How the Internet is empowering politicians, writers and porn stars at the expense of institutions



In fact, it probably helped. That Hawley became a face of the effort to overturn the election (and that he continued to dine out on that position in the weeks that followed) probably helped him pull in that total.

Consider another Republican official who raised more than $3 million in the first quarter: controversial Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Greene’s hard-right rhetoric and repudiation by her peers unquestionably helped goose her fundraising.

That Hawley and Greene managed to convert their public profiles into fundraising windfalls isn’t novel. When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) first arrived in Washington, she demonstrated a similar ability to leverage her popularity to raise money. The effect was that direct: Ocasio-Cortez was so popular and able to get enough people to contribute to her campaign that the odious task of fundraising itself became background noise.

It’s obviously the case that this is something that couldn’t happen without the Internet to the same degree. In fact, it is evidence of a broad shift in the maturity of the Internet that’s rippling into a lot of other domains.

When the Internet first reached significant scale, it facilitated the emergence of bespoke communities with shared interests, creating groups including people who, without the Internet, probably would never have discovered one another. The example I like to use is furries, people who enjoy dressing up as animals. Such people existed before the Internet, but with the Internet’s emergence, furries became something of a cultural phenomenon. Enough people who shared this interest emerged that there were conventions predicated on the idea. The Internet fostered the community.

Now the Internet has reached another point of saturation. Online commerce has evolved enough that people don’t see buying things online as a novelty. There’s little friction in spending money online and increased familiarity with things like online subscriptions, thanks to tools like Netflix. One effect of that fluidity is that individuals can create communities — at times lucrative communities — around themselves.

There are online tools that make this easier. One is OnlyFans, a site often used by adult-focused entertainers. That’s not a requirement, of course; any individual who thinks that people will pay them a monthly premium for unique content can use the site to facilitate those transactions.



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