Who were the real winners in last night’s GOP debate? Google and Fox News.

September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

by Dr. Susan Hardwicke

Despite its monolithic presence in global business, Google needed a win last night as much as Newt Gingrich. As Google executives faced scrutiny from Congress in anti-trust hearings, its timing as a Republican debate sponsor was, to say the least, uncanny. Executives do have reason to be concerned: as their brand has been associated closely with liberal agendas (more than a few accusations were leveled at Google for involvement in the Egyptian revolution earlier this year) may find themselves “out in the cold” if conservative influence results in a sweep in the 2012 elections.

Google and Fox pulled off an event that brought the nation (if only the conservative-leaning) together as a community in a dialogue with its prospective leaders. The “word clouds”—graphic representations of frequently searched terms—provided instant, meaningful feedback to viewers about Americans’ time-sensitive interests and priorities. Fox News moderators posed questions that had received the highest online votes. Average Americans posed questions directly via YouTube, and Fox displayed their geolocation: all brilliant mash-ups despite the absence of giant channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

Google delivered search content as only they can do, and Fox, for the most part, stayed out of the way of the candidates’ personae, content to probe and manage, and not to control the dialogue.

The tone of the debate was decidedly different from those presented and moderated by the media elite, whose greatest “gotcha” question recently was about whether Gov. Perry could sleep at night in the context of so many penal executions.

As the Internet and social media become inextricably woven into the American daily life, people will more strenuously resist the barriers erected by the professional media—at least those who project that they know best how to elicit the “real positions” and truth from politicians. Based on last night’s tough questions from the public, it looks like average Americans are doing just fine.

On second thought, the real winners of last night’s debate were the voters.

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