected victory – the conservative punditry seemed certain of it – and now we’re hearing that Romney himself was “shellshocked” by the result.

Mitt Romney went into Election Night expecting a victory and was “shellshocked” when he finally realized he had lost, CBS News reported.

Despite early signs of a stronger-than-expected turnout for President Obama, it wasn’t until the crucial state of Ohio was called for the president that Romney began to face the likelihood of defeat.

Even then, he and his team had trouble processing the news, senior advisers told CBS News.

“We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory,” one adviser said. “I don’t think there was one person who saw this coming.”

Well, Nate Silver saw it coming. His projections called the final outcome almost down to the precinct, and it’s not like he doesn’t have a track record.

Silver’s final 2008 presidential election forecast accurately predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia (missing only the prediction for Indiana). As his model predicted, the races in Missouri and North Carolina were particularly close. He also correctly predicted the winners of every U.S. Senate race.

It wasn’t just Silver. Almost all the polls showed Obama with at least a slight lead in the battleground states, and if we can believe CNN’s election night insiders, Mitt’s own tracking showed him five points adrift in Ohio as late as Sunday (which explains why he set up camp there when many expected him to focus his energies elsewhere).

In other words, all the data, all the nonpartisan analysis, all the evidence, made clear that Romney’s chances were slim. It’s understandable that he and his people would be disappointed, and mightily so. But surprised? How does that happen?

In a nutshell, the GOP blindsided themselves. The reason should be obvious to anyone who has paid any attention at all to American politics in recent years: an overabundance of blind faith. I don’t mean this in a religious sense (although the political and socio-scientific manifestations of the phenomenon issue from strong religious antecedents). Instead, I’m referring to the broad, swelling inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between belief and knowledge.

As noted, nearly all the polls showed Romney in trouble. Most broke out their results in ways that clearly suggested why he was in trouble. The rational response to such information is to take it onboard, adapt and adjust. But that’s not what the GOP did. Instead, they dismissed the data that didn’t align with their beliefs. They went so far as to “unskew” the polls because they were clearly biased in favor of Mr. Obama. How do we know they were biased? Because they favored Mr. Obama. UnskewedPolls.com performed some ideological/mathematical hijinks and produced “corrected” polls that demonstrated how Mr. Romney was actually leading. By a lot.

The resulting projected electoral map was positively Reaganesque.

You might argue that the rational response isn’t to adapt and adjust if there is actually reason to believe that all the polls are, in fact, skewed. This objection is fair, so long as your reasons for doing so are driven by factual concerns instead of ideological ones. I think it’s more than clear, by now, that GOP faith in a Romney win was driven by belief instead of knowledge isn’t it?

The upshot is what we saw Tuesday night and in the days following: shock, dismay, confusion. Romney and his people (here I’ll include the GOP’s media relations arm, FOX News) didn’t see the obvious coming and some were melting down as reality began to assert its ugly presence in ways that even Megyn Kelly couldn’t ignore. Sure, Karl Rove had an excuse for going all Randolph Duke on the set. He’d just spent $600M of rich folks’ money and had a pack of nabs to show for it, an outcome with dire implications for his future career prospects. Of course he was losing it – he was seeing his political life pass before his eyes as the Ohio totals ticked in. Again, though, this was a live, nationally televised case study in self-delusion: it isn’t true because sweet Jesus it just can’t be.

I keep using these terms “knowledge” and “belief.” I suspect that many people across the country might initially grapple with the difference (in fact, I know this to be the case). So let me define these terms, at least operationally, for the benefit of those who don’t understand the distinction.

  • Knowledge is a process whereby conclusions derive from information and reasoning.
  • Belief is a process whereby preconceptions govern the pursuit of information.

In other words, with knowledge, you learn all you can in as rigorous and intellectually honest a fashion as possible, then you figure out what it means. With belief, the conclusions are given from the outset and data is selected and discarded according to whether or not it supports the point you’re trying to make.

