In This Review

An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths
An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths
By Glenn Reynolds
Nelson Current Press, 2006, 272 pp
Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics
Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics
By Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga
Chelsea Green Publishing, 2006, 240 pp

These two books come from the two halves of the blogosphere -- Reynolds' from what Internet denizens call the right blogosphere, Armstrong and Moulitsas' from the left. Together, they offer important insights into how the communications revolution is changing politics and life in the United States. The authors know whereof they speak; they have risen to national prominence on the basis of their Web sites, which offer commentary, asides, and links to stories that each finds of interest. And although their political views could not be more different (Reynolds is a conservative libertarian who continues to support the Iraq war; Armstrong and Moulitsas supported liberal Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean), their books share the view that the technology-driven changes now reshaping American society are transferring power from media and political elites to the grass roots -- and that this is a good thing. In this regard, the two books testify to an enduring popular consensus in American culture: change is something to welcome, and the establishment is the enemy. The left and the right have long competed to represent the aspirations of "ordinary people" against the various real and perceived aristocracies and oligarchies that have stood in the way of popular initiatives and ideas. Since the New Deal, Democrats have argued that the concentration of wealth in private hands is the greatest threat to the liberty and well-being of the American people; Republicans have argued that a swollen, tax-gathering state and the rent-seeking bureaucracies and elites battening on it are the true enemy. Reynolds, Armstrong, and Moulitsas have taken this argument to the Internet, suggesting that although the Internet may be changing the locus of the political debate, the new technologies are having less effect on the debate's content.

Crashing the Gate is less concerned with the broad social effects of the information revolution than with how to use those effects to take power in Washington. An Army of Davids ranges further afield. Possibly because Republicans have been winning elections for so long, Reynolds is less interested in politics than in social change. He believes that the democratization of power that has made formerly obscure bloggers major media players will wreak similar transformations throughout first American and then world industry and society. He is probably right about the big picture; both books are too important to miss.