Just got a “breaking news” alert from The Politico that Barack Obama has accused the Clinton campaign of engaging in “the old ‘Swift boat’ politics,” using as evidence a Bob Novak piece from earlier today that claimed that Clinton was holding scandalous material on the Illinois senator, refusing to use it in public, but spreading rumors about it behind the scenes. The Novak article ran in Human Events rather than in the columnist’s high-profile perch at the Post, but it spread widely over the Web, no doubt in part because it appeared on Drudge. Obama’s statement is quite strongly worded, as is the Clinton campaign’s response (delivered by email), which basically accuses Barack of being such a callow youth that he’ll fall for an obvious Republican dirty trick.
Regardless of where the truth lies, and it’s going to be interesting as hell finding out, what jumps out at me is the sheer speed of this transaction, particularly for a Saturday. Those of us in the online advocacy community often talk about using this tool and that tool to help mold opinions or win votes, but what I wrote after last year’s mid-term election still stands: the most important effect of the Internet on politics comes from the unfathomable volume of information now available and the speed with which it can spread. The existence of electronic networks has utterly transformed all forms of communications to the extent that we hardly notice it anymore, and the aggregate effect of all of our actions online far outweighs their sum alone. All of which is another way to say, damn, that was fast.