Accepting facts that run counter to what we believe, and what we want to believe, and even what we desperately need to believe, can be hard. I understand the difficulty as well as anyone. I personally now believe pretty much the opposite of nearly every important thing I believed as a young man, and I have frequently noted how many times my beliefs changed because I was proven wrong by the very smart people with whom I insisted on surrounding myself. I’ve always been a fan of the famous John Maynard Keynes quote: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

As hard as it is to investigate contrary information and opinions, though, it’s imperative that we do so. With gusto. The Republican Party had all the evidence there before them throughout the entire campaign. There is precious little that we know now that we didn’t know a month ago. Their decision to pretend it was all skewed led to what? They lost the White House (in a race that was surely theirs for the taking). They lost ground in the Senate. Thanks to gerrymandering they still control the House, but their candidates nationwide received fewer votes than their Democratic opponents. Gay marriage initiatives passed in a couple of states. Gays and lesbians were elected to Congress.

All because the Republican Party privileged belief over knowledge.

Plenty of debate is already under way within the Republican Party as to what the results means and what might be done about it. Some conservative analysts are paying heed to the knowledge they have gained. Others, not so much.

And over at UnskewedPolls, well, see for yourself:

*sigh*

The GOP 2012 experience holds important lessons for us all as we move forward. The world in which we live, the nation in which we live, the neighborhoods and communities and cities in which we live are what they are, not what we wish them to be. For instance:

  • Some among us might wish that we lived in a uniformly white, Christian, heterosexual, nuclear family culture. We don’t. Whatever policies we seek to implement are doomed to failure unless we acknowledge our new multicultural reality.
  • Some of us believe that there is no such thing as climate disruption. There are Nate Silvers and Karl Roves in the natural science world, too. Our future and the future of generations not yet born depend on whether we’re smart enough to know to which of them we need to listen.
  • Many of us believe that cutting taxes on our wealthiest citizens creates opportunity and shared prosperity for everyone. All data on the subject shows this to be pure ideology – the precise opposite is true and the refusal to pay attention to the basic facts of economic history have grave implications for us all.
  • Dollar for dollar, the US pays three times more for health care than any other industrialized nation and by any measure we generate significantly worse outcomes. You might believe that only those who can pay outrageous prices deserve to be healthy, but the actual number of people who agree with you is diminishing rapidly.
  • The president was born in Hawai’i. If you insist that all proof is forged (it has to be, because it doesn’t conform with your beliefs), you will find that you’re damaging the credibility of other positions you hold. Also, people won’t sit next to you on the bus.
  • We are not a theocracy. A growing majority of voters are rejecting candidates whose views on how America should be governed more resemble the 1st century than the 21st. The coalition includes every facet of the electorate, but is especially pronounced among segments that are increasing in numbers.

The things are not beliefs, they are facts supported by every scrap of credible evidence that we have. The existence of facts doesn’t automatically suggest what the best policies might look like, but the refusal to acknowledge them assures disaster.

All of us – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green and none of the above – would do well to learn from the GOP’s hard 2012 lesson.

Deciphering those S&R Obama/racism poll results

Last week, a highly unscientific Scholars & Rogues poll asked our readers this question: What percent of the popular vote do you believe Barack Obama would win in the upcoming election if he were white? The results are in, and I’d like to spend a few moments examining what they reveal.

First, the numbers:

Less than 50% 15.15%
Roughly 50% 10.61%
60% 31.82%
70% 36.36%
80% 4.55%
More than 80% 1.52%

Here’s what those answers mean.

60%: This we’ll call the aware, informed and reasoned answer. Our friend Wufnik, in the comment thread, offers some analysis suggesting that the race factor is worth maybe four points. It’s certainly an intelligent estimate, although for reasons I briefly note in reply, I fear it underestimates.

70%: This is the the aware, informed and reasoned, but even more cynical answer. Full disclosure: this is how I voted. I don’t think everybody in the South (and various other South-like regions of the country) are racists, but I grew up there and I know the culture intimately. Over time these people have learned what to say in public. But they vote in private, don’t they?

80%: The more cynical than is probably healthy answer. Listen, 30% of the population would vote for Voldemort before they would a Democrat, regardless of race. (Although, granted, a big part of the reason this is true traces back to Johnson and the Civil Rights Act. Objection noted.)

More than 80%: The seek help answer. Lord, folks, it probably wasn’t that bad even during the Jim Crow era.

Now, to the other end of the spectrum.

