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July 09, 2005

Young Republicans in Las Vegas

I'm back from my sojourn in Sin City, and I am naturally struck by the contrast of the nature of the town and the fact that the primary reason I was there was to present in a panel discussion to the Young Republicans National Conference.

At the invitation of Nelson Taylor, I and 6 other panelists engaged a small but curious crowd about the perils and opportunities provided by the New Media. I had worked myself up quite a bit in anticipation of this, my first television appearance in many years. In the end, it was a brisk hour on the dais, with only perhaps about 15 minutes filmed for the ever-curious eye of C-SPAN. The program should be broadcast for American Perspectives sometime in the near future.

Sitting next to me on the panel was Bob Johnson of Right Talk and Free Republic. He was a right amicable fellow who hails from the same part of SoCal where I live. We traded quips and made small talk during our off mic time. He seems like a good guy to know and one who has been around the block. Also on the panel were others interesting, CEO Ravi Singh of ElectionMall, college speaker and ex-hippie Chris Beren, young upstart Nathan Tabor of The Conservative Voice and Bob Eberle. Eberle's GOPUSA.com has a rather massive audience, of course not big enough to satisfy anyone's ambition on the panel. In addition was the very serious Don Irvine of AIM.

The star of the show from the moment he arrived was Bob Eberle who jumped into the middle of conversations whose beginnings obviously had deep roots beyond my ken. Eberle, it turns out, is the owner of the Talon News Service whose employee was the star of one of those huge controversies the blogosphere seems to love so well - none other than Gannon-Gluckert. So it took a moment for me to put two and two together as I overheard him say something to the effect that the Left wanted to try and prove that Bush and Cheney were gay. Eberle was clearly steamed about getting the bad end of a great deal of lefty sharp sticks and I have a feeling that the bad blood left over from that unpleasantness is not going away any time soon. Such matters make me very glad for my day job, because in the end, I could hardly expect less from inside the Beltway.

Of all the panelists, I was clearly the one with the fewest partisan axes to grind. Certainly mine is the smallest of all their websites - as these gents seemed to be angling more towards media mogul end of the business. I knew that coming in and decided to play the techie role ahead of time. I actually expected a smaller panel and a larger audience so I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to go into more detail about the future I see. Nevertheless, knowing it was just an hour I figured I could get only a bit in edgewise anyway.

What I didn't get a chance to say which needed saying was anything about Creative Commons when the question of copyright was raised. I got the feeling that it was something of a softball aimed at the big publishers in the group. I believe it was Eberle, although it might have been Tabor who made a very explicit point of declaring his 100% support of current copyright law. It is perfectly right and proper that any CEO of a media company should, but it rather cut to the heart of what would have been a very interesting discussion, had we the time and opportunity to do so.

I would contend that in the bottom-up world I would like to see coming from the citizens of the United States - those of us who are the most demanding and persistent participants in democratic politics in the world - that our net output far exceeds that of the big media. And since most of us bloggers are aware of the Creative Commons, as primary sources, we can control copyright through our choices which will become ossified by convention. In other words, who cares about the 500,000 words copyrighted daily in the NYTimes when there are 1000 times that amount coming through Creative Commons in the blogosphere? Sooner or later the expensive words won't count and the cheap ones will prevail, which was a point I wanted to make by saying 'We hold these truths to be self-evident' and then mockingly adding 'TM'.

Since I for one consider myself quite strongly in what we often call the 'reality based world' and am probably a bit more scientific than the average panelist, I'm not particularly concerned about a subset of the blogosphere's willingness to undermine copyright per se. There is value in a writer who interviews a subject matter expert and then copyrights that interview as a matter of course in doing business with his publisher, but there is perhaps greater value in the subject matter expert speaking directly through the New Media. This, in my estimation, is the whole point, and I wonder if the implications of this inherent conflict is apparent to those who would cannibalize the MSM with their New Media methods. Or as Ravi Singh put it so eloquently, do you want votes or money?

As for myself, I'm analytical and an idea man. As I arrived early to the forum, I wandered around as the Young Republicans themselves were gnashing through the parliamentary moshpit of credentialling and standing of their member organizations and delegates. It took me back to my own college days and memories of interminable meetings seemingly tailor-made by lobbiests for the caffiene and amphetamine industry. While I hope the grinding continues, it would be much more efficient to do it online so as not to mess with the schedules of the queues of panelists who drive at breakneck speeds across the desert Southwest. Another point of XRepublic. And so while there are a host of points of orders and arcane etiquettes still very much in action in the halls of power in this nation, I am hopeful that the 60% who sit out most elections are of the same sentiment as I. Show me the bottom line and let me vote, and stop wasting my time with all the foofoo. I think the ideas will come through if we are courageous and bold enough to speak the truth and commit to be reality-based. An idealistic position which I quite well understands suffers in the face of the fact that the unwashed millions very often require direction and prodding from those of us who bother to lead. Nevertheless as for me and those like me, I'll have my freedom thank you.

I have come to understand and respect the opacity and purposeful indirection in law. It's confusing so as to dilute and diffuse the power of those who would just as soon bull through it. But when it comes to citizens coming to concensus, I much prefer discrete clarity. Then again, that's why I studied computer and not political science. So out in this world of citizen activists, a bit of plain speaking is a damned good thing and to hell with the shackles of copyright. Take this from the great-great grandson of someone who was forbidden to read by law. Our words will be free.

The spousal unit crossed me on this point all the way to dinner at the Luxor Steakhouse that evening. She said that if my book or my words were being used by somebody else and taking money out of the Bowen Family Trust, that I'd be running around looking for brains to splatter. She's probably right but I wouldn't let her have the moment. After all, I was paying for the steaks. Which I guess made her point after all.

All in all I had a fabulous time in Las Vegas, whose large contingent of average-looking people on the make never ceases to amuse. It was a good weekend, and I thank Nelson for the invite - big time, as well as Bob Johnson for all the pizza.

Posted by mbowen at July 9, 2005 09:59 PM

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You did a great job! I was honored to be on the panel with you.

Posted by: Nathan Tabor at July 12, 2005 07:51 AM

Man, I was and still am so proud of the panel participants. Thank you for coming and I had hoped that C-span would cover us with the same fervor in which they cover commie war protestors. Nonetheless, everyone I spoke too felt thoroughly informed by the panel and wanted it to last longer. Shucks, several people were waiting in line to ask a question when we had too shut it down in time for the next panel.

Posted by: Nelson Taylor at July 12, 2005 02:57 PM

Very informative post...it's cool to hear what's going through your mind while you're participating...wish i coulda been there...even if it's mostly for the vegas part.

Posted by: Temple3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 12, 2005 09:06 PM