For most of the 20th century, the flow of information was controlled by a relatively small number of media companies — large newspapers, and, later, the major broadcast networks. These companies were large and generally corporate, Establishment-friendly and politically centrist: They limited, mostly, the acceptable range of political opinion, because that nice middle was where advertising and subscription business models were most profitable. This limitation on the supply of information and opinion both enabled, and was enabled by, two Establishment political parties, which had effective control over political mobilization, having cobbled together unstable coalitions of voters bound by fairly tight ideological windows.
Facebook assaults both components of this power dynamic, providing the platform and audience that only news-media outlets could once command, and the organizing power that only parties once held. As then-Senator Obama understood well in 2008, the internet provides political candidates a previously unimaginable opportunity to identify, communicate with, and organize supporters — an opportunity that, significantly, exists outside the traditional party apparatus.
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