Roughly 50%: The there is no racism in America answer. If Barack Obama were white, his poll numbers would be precisely what they are now, apparently. This answer asserts that there are no Americans who hold his race against him. This option pulled better than 10% of the response. Which, now that I think on it, might mean the polls has more scientific validity than I previously imagined.

Less than 50%: The positively barking being a minority is a huge plus in American politics answer. Not only does race not hinder your ability to attain higher office, it helps to be black. Which explains why we have had so many black presidents and nominees from both major parties. And why in the entirety of modern US history there have been four black senators (none of them from the South, it might be observed, and unless I’m missing someone, none currently). And why there has only been one black Supreme Court justice. (Well, two if you count Thomas.) This option rang up better than 15% of the final tally. It’s possible that some of those who voted this way were trolling. It’s certain that the rest shouldn’t be allowed outdoors off-leash.

In the end, this poll perhaps suggests that S&R’s readership is less skewed to the left than we usually assume. As Wufnik notes in the comments on the previous post, analyses of American politics begin with the assumption that 27% of the voters are certifiably insane. The percentage of respondents voting the two incoherent conservative choices here comes to nearly 26% – well within any margin of error you might like to apply – and if you add the exceedingly paranoid 1.52% from the other end, we’re at precisely 27.28%, with a significant majority of the irrationalism on the right end of the spectrum.

Sounds about right.

Poll: how much of the vote would Obama win if he were white?

If you read Wufnik’s secession piece yesterday, you may have noticed that the inevitable cropped up in the comments: racism. You can’t talk about secessionist impulses anywhere – Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Quebec – without the subject of the US intruding, and that tends to mean the South. As in, the South in which I grew up (as did some of my fellow scrogues).

As Wufnik notes, there are all kinds of reasons why a group of people might want out of the nation they’re in, whether it’s language or historical culture or religion or resources or economics or whatever. But in the US South, it’s about one issue and one issue only: racism. If you want to argue that racism is not rampant in the South, either you’re trolling or you’re willfully self-deluding because you hate facing the bald facts or maybe you’re just not bright enough to be in a conversation with educated people.

No, racism doesn’t exist only in the South. No, not everyone who votes for Mitt Romney does so because they’re racist. And no, not all Southerners are racists. But the phenomenon is unarguably more ubiquitous there, especially once you get beyond the boundaries of larger cities. It doesn’t really matter, though: if you’re paying attention, you can’t help noticing a powerful correlation between racism and the relative redness of the electorate in a given state, can you?

Wufnik allows that if Obama wins re-election the right is going to pitch a full-on nukular galloping hissy fit (as opposed to the more reasoned, respectful, collaborative approach we’ve seen since 2008). (Despite the fact that some polls are calling it neck and neck, I do expect the president to pull it out. I’m not a hardcore quant demographer, but Nate Silver’s analysis seems coherent enough, and he’s saying it’s about a 73% chance of an Obama win). He’s probably right. I’m having a hard time imagining how much worse the racist right can get without actually donning white hoods and burning a cross on the White House lawn, but we’ll see, won’t we?

In any event, this all got me to thinking about a basic question. Consider the GOP approach, from their positively Byzantine assault on women to their willingness to openly lie about anything and everything to their reactionary theocratic rhetoric to … well, you’ve been watching, so you’ve heard the same barking asshaberdashery that the rest of us have. In a remotely sane world – that is, one in which candidates and ideas were intelligently evaluated on their merits alone – this batshit brigade couldn’t pull more than 15% of the popular vote if they were running uncontested. And yet, here they are, poised to score nearly half the popular vote for president and probably maintain control of the House. Why is that, I wonder?

So here’s the question: what would the polls look like if Barack Obama were white. (100% white, I mean.)

Instead of letting that hang there like a rhetorical question, let’s actually do a poll.

Feel free to add comments, if you like.

The Des Moines Register's presidential endorsement is short-sighted and shallow; Iowa deserves better journalism

by Andrea Frantz

My husband and I, Iowa natives both, recently returned to our home state after 14 years in Pennsylvania. There were many things to look forward to as we anticipated our move home, not the least of which was the fact that we have long deemed Iowa an independent-minded state both socially and politically.

