This is a group for people who don't like George Bush. We know 5,000,000 people is a small number compared to all the people that hate GWB, but this is facebook. NOTE: Not all Americans are stupid! Recent polls concur that 70% of Americans disagree with what Bush is doing as president. Also, if you're here to start drama, get the fuck out...
I made this group on 2/15/08. I made a little bet with myself that I could find 5,000,000 people
Megan's in high school, and she thinks it's a 'little bet' to find one million people who share a common sentiment. It's a charming impatient page: "PLEASE DO NOT REQUEST THE ADMINS, it's highly annoying..." There is no way I could conceive of contacting and connecting a million people in high school, let alone around a political issue, let alone a globalized group that included trusted administrators from Egypt, Canada, Germany, Jamaica, and Russia. This is like model UN, only it's not a model, and it's not super-lame.
Meanwhile, Tom Hanks endorses Obama, without having to through a rancid corporate media filter.
While you may think that Hollywood stars have outsized influence in our culture, it is undeniably true that they get pilloried when they make liberal or overt political statements. Whether it's Hanks making a relatively unremarked endorsement seem by a few hundred thousand people or John Cusack communicating about War, inc at Crooks and Liars, or the WGA strike itself and the remarkable victory against the content cartel it's clear that storytellers have a renewed capacity to make liberal arguments. They always wanted to, and now they can.
This lecture, by legal scholar Elizabeth Warren, titled 'The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class', has been viewed separately over 40,000 times. She walks through government data and her own data to discuss the increasing debt burdening American families. Prior to youtube, there would be no way for her to tell her story. Prior to the internet, she wouldn't be able to get her point of view across except in a few Op-Eds or in some Congressional testimony. Now she can become a personality and deliver low production quality hour-long lectures on government statistics, and have them viewed by tens of thousands. And those tens of thousands can reinterpret their views of the world without a rancid corporate media filter.
This letter, put out by 100 labor-friendly leftist academics and spearheaded by Dan Clawson, on SEIU's internal fissions represents the most widely debated labor dispute in years. From the 1930s to the 1950s, there were many local labor-only newspapers and newsweeklies, because media was understood as a critical organizing tool and the corporate media titans controlled the editorial pages. The labor press died, and then the newspapers themselves gutted labor coverage, leading to limited internal labor debate and an intellectual atrophy and institutional isolation of labor organizing. This debate, and the WGA strike, represent newly effective ways that labor communicates its values and core ideological debates and differences.
The academic world and the labor organizing world are fusing here around working class structure, which is interesting, because 'issues' really are irrelevant here just as they are in the larger meta-argument of how we are fighting over structure.
And then we have candidates like Scott Kleeb, who is following in Donna Edwards's footsteps in trying to ward off a right-wing Democrat in a primary through savvy use of the internet. Donna Edwards and her campaign was just written up in the Baltimore Sun, which described part of the strategy.
Matt Stoller, who runs the liberal blog OpenLeft, played a leading role in fundraising and in generating online support for Donna Edwards, who defeated Wynn. With the help of the "net roots," Edwards raised $400,000 for the primary from more than 8,000 donors, nearly half of the total funds she received from individual contributions.
People like me, communities like this one, and candidates like Donna Edwards have been empowered by the internet and its tool sets, and we have responded by working to elect people like Donna Edwards. Donna, of course, staked out a strong position on net neutrality, and Wynn first came to my notice because of his position against net neutrality and his stance on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
GasTaxScam.com: A former Google employee and political organizer, David Alpert, organized a satirical petition to protest a conservative pander around low energy prices. Within a few hours, it had thousands of visitors, and tens of thousands of people have been exposed to the idea that a gas tax holiday is a scam.
Color of Change, the 400,000 person group behind the Jena 6 protests that works exceptionally well with black radio to create change, has a petition out on superdelegates that says that Democrats should not let the nomination be subject to backroom deals. James Rucker, who runs the group, is representing the black community far better than the NAACP. Clinton has fallen in favorability rating by 36 points among African-Americans, as Al Giordano noted. It is Color of Change that is there to organize and push.
In each of these examples, a group or set of individuals could do something liberal around grouping or communicating that they couldn't do before the emergence of the internet. None of these catalytic agents is poor or disempowered. Indeed, the least empowered of them is Megan, and she's a high school student in Silicon Valley.
This is just a few days on the web, but it sounds like a conspiracy: academics fighting for labor solidarity and with and against labor organizers, youth playfully organizing for a globalized society that hates right-wing elites, African-Americans taking a chunk out of a politician who betrayed them, Hollywood stars putting out overt liberal politics without being preachy or attacked, a professor broadening her audience on economic insecurity to tens of thousands, and liberal Jewish political writers and organizers pushing for liberal Democrats to win in primaries and fighting against conservative bait-and-switch promises of cheap oil.
And as Chris noted, if the medium is the movement, then there's no comparison in terms of the candidates. Survey USA shows what's going on in North Carolina, but this is mirrored elsewhere.
If Obama wins, it will be entirely from the 19% of voters who describe themselves as Liberal. Clinton leads by 9 among Conservatives and leads by 8 among Moderates. If Obama wins the popular vote, it will be because of his 16-point advantage among Liberals.
Obama didn't always have an advantage among liberals, but perhaps it was inevitable that the internet-breakout candidate would move in that direction. Ron Paul is certainly far more liberal than the Republican mean, as was Mike Huckabee, the other internet success on the right.
I don't have a good sense of the underlying drivers here, but there are a couple of underlying factors driving the success patterns of each of these internet actors. One, a pre-existing social networker is amplified dramatically by the medium into a difference in kind. Two, none of these activities are for profit, and while some of them have ties to the non-profit world, those ties are mostly tangential. Even the labor arguments are happening outside the formal structure of labor, just as most of the interesting content during the WGA strike was produced on the unofficial strike blog, United Hollywood. A sort of 'market leftism' is at work, where bottling energy is driving the work rather than any organizational impetus. Three, these examples are going around a corporate media filter, while using that filter to advance the organizing itself.
Fundamentally, I think what's happening is that all of these examples are using a different narrative about the world than the one coming from elites and the media filter in general. That narrative is one where Bush is hated, people are basically the same in our instincts and desires, and the world is playful, messy, funny, and tragic all at once.
Narratives are incredibly powerful; they dominate our thinking and our culture. For instance, the metaphor of the war on terror is threatening our country's continued existence with its wrong-headed framing of all problems as requiring low trust centrally managed security theater. The production of a strong and consistent counter-narrative is the key to any revolutionary movement. Without a central story, a movement cannot grow and cannot wrap new people into it. That is why religions organize themselves around storybooks, such as the Koran, the Torah, the New Testament, etc. Stories are simple devices for organizing people, and the internet has allowed anyone to tell their own story and share it for no cost. Why is it liberals who are doing that better than anyone right now? Well, first of all, I'm not entirely sure it is (immigrant nuts love the webs too), but in the political mainstream, it's quite clear that it is the liberals who are reaping the benefits.
It seems like the internet's current form is dominated by liberals because it is liberals who acknowledge the basic messiness of the world around them and the lunacy of the establishment that runs it. The Iraq war didn't go as planned, the Clinton impeachment was crazy, and, oh yeah, peak oil is serious but why not use the phrase 'I drink your milkshake' to describe it.
That story wasn't being told anywhere, but it's the story of our time. And there are infinite permutations of it, from the local food movement to the reframing of the last forty years of economic 'growth' into the Shock Doctrine.