INSIDE THE BELTWAY - E-life or just e-hype? Look around the country and you’ll run into far more space than cyber

Former White House adviser Dick Morris, who hasn’t been right about anything for a few years, weighed in the other day with a powerful prediction - neatly tailored for us Washington PR guys. The Internet, he opined, ’is going to take over American politics in the same way TV did. People will vote over the Internet, and as fewer and fewer people watch TV and more and more use the Internet, power is going to shift from one medium to the other.’

Former White House adviser Dick Morris, who hasn’t been right about anything for a few years, weighed in the other day with a powerful prediction - neatly tailored for us Washington PR guys. The Internet, he opined, ’is going to take over American politics in the same way TV did. People will vote over the Internet, and as fewer and fewer people watch TV and more and more use the Internet, power is going to shift from one medium to the other.’

Former White House adviser Dick Morris, who hasn’t been right about

anything for a few years, weighed in the other day with a powerful

prediction - neatly tailored for us Washington PR guys. The Internet, he

opined, ’is going to take over American politics in the same way TV did.

People will vote over the Internet, and as fewer and fewer people watch

TV and more and more use the Internet, power is going to shift from one

medium to the other.’



But this opinion, trendy as it is (Newsweek’s cover story this week is

on ’e-Life’), reminds me of a remark film critic Pauline Kael made some

years ago on Richard Nixon’s 48-state landslide victory over George

McGovern. Ms. Kael said she was ’surprised,’ because everyone she knew

had voted for McGovern.



’Everyone we know rides the Internet,’ Morris and others seem to be

proclaiming.



’We buy our books from Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com, we trade

securities and buy homes, get mortgages and buy cars and soon we will be

buying our groceries there.’



So that’s ’everyone,’ right? Wrong. Less than half of all Americans even

own a computer, let alone go regularly online. That percentage is

changing, to be sure, but slowly.



There is a danger here as we sweep our-selves up in e-Life. Intelligent,

thoughtful e-executives understand the need to spread, not just their

gospel, but their universe, until the computer is as ubiquitous as the

telephone.



But the quick-buck folks, anxious for a short-run blaze of publicity -

and profit - can turn this into an exclusionary, non-diverse business,

open only to the upper rungs of society.



There’s something else at stake. The use of the computer isn’t just

confined to those able to obtain one, but to those who are at least

reasonably literate and technically agile; folks who can’t read aren’t

going to buy very much online.



We have, when you think of it, two ways to go, and those of us in the

opinion-influencing business have to tread very carefully. We can

contribute to the creation of a society in which the educated and

moneyed classes pretty much run things - deciding what we’re all going

to eat, wear and how we’ll be governed - or we can take stock now and

promote programs to share the e-wealth.



That means doing something about public education beyond

complaining.



It’s going to mean more than just shoring up a public-private welfare

system, or even expanding the economy and ways to pay for

healthcare.



In short, it means fixing things so we can say to the job-seeker and the

under-educated - and mean it - ’get an e-Life.’



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