I am proud of the fact that I was raised in the state whose Supreme Court ruled against racially segregated schools more than 80 years before the Federal Supreme Court would do the same. In the same vein, Iowa was the nation’s leader to ensure its public schools were co-educational, guaranteeing that women could have the same opportunities for education that men had so long enjoyed. And I celebrated its forward-thinking attitude when it became the fifth state in the nation to legalize gay marriage.

We also looked forward to returning to Iowa’s long tradition of excellence in journalism and the Des Moines Register.

I was not surprised by the Register‘s endorsement of Mitt Romney last night. I saw it coming by drips and drabs in its coverage of both candidates, though it was perhaps clearest last week when I saw the blatant difference in tone in the side by side campaign “news coverage” on its front page. While the lead on the article focused on Obama was long-winded and struck a negative tone focusing on how his campaign had stepped up criticism against Romney, the lead in the Romney article was pithy and clear where the Register was leaning: “This must be what momentum looks like.” Hm. So much for objective news coverage.

While the Register‘s editorial board points to the state of the economy and jobs as the key drivers behind its endorsement, there is little in the way of specifics in this piece to support the choice. Not unlike Mr. Romney’s campaign, the endorsement offers no specific economic policies, plans, or achievements that illustrate how he is better suited to lead our country further out of the mire created by the Bush administration. This surface treatment of an exceptionally important issue does a disservice to your readers and ensures that political conversation in Iowa remains the consistency and nutritional value of a flaky, sugary pastry a la Pella’s famous Dutch letters. While sweet and perhaps a temporary energy fix, there’s nothing sustainable. Needless to say, I was looking forward to more meat and potatoes upon my return to the state. A little protein please, Des Moines Register.

Last, while the economy should, in fact, be a leading criterion for this Presidential choice, I am stunned by the fact that the Register ignores foreign policy, women’s health and reproductive rights, immigration, education, energy and the environment in its endorsement. All of these things are, in fact, drivers of economic stability and President Obama has a proven record and well-articulated vision with them. Mitt Romney has stated for the record he will boost funding to our military and aggressively engage Iran and China while simultaneously cutting funding to Planned Parenthood and federal pell grants. This is the “fresh economic vision” you herald?

For a newspaper that purports to serve Iowans equally, your endorsement falls short of the progressive, nuanced understanding of Iowans’ needs that I had so looked forward to upon my return to this state. Your endorsement is short-sighted and shallow both politically and as a journalistic contribution to the larger discussion. We deserve more.

Andrea Frantz is a journalism professor who still has faith in the future of the field…though some days, that faith is tested more than others.

Elections are educational! 14 things we wouldn't have known without Campaign 2012

Everybody seems to be so negative about campaign season. They hate the ads, they hate the mudslinging, they hate the lying, they hate the candidates.

Not me – I LOVE campaign season. Why? Because it’s an opportunity to learn stuff that not only didn’t I know before, but that I’d never learn any other way.

For instance, look at some of the Science lessons I’ve learned in the past few months:

And what about History? I’d never have learned this one:

  • Slavery was a blessing in disguise for black people. (Granted, in parts of the country students can learn that most slaveowners were kind and that many blacks preferred being slaves, but it’s nice to have this kind of high-level, official validation.)

Many schools have slipped in their responsibility to teach Civics, but our candidates for public office are doing what they can to plug the gap:

How about Economics? God knows we need to learn how to be more fiscally responsible.

Then there’s Engineering:

And Behavioral Psychology:

And, of course, Political Science:

Finally, Geography:

  • You don’t have to share a border with a nation that has coasts on three large bodies of water in order to be their gateway to the sea.

We’ve got a couple weeks left and I’m carrying my notebook with me everywhere I go.I feel certain that I’m not through learning interesting and important lessons about our wonderful world.

It's a tablet! It's a computer! It's an opportunity!

I love hearing about new gadgets and technology, so when Microsoft introduced its new tablets, with a detachable keyboard and the new Microsoft Windows 8 operating system, I was pretty excited about the new opportunities the tech would create.

From the technical side of things, the tablet has a step up on Apple’s iPad with the detachable keyboard – making it not just a tablet, but a small computer. Apple still seems to have the advantage of an easier operating system, though: while Apple’s OSX (in whatever jungle cat variety you happen to own) is seen as pretty idiot-proof, Windows 8 takes some getting used to.

