When on December 13th, 2011 David Axelrod assessed the consequences of Newt Gingrich’s rise in the polls by saying: “The higher a monkey climbs on a pole, the more you can see hiss butt,” it was immediately picked up by blogs and traditional news websites alike. Liberals called it a funny quip, or even engaging the Republicans with both barrels, but Republican websites called it obnoxious and cried out that if similar comments had been made about President Obama that they would’ve been considered racist. Regardless of where you come down on Mr. Axelrod’s freewheeling statements, he was able to get at an essential truth about politics and political campaigns: popularity leads to exposure.
This has always been true about politics. Politicians dating back to the Founding Fathers have suffered from this, such as when Hamilton’s speech at the Constitutional Convention was leaked to the press, leading him to be called a monarchist until his death. With the rise of the penny press in the 1830s, gossip and political speeches were introduced as acceptable news topics and stayed this way through the 20th century. The Internet furthered this by allowing for immediate reporting. Only minutes after Mr. Axelrod’s press conference on December 13th, there were already multiple websites quoting him. The introduction of social media has taken it a step further by helping things spread quickly among friends and acquaintances. Though exposure has always been a part of political culture, it is now one of its most integral parts due to the rise of new media.
This phenomenon has spread beyond politics too. As any Youtube celebrity will tell you, we live in the age of viral. If you can garner enough attention on the Internet – through a funny video, satirical article or what have you – you can become immediately popular. By becoming exposed, people can rise to success online. But since the new media has made it such that our existence online is constantly exposed, we are all in some sense competing for popularity. In one way or another, we’re all monkeys trying to climb higher on a pole.
And that is why we are The Highest Monkey, a blog on what the new media exposes about politics. We are a group of Yale students in PLSC 277, a course on politics and the new media taught by Professor Cynthia Farrar, looking to understand how these new tools will change our understanding of citizenship and how we engage with politics, as well as how its changing politics. While much has been said about this – some think that new media has further democratized the news, while others say we have become lazy consumers, reading only the sources that agree with us – the verdict is not out yet. We will be posting on a daily basis, trying to cover the most interesting topic of the day that deals with the intersection of politics and the new media. Topics of discussion will include everything from citizen journalism to the elections to SOPA and how Facebook predicts the future. This is the place to be if you want to hear about the intersection of new media and politics and how it’s affecting you – so come back soon and follow us on Twitter @highestmonkey.
The views expressed on this blog reflect the opinions of the participating students, not of the larger student body nor the institution as a whole
- The Highest Monkey