Education Reporter
NUMBER 140 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS SEPTEMBER 1997
 

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Internet Praised
as 'Resource
for Conservatism'


WASHINGTON, DC -- "Its very important that we stake out this resource for conservatism. Its up to us to use every possible tool, every possible advantage, to reach those who dont know our message," said speaker Ken Emanualsen, who shared his knowledge about "Using the Internet for Political Activism" with the college students and interns who attended the Fourth Annual Eagle Forum Collegians Summit in June in Washington, D.C. A second-year law student at the University of Texas, Emanualsen founded and edited the Internet-based Conservative Calendar and has written for numerous on-line magazines.

Emanualsen encouraged students to use the Internet to organize and promote the groups to which they belong, and also offered strategies for effectively communicating via the Internet.

Emanualsen, who served on the board of Freshman PAC, an Internet-based committee dedicated to reelecting Republican House freshmen, recognizes the power of the Internet as a tool. "The Internet is nothing more than a huge communications network," Emanualsen said. "In politics it is very effective at taking the people you already know, whom youve already identified, and tying them together, getting them mobilized, getting them the information they need to fight to the end."

Although the Internet cannot replace traditional methods of promoting the conservative message, such as pamphlets, fliers, bumper stickers, yard signs, and door-to-door campaigns, the Internet enables a group to send a single message almost instantaneously to thousands of people who are interested in that information and willing to act.

"Each group will find the Internet useful in different ways," Emanualsen said in his discussion of Web pages, search engines, and electronic mail.

"A Web page is a file stored somewhere on the Internet and linked to other pages that are of similar interest," Emanualsen said. Web sites allow individuals who are interested in an organization to learn about the group by looking up that Web page from their own desktop at their convenience. Emanualsen called a Web page "a 24-hour salesman for your position."

Traditional methods of contacting members of a campus political organization by phone chain or mail may fail to reach everyone because messages are lost or relayed incorrectly, and long distance calls and postage make the process expensive. "E-mail gets past all these problems. An individuals computer is almost always available to receive e-mail," Emanualsen said. "Your message can go out to thousands of people at one time. Your potential for miscommunication is fairly low because youre typing exactly what you want to say."

Emanualsen encouraged all organizations to promote the use of e-mail to communicate within a group and suggested that leaders urge people who have little experience with the Internet to seek information and get on-line. E-mail messages about an organizations activities help busy members remain involved with the group.

E-mail list service systems allow individuals to access lists of groups that focus on topics of interest. Individuals may add their names to a groups list in order to receive information from that organization. "I strongly encourage groups to set up their own local e-mail lists to enable you to keep in touch with people in your group," Emanualsen said.

In addition to improving communication within an organization, e-mail helpsorganizations to engage in dialogue with other groups. "We need to build bridges between one another. Instead of trying to find some minor point of contention, we need to find areas of common interest," Emanualsen said. "The e-mail system has allowed us to talk through differences and put a face on the other side of an issue."

"If people are used to checking their e-mail fairly regularly, you can get your message out to a hundred different people in a few minutes, and theres no other way to do that," Emanualsen said. "Thats a resource -- a capability -- weve never had before."

The potential capability of Internet communication also raises concerns about the security of sending a message via this medium. Although Emanualsen said that people generally cannot get to you through your e-mail address, the contents of any message sent are unsecure. "Theres no telling where your message is going between Point A and Point B," Emanualsen said.

"Putting information on the Internet is like writing on a postcard. Anyone can read it along the way," Eagle Forum Collegians Founder Phyllis Schlafly added during the Q&A. "Americans have every right to engage in private conversations, so we should be able to send private messages, also," she said, and that is why we need to be able to encrypt our e-mail.

The Internet is more than a communications network, Emanualsen said. "Its the latest tool we can use to reach our generation, and its up to us to sell it to those of our peers who are a little older than we and dont realize what an incredible resource this is," Emanualsen said. "Its up to us to educate them and show them what the Internet can do and how effective it can be."

-- by Denise M. DeLancey