But rather than focus on this particular tablet, I think it’s interesting to think about the potential for this tablet (and those like it) to engage voters and canvass more effectively before elections.

Continue reading

"Binders full of women": Mitt finally lands a zinger for the ages

Remember back before the first debate when Mitt let us know he was working on his zingers? Yep. Clearly he wanted to land a punch that would push him over the top in the public consciousness, score the iconic rhetorical knockout blow that people would still be pointing to decades later. He wanted to be like Ronnie:

There you go again.

He wanted to be like Lloyd:

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Finally, after so many months on the campaign trail, Mitt landed his zinger.

Frankly, I was staggered at how quickly Mitt’s iconic “binders full of women” remark caught fire. Within an hour or two we had #BindersFullofWomen on Twitter, BindersFullofWomen.com, the hysterical Binders Full of Women Tumblr pageMittsBindersFullofWomen.com and several Facebook groups, one of which had 70,000 likes by the end of the debate. It happened so fast I found myself wondering how these people had known it was coming, because clearly they had the sites locked and loaded and were just waiting for Romney to utter his instant classic.

The problem, of course, is that when Mitt finally pulled the trigger, he had the gun pointed at his own balls. Which is fitting, I suppose, given how much time he had dedicated in recent months to debating with his own positions.

This is all funny, and yeah, check back in 50 years. If you’re still around, do a Google search (or whatever the equivalent is at that point in our future) for “memorable presidential debate moments.” You’ll certainly find Ronnie’s dismissal of Jimmy Carter and Lloyd Bentsen’s famous VP debate bitch-slap of Dan Quayle. But you’ll also find Admiral Stockdale:

Who am I? Why am I here?

You’ll find Dick Nixon sweating like a hog in the afternoon sun on an especially warm August day in Tucson. You’ll find Jerry Ford explaining that Poland is completely independent of Soviet influence.

And you’ll find binders full of women, the awkward moment where a candidate who has lived his entire life out of touch with regular men and women tries desperately to show that he really does get it. And only proves, ever more conclusively, that he doesn’t. Turns out Hofstra was merely the latest stop in the long and comical Mitt Romney, Man of the People® Tour.

This is what happens when an election process is driven by style instead of substance. Meticulous attention is devoted to appearances, to how the candidate looks, to how he or she appears to be in command (or not) of the stage. Abraham Lincoln might be carved into Mt. Rushmore, but his ugly ass couldn’t get elected dog catcher in 2012.

What is actually said matters, but not because of its relationship to facts. No, every potential word is tested for how it might be perceived, for its emotional charge, for its effectiveness with key demographics. Words are uttered not because they’re true, but because they persuade. And we have fully abandoned any notion that persuasion is a function of truth. If we cared about facts and the truth, we’d subject candidates for Leader of the Free World® to considerably more pointed questioning, wouldn’t we? We wouldn’t let their handlers dictate the process top to bottom.

But we don’t. Campaign 2012 isn’t about policy, it’s about pwning.

Meanwhile, outside the debate hall, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, a woman who actually does have some substantive ideas to discuss, was arrested. Because she didn’t have the proper credentials. One ought to wonder why somebody who will be on 85% of the ballots in the election couldn’t score the proper credentials.

So congrats to the Romney camp for finally getting of a zinger that’s destined for immortality. And good for us, the dumbass culture picking our leaders using process that looks like it was designed by Kardashians.

Or not. This is how Cartel Democracy works, I guess…

Children are the future – but they can’t vote, so whatever

Whether he’s talking about the lasting effects of the economy or his achievements in school reform, Mitt Romney mentions children pretty often. He prides himself as being an education governor, emphasizing school choice and creating the Jon and Abigail Adams Scholarship for high schoolers going to school. Take for example this quote, from his remarks on education titled “A Chance for Every Child:”

“In this country, we believe every child has something to contribute.  No matter what circumstances they were born into, every child has a dream about where they can go or what they can become.”

Romney says he wants a better future for his children and grandchildren, and for the children in the United States. He’s concerned for their future and wants them to go far. But he has a lousy way of showing it.

