so so exhausted. Reportback and thoughts from the last week in Pinocchio land.
First: I think it’s time to rethink the fundamental units of activism. Creating change might require breaking from organizations that identify as ‘campaigns’ or ‘coalitions’ with their highly structured relationships and instead develop protocols for affiliating more flexibly. Broad networks of individuals with diverse but aligned interests identify with certain points of unity and then work together on particular projects or interventions. For instance, with this campaign, the news cycle moved faster than Pinocchio folks could react, partially because we drew on too small a group of people to work with, owing to the (relative) narrowness of the campaign vs. the scope of the whole election season. The most damaging moments of the election so far came via short-term (and funny…) events: McCain’s “celeb” ads and backlash, Letterman’s soliloquy on McCain, Tina Fey as Palin, the insane shit at McCain/Palin rallies… each of these developed short, punchy narratives that fit into a broader constellation of ideas without ever cohering into a narrative arc per se. The only thing that developed into its own issue this election season was the economy, and that moved so fast few folks had time to react to it – suggesting the usefulness of organizing more generally, and then focusing on rapid, narrower interventions.
Second, working on internet distribution requires a carefully cultivated voice and tone. This isn’t like sending out press releases; effective net-action means a commitment to producing good content and commentary consistently. Obama is winning the media war partially because he’s so personable. People like him, and so blogs (primarily) willingly enlist to his cause and become force multipliers. That’s how smaller operations should strive to work as well – by working to make other blogs willing force-multipliers for a message.
The blog-world (BLOG-O-SPHERE) is an echo chamber, where people link and read other folks that more or less agree with them. Tight knit groups form and ideas travel party through recency and newsworthiness (who gets the breaks first), but moreso by making interesting commentary around the news of the day. Generally, people who write smart things well will become more successful (though doubtless there’s more to it, a method to the madness). This means that groups wanting to put out material via blogs need to consistently build a voice that makes them sound like folks that know what they’re doing – a bit of insider baseball, so to speak. The author of content needs credibility just as the content needs to be credible, and that requires work ahead of time to get things going.
This is why everyone that affiliates with an organization that wants to work blogs should blog themselves – either under the name of the group or under their own name. It allows them to develop an ethos for distribution, and to control the first impressions of work they produce, because it (hopefully) means that people come to you for content. Instead of having to blast out emails about new work press release style, you can rely on the credibility built up over time, or have folks regularly reading your work to the point where they willingly distribute your work for you.