Community organizing is very 1960s
August 11th, 2009

I was a state and then national campaign staffer in the 1960s, and I can report that present White House community activism is very 1960s. As Howard Rheingold has been pointing out in recent posts, in 21st century smart mobbing new stuff is happening (as another bit describes in this article Howard quotes by Clay Spinuzzi):

The initial response of Congress and the White House was to portray these people as dupes, liars, and worse. Now, the White House is now urging Congresspeople to pack town halls with their own supporters, a tactic that will probably result in charges that Congress is astroturfing. The problem is that such tactics assume centralized control. If I’m right in applying Castells, Robb, Arquilla and Ronfeldt, and others, that assumption is incorrect and such counterprotest measures will backfire. In fact, they will likely give protestors more common ground – protestors who are undoubtedly exchanging phone numbers and email addresses at these meetups.

For what an old pol’s insight is worth, this is my take on what is happening with the crowds who are overflowing townhalls this month:

The White House is operating by the 1960sish top down, spread the noise and muscle principles.

The crowds opposing Obamacare tend to be doing what is natural in a networked activity, as Spinuzzi notes: exchanging phone numbers and email addresses at meetups. Thus the mob grows, and grows smarter.

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