Continue reading

How digital is transforming politics: a special report from Mashable that's well worth a look

Unless you’ve been off-world for a few years, it’s not news that electronic media technologies are exerting a dramatic impact on our political sphere. However, being generally aware of the fact and having a more detailed understanding of the hows and whys, that’s another thing.

Our good friend Josh Catone and his colleagues over at Mashable have just released a fantastic series (http://mashable.com/2012/10/02/politics-transformed-special-report/) entitled Politics Transformed: The High Tech Battle for Your Vote, and to say it’s illuminating is to badly understate the case. Some of the specific issues addressed include: Continue reading

A quick, nonpartisan democracy lesson for our anonymous faux-patriot thugs

Let’s start with this.

DENVER – A Mexican restaurant in the Highlands neighborhood declined a Mitt Romney campaign stop.

Now the owners of Rosa Linda’s Mexican Café are getting death threats, nasty threatening phone calls, and insulting e-mails criticizing their choice.

“I don’t want people to be angry at me,” Rosa Linda Aguirre, the owner of the neighborhood staple, said. Continue reading

Take out the tax returns day

I, like a lot of other aspiring wonks, watched The West Wing when I was younger. I watched Leo talk about a big block of cheese, I watched CJ stand up for women in Saudi Arabia, and I watched President Bartlet raise my standards for elected officials far higher than could ever be met outside of primetime.

Today, as Mitt Romney released his 2011 tax returns, I thought of The West Wing, and what they called “Take out the Trash Day.” Friday afternoon is when all the boring or negative news was fed to the press in a lump, so that it wouldn’t take up a full news cycle, and so it would run into the weekend when most people don’t pay attention to the news.

Mitt Romney just took out the trash for his tax returns. Continue reading

The 7th Sign: David Brooks in the Times, telling the truth about Romney

This is just remarkable. And it may be the 7th Sign.

I try not to read David Brooks any more than I have to because every time I do I wind up wanting to throw things. Through the years he has established himself as one of the most reliably disingenuous, dishonest propagandists on the GOP payroll, a fork-tongued weasel who can’t say hello without lying. And BAM! Here, without warning or precedent, he smacks us in the lips us with the truest thing I’ve read in days.

The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor. Continue reading

Romney set to make campaign history? (#WTF alert)

Earlier this year, as the Man of the People® Tour rolled around the nation in search of new constituencies to offend, it became apparent that presumptive GOP nominee Thurston Howell III Mitt Romney is the sort of man who sometimes doesn’t think things through all the way. Which is bad for him, but fun for the political theater fans amongst us. Chevy Chase probably has his agent on the phone with Lorne Michaels right now. After what Chase did to the Gerald Ford campaign, it boggles the mind imagining what he’d do with Mitt.

Now this:

Romney steps away from Paul Ryan’s Medicare cuts Continue reading

Does Obama deserve a second term? Show, don't tell…

Last summer I did some thinking about Mr. Obama and the 2012 election. Specifically, would voting for him again be a good idea? I offered up several scenarios where I pondered ugly realities – long and short term – and concluded:

In the end, I don’t live in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida so my vote isn’t likely to count. In that case I’ll be safe enough casting a protest vote for whoever lands on the Green ticket. If it turns out that Colorado winds up as a battleground state in a tight election, then I have some hard-core soul-searching to do.

Ultimately, though, I can’t shake the feeling that something dramatic, something earth-shaking, something seismic aimed at the very heart of the system is going to be required to break the cycle of corruption and incompetence and butt-ignorance that shapes the course of American political and economic life.

Continue reading

Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Business and social media: American companies growing up, sort of

Ever since the Internet began gaining popular awareness in the mid-1990s, the topic of how businesses can productively use various new media technologies has been a subject of ongoing interest. Along the way we’ve had a series of innovations to consider: first it was the Net, and the current tool of the moment is Twitter. In between we had, in no particular order, Facebook (not that Facebook has gone away, of course), CRM, mobile (SMS, smart phones, apps), blogging, RSS and aggregation, Digg (and Reddit and StumbleUpon and Current and Yahoo! Buzz and Technorati and Del.icio.us and seemingly thousands more), targeted e-mail, YouTube, SEO, SEM, online PR and, well, you get the idea.

We certainly hear examples of businesses getting it right with new media, but in truth these cases represent a painfully small minority. Continue reading