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This article was published on December 24, 2007

Politics: too serious a matter to be left to politicians?

Politics: too serious a matter to be left to politicians?
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

At last years Le Web conference in Paris a large part of the audience was not amused about the sudden appearance of first one, then two and finally three politicians on stage. Worse, they were French politicians. My main memory is one of them saying ‘Le Web est très importante’ which translates to ‘The Web is very important’. I remember thinking ‘I didn’t travel to Paris, and paid good money, to hear a politician telling ME that the web is important!’. And it seemed that more people felt this way judging from the hundreds of blogpost following that conference.

One big concern that was voiced was that these politicians were mainly interesting (if at all) to French people. For an organisation that aims to have a worldwide audience it is kind of strange to focus on local politics. Of-course the French consider France the center of the world so that explains that.

handpuppetNow Techcrunch has moved into politics too. They want to ‘provide a voice for digital policy and technology issues’ which is a noble effort. They are obviously doing a very good job at it and have gained a lot of mainstream press too.

But just as at LeWeb in Paris, as an international citizen, I feel awkwardly left out. Sure, in the end, the US elections will influence my life too. But as a non US citizen I don’t don’t find it an interestingly enough subject for an international technology blog, or conference. In a way TechCrunch appears to say ‘We focus on American readers’ and this message is not very welcoming to people not from America.

It isn’t that I blame Techcrunch about their interest in the elections. They do have a large and influential following and can have an effect. And politics is a rich subject that can generate a lot of content fast. As Will Rogers said “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you”. Exchange ‘humorist’ for ‘blogger’ and you get the point.

Coincidentally Techcrunch is getting mixed up in a whole different sort of politics: copyright politics. It seems that Micah L. Sifry is not amused by Techcrunch choice of words when they picked ‘Tech President Primaries’ as a subtitle for their primaries. Sifry is Executive Editor and co-Founder of Personal Democracy Forum, a website that writes about the changing democracy in America, and he claims they started the ‘TechPresident Primaries‘ before Techcrunch came up with the idea. In a (now published) letter to Michael Arrington he insists Techcrunch rename the ‘Techcrunch Tech President Primaries’ and ‘acknowledge techPresident.com and the work we’ve been doing to get the presidential campaigns to be more internet-savvy’.

Sounds like a serious issue?
Not really.

As often happens in politics Sifry retracted his words the next day and claimed he had no choice but to ‘make our concerns public’ and ‘meant the phrase as a metaphor, not a formal legal accusation’.

I wouldn’t mind if the old saying ‘In Polite Company People Never Talk about Religion, Politics, Sex, or Money’ could be aplied a bit more to technology blogs and conferences.

Except for the Money & Sex part.

No, forget the Sex part too because as Ronald Reagan said:

“Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

I’m sure that the day after Reagan said this he also said ‘ I just wanted to make our concerns public and meant the phrase as a metaphor’.

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