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Reagan Son Selling Email Done Right

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, August 2 2010

Eldest Reagan son Michael is selling email addresses to deny liberal technology companies the business:

People who believe in true Reagan Conservative Values are unwittingly supporting the Obama, Pelosi and Reid liberal agenda! What do I mean? Well, every time you use your email from companies like Google, AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Apple and others, you are helping the liberals. These companies are, and will continue, to be huge supporters financially and with technology of those that are hurting our country.

"[P]ut[ting] your name next to the name of the Greatest Conservative of all" will run you $34.95 a year if you sign up before tomorrow, and $39.95 after that point.

Some may chuckle. But what's Reagan is doing here actually seems to make some sense. (Though nowhere in the terms of service does Mr. Reagan indicate how much storage one gets which their new address, or other relevant particulars.) There seems to be a growing awareness amongst conservatives that there might be real political points to be made in attacking the platforms and services that make up the operating structure of the Internet. Conspiracy-minded radio host Alex Jones' fight against Google's YouTube, for example. As service providers get more powerful, more expansive, more central to our daily lives, they make a useful villain -- an evil empire for the 21st, century, if you will.

And there's another element at play. Reagan doesn't say it directly, but Hotmail, Gmail, and others are ad-supported. Our personal data is not only valuable to us as individuals, it's valuable as a commodity, something Google knows well. There's an opportunity for conservatives to channel concerns about digital privacy into an awareness all the wealth generated by their online activities should be directed towards causes they support.

One more thing: the way e-mail is designed makes it perfectly sensible to use a ideologically-themed address. Reagan might not like Facebook's politics, but a Republican Facebook is probably destined to fail because of the limits it puts on networking. But email is an open protocol. Any mail domain can send email to any other email domain. So there's no logistic harm, really, in expressing your love for the Gipper via your email address.

All that said, the actual facts in Reagan's argument don't hold up all that well. CBS notes that despite his claim that 90% of the political contributions of the companies Reagan lists goes to liberals, the actual numbers aren't so stark. Microsoft splits its contributions about evenly, and Google's recent contributions are closer to 3/4th Democratic.