Archive for the ‘ Politics ’ Category

Armchair Activism

As I predicted, National Opt-Out Day came and went, nary a blip on the radar screen of or collective consciousness. I’ve already discussed the reasons I thought this act of civil traffic slowdown wouldn’t go down as forcefully as the organizers hoped.

But I think another issue is at play here. That is: many activists of my generation rely too much on the web to take their stands.

The web is, of course, an amazing tool for putting out information and organizing for various causes. The problem is that it is almost too easy. I get an average of 3 “emergency petitions” every week: clean water for Haiti; stop fracking upstate, stop the new schools chancellor, abolish DADT, prevent tax breaks for the rich… The list goes on. I probably open about half of these emails and add my name to 1 in 3 that I read.

That’s it. It’s almost too easy.

Compare this with the folks on the street, hounding you to “spare a minute for gay rights-” a minute no one ever seems to have. Contrast internet action to door knocking campaigns and phone banks. All of these old methods of organizing are inconvenient. They put the issue out there when you may not want to deal with it. They force you to take time out of your schedule to listen, sign, act.

They also hold you accountable. You are forced to take a stand in front of someone. Saying no is very different from simply ignoring an email. They put you on the spot.

I fear we are becoming so reliant on the new model of armchair activism that we are starting to forget that change is hard. That it is inherently more difficult to take a physical stand than a virtual one. That doing so will probably inconvenience you a bit. And I’m worried too many of us are becoming to accustomed¬† to signing on, clinking a link and maybe on a difficult day, changing our Facebook photos to cartoon characters to do so.


Election Day 2010

Right now is the last moment of calm before hours of obsessive site surfing and page refreshing. I’ve managed to avoid reading the news all day (an 11 hour work day followed immediately by voting makes that easy). Some of what I say below may be a foregone conclusion or already called, but rest assured I haven’t heard it yet.

I’m not feeling the hope, optimism and nervousness I felt in 2008. This year for the first time in a long time I didn’t make any plans to watch the returns with friends. I’m resigned to the results being about what the media is predicting: the Republicans will take the House, the Democrats will hold the Senate by a hair, and we’ll all wake up tomorrow prepared for two years of greater gridlock. The only way I think I will get emotional about this is if Democrats somehow hold both houses or the Republicans manage to take them.

Some more specific predictions–

Ohio: Lee Fisher is not going to win. My brother volunteered for the campaign, and if he says it’s over, it’s over. I don’t feel confident about Mary Jo Kilroy and, since all these voters are going to be pulling the red lever in these 2 races, I suspect Kasich will prevail as Governor.

In Nevada, I have the tiniest hope that Reid will prevail. Kind of like a reverse Bloomberg effect–everyone thinks if’s a foregone conclusion, which drives the sane folks to the polls to demonstrate to the media not to make any assumptions. (Granted, in Bloomberg’s case, he still won a third term, but I am pretty sure if his opponent had even bothered to campaign at all, we’d have a different mayor today.)

California will pass prop 19, and major national drug policy debates will follow. It may lead to legalization in a few states, similar to gay marriage. If it does pass, it’s an issue that will get to the Supreme Court.

New York is going all blue tonight. Which is nice to know, but makes it less exciting to vote. My favorite issue of the night: restoring term limits. I hope that it passes with flying colors sending an unmistakable message: we still care about our wishes being woefully ignored. Even if Mayor Mike is a pretty alright guy with good bike policy. It’s the principle, Mr. Mayor. Nothing personal.

And now… time for the show…


Dear Organizers…

From the reading I’ve done today, I’ve absorbed 2 major messages:

1–(via facebook) Adults in that key 25-40 demographic market are sick to death of political ads, and can’t wait for the damn thing to be over–presumably so they can resume the familiar pleasure of beer, old spice, and birth control commercials.

2–(via the New York Times) Young adults in that other key 18-24 demographic feel like old President Obama just isn’t spending enough time saturating the airwaves with his coolness, and therefore he’s “not a fad anymore,” as one young woman so cringe-inducingly phrased it.

Democrats are, of course, making every last-ditch attempt they can to get the junior voting bloc to the polls as a means of limiting their losses.Yet they’re clearly missing some of us: I have endured this election season without seeing a single ad. Why? I don’t have cable. The limited Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert-Glee-SNL clip watching I do all happens right here, on the beautiful world wide web.

While it sounds like limited campaigns are beginning to engage in online advertising, the new media isn’t being used well or strategically enough to drive young voters to the polls. I think this article is correct that online advertising is poised to explode in 2012.

A message to all wannabe-national-office-holders now: it would be wise spend a little less on the TV ads to the same group of people. Get thy message online. Get yourself heard.


Glenn Beck, DC, You, and Me

One of the oddities I find in today’s Glenn Beck–Sarah Palin march on Washington is their official roles as members of the media. Granted, neither of them has the word reporter in their job title, and therefore they have a little more leniency as a Correspondent and the host of a program that calls itself “The Fusion of Entertainment and Enlightenment.” Still the word “truth” appears a lot when Tea Party etc. al leaders are speaking. Yet this movement tells a truth that belongs to a minority of Americans. It’s a homogeneous reality that is vanishing as fast as McMansions in the exurbs.¬† My life is very different from the lives of Palin and Beck and most of their followers. That doesn’t make my existence any less true, or my experiences any less real.

Members of the media should return to covering rally’s instead of organizing them. Owners of media publications have an obligation to ensure that standards of professionalism are upheld by all–even correspondents. I’m not going to dig into the Tea Party message here, because I cherish the First Amendment and the power it gives people to make asses out of themselves. But I will say this: it is a public responsibility to hold the press accountable for the stories they report on (or choose not to). Perhaps, even more important than that, we are the ones responsible for telling our own truths. Saying them loud. Believing them even when they are disagreeable. And making sure they are heard–especially by those that may disagree.

Here’s the caveat: this also means listing to people who don’t agree with you. If we are ever going to stop the fracturing that’s taken place in the US over the last decade, we have to be willing to bend a little bit. Before we break.