Friday, July 26, 2013

Organizers vs keyboard activists (updated)

On a couple of occasions I've mentioned that back in 2009 Al Giordano wrote about the looming split on the left between the organizers and the activists. You can click on that link to see a summary of how he described the difference between the two approaches.

Or...you can look at how its all playing out right now.

On the one hand, you have the keyboard activists using screaming link-bait headlines about everything from the dangers of drones to warnings about the security state to "Obama's going to take away your social security." Every now and then one of these stories breaks out of the bubble to do a bit more than preach to the choir. But very little actually changes because there's no plan for follow-through and so pretty soon the faithful are chasing after the next shinny link-baited outrage.

On the other hand, we're witnessing some pretty powerful organizing happen on the ground. Here's a list of examples that have caught national headlines (I'm sure there are thousands more working at the local level):

Organizing for Action

The DREAMers

Moral Mondays

Stand with Texas Women

The Dream Defenders

I'd suggest that what we're witnessing is a veritable renaissance in community organizing. Wouldn't you?

Its hard not to notice that the keyboard activists are dominated by white men whereas all of these groups who are organizing involve various members of what has come to be known as "the Obama coalition"...women, minorities and young people.

It will be interesting to watch - as these issues play out - which approach yields more results. I sure know where I'd place my bet :-)

UPDATE: I have to add Battleground Texas to the list of groups having a HUGE impact on the ground.

4 comments:

  1. "Its hard not to notice that the keyboard activists are dominated by white men whereas all of these groups who are organizing involve various members of what has come to be known as "the Obama coalition"...women, minorities and young people."

    Noticed. Two-pronged approach:

    1) Use the keyboard against them: push back via online social networks and comments sections, doing a great deal of fact-checking in the process and correct misinormation at every opportunity.

    2) Join organizers on the ground. Meanwhile, engage in raising community awareness in person wherever/whenever possible.

    Bonus: trust not in the calls to sit out an election. Get involved in Get Out The vote activities now, not just before the next election:)


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  2. Very true. How many doors has Greenwald knocked on in his life? Probably zero. How many protest marches has he organized or even participated in? I'm guessing you could count those on one hand.

    Same goes for his online fan club. I've seen a bunch of tweets & comments from them saying things like "we need a movement to (fill in the cause here)! Of course they could start said movement, but it's easier to post "But BANKSTERS!!!" on a blog instead.

    Another thing I've noticed is that many activists I've met is that they're more interested in self-expression than in forming coalitions with people outside their group of friends. More interested in calling themselves "an anarchist" than in standing with people who might be a tad reluctant to use that label.

    I've got 20 years of grass roots community organizing experience myself. Sometimes that involved volunteering for a candidate, other times it meant walking a picket line against someone polluting our neighborhood. But most importantly it meant I had to talk to people outside my "demo". Met lots of great people who've changed the world even if they never became famous. So Rio bloggers & Denver radio hosts don't impress me too much.

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  3. damn Smarty you're good! ty for this.

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  4. "Its hard not to notice that the keyboard activists are dominated by white men whereas all of these groups who are organizing involve various members of what has come to be known as "the Obama coalition"...women, minorities and young people."

    Hmm.... white males doing a lot of talking, and expecting people to jump when they say "jump"... and the women, minorities and young people doing the work because isn't that the way it has been for a very long time? Men with money think they can just speak and their wishes will be carried out, but the rest of us know that you have to get out there and DO the work. At the end of the day, whatever gets done (whether it's by the rest of us or by this President) well-off white males will take the credit.

    Talk the talk, but don't walk the walk... but still take all the credit. Nice work if you can get it.

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