Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Reading this Malcolm Gladwell piece on alcoholism and I realize what he has in common with the writers of Lost: the ability to withhold the tasty morsels you really want right now in order to create and maintain suspense.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Social Camp

The New Yorker reports folks are actually debating whether this YouTube video, entitled "That's Why I Chose Yale," is earnest or high camp. Presumably, it's a knowing attempt at a viral video, performed in the vein of Glee Club. One hopes anyway.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

- Albert Einstein

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Constructive Action?

I was rather disappointed today to find that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees response to Sarah Palin's Tea Party speech was to ask people to sign a letter to Palin, which says the following, "We haven't forgotten that Republicans created this mess and we won't stand for your smears."

I learned this when the DCCC tweeted, "We just hit 20K signatures on our letter to Palin: 'We won't stand for your smears.' Help us hit 25K!" To which I responded, "I'm no fan of Sarah Palin, @dccc, but does anyone really think signing a letter like this is going to help things?" To me, the letter felt more like an exercise in futility than any sort of constructive response to Palin's agenda. (One of my friends on Twitter even responded, "If Palin won't read a newspaper, why do they think she'll read their letter?" Heh.)

To their credit, someone at the DCCC direct tweeted me the following earlier this evening: "Fair question. With our letter, we aim to send a clear message to the GOP that we will call them out for their false and outrageous attacks." I appreciated their answering me directly, but I still feel the brief, scabrous letter itself amounts to little more than returning a swipe from Palin with a swipe back. So I direct tweeted a message back to them, then posted the following only slightly reworded tweet: "Challenge to @dccc: Do something *constructive* with social media. Organize an answer to the Tea Partiers, demanding universal healthcare."

Then I visited their website and noticed a link to become a fan on Facebook. I did so and immediately posted the above challenge there, too. Again, to their credit, they quickly responded with the following, "We're always interested to hear our supporters' ideas. How would you organize an answer to the tea partiers?"

Given that Facebook allows for a more verbose response than Twitter, I shared a few thoughts to take them up on their question. Here's my response:
Thanks for your willingness to engage in dialogue. I understand that the DCCC is "the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives," so I'm not sure how much you can do to organize a grassroots effort (and would it be a true grassroots effort if organized by the DCCC?), but I'm disappointed to see the DCCC organizing people to sign a letter to Sarah Palin, which does little more than call her out on her inflammatory rhetoric, when the Tea Partiers are organizing people to march on Washington, to spread all manner of disinformation about the President and universal healthcare, and meeting regularly in a continued effort to plan actual real world activity. Yet what has been the democratic response? I think many people who deeply believe in healthcare have grown despondent and disillusioned over the lack of progress on the issue.
I wouldn't necessarily know all the nuances of how to organize an in-the-streets movement on that scale, but you have almost 60,000 fans on Facebook and well over 11,000 followers on Twitter. That seems like a good start. There must be constructive things those people can do: to show up in public and challenge the Tea Partiers, show others that healthcare does represent the will of the people - and isn't just some "socialist" program Obama is trying to force on us.
Another constructive solution would be to create content that people could be encouraged to distribute on their blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc, that effectively - and diplomatically - refutes the misconceptions about healthcare (and other misinformation the Tea Partiers are spreading). Make it bulleted, easy to read, succinct. Encourage people to actively engage with the Tea Partiers on these issues - and to share that information with other Americans, too. Just yelling "you lie" to the Tea Partiers and to Palin may serve as an outlet for Progressive frustration, but it does nothing constructive.
The President set a good example for all us recently when he reached out the Republicans and firmly called them out on some of their behavior - but also invited them to dialogue. I'd like to think his request was genuine. We've got to do the same thing as individuals if we're to make any real progress. We've got to challenge people to think, challenge them with the facts. But we won't get their attention unless we focus on ways to do it constructively. Not just matching outbursts with outburts.
I wish you much luck to that end.
I do feel like there's a lot more constructive activity that could be generated vis social media, of course. That was just a hurried post to Facebook. Maybe we can get to brainstorming and working on such strategies, instead of just encouraging tens of thousands of folks to engage in what amounts to little more than a quick swipe at Wasilla's finest?