Can FISA Guide Us to the Future of Web 2.0 politics?

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon by Robert Goodwin from


Tonight the last class of Digital Campaigns will cover upcoming technologies and trends. For sure, technology will take politics on avenues that we cannot imagine. I am quite sure that guys we have followed in this semester (e.g. Cyros Krohn from RNC (interesting article in WashPost the other day), Netroots Nation, pdf08) have a vision of the next step. But something unforeseen—like YouTube did—can change it.  Right now, Obamania seems to write the Web 2.0 story of the 2008 election. Ruffini questions this in a well-written blogpost on Techpresident today.  It is all about fundraising and that does not fit all purposes at all times.


Control of social networking -?

For now I will leave the tech presentation to Garrett for tonight and allow myself to elaborate on loosing control of the political process because of social networking. The Dean Campaign 04 took social networking to a political “extreme”, and it is useful in insurgent campaigns, but in most cases we need a model capturing the strength of the Internet but retaining control of the political process. I stumbled into this question when I read the wrong chapters in Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope.


Please Get FISA Right

In this light, it has been really interesting to follow the group formatting and growth of President Obama – Please Get FISA Right on Obama’s SNS MyBarackObama. Talking about exponential growth, it had more than 14,000 members after a week. At the time, it was the biggest group but now it’s the fifth largest group. This group of Obama supporters used his campaign platform to organize against Obama’s support of the Congressional compromise on FISA.


It is not that surprising that it is happening. I mean this kind of conversation is the purpose of opening up a process allowing peer-to-peer production or collaboration. And in the old-world of politics, constituents have always tried to influence politicians to change policy. But it is NEW that a political campaign opens up, invite its peers to join and open platform, and then a group challenge the candidate from within.


Here is the potential for “a collective, public discussion” but we do obviously not have the norms for it yet. (Read Micha L. Sifry’s critical analysis of MyBarackObama as an organizing tool). For a few days, the blogosphere and others wondered how the Obama campaign would respond. Would Obama really listen?


According to Carlo Scannella, one of the organizers behind the group; “His response to the Get FISA Right group was a moment of validation; this became something real.”Obama’s response did not stop the group, and it is ridiculously easy to organize the grass root campaign online.


So what does it mean? Jeff Jarvis had an interesting point:


Now if a campaign is going to argue that it’s truly grassroots, what is it to do with a revolt or protest from within? I’ve argued since Howard Dean’s run in 2004 that campaigns aren’t or can’t really be bottom-up when it comes to policy. They are necessarily propagandistic: This is what the candidate says. Indeed, Dean’s supporters acted like white blood cells in his blog discussions quite effectively surrounding and strangling dissent and opponents in the bloodstream. That’s the way campaigns have to work if you’re going to decide what this guy stands for and whether to vote for him, right? It’s about the message, no?


And what does it mean for the future? It is great to see this kind of disagreement within a campaign. It is democracy – isn’t? And what we are seeing is that a group is organizing around an issue instead of around a party. As Garrett asked in class a while ago; How will Obama’s supporters influence a Obama White House?


We can only guess. Personally, I am excited and convinced that the possibilities and consequences are just as enormous as it was to send a man to the moon. (Sorry to end the semester with such a cliche).



5 responses to “Can FISA Guide Us to the Future of Web 2.0 politics?

  1. Fascinating post, Anne! It’s true that the tehcnology bases are limited right now; still, Voces Contra las FARC is an example of what can be done: from a Facebook group, they got millions of people in the streets in six weeks.

    Get FISA Right’s continuing to try out new ways to use social networks and social computing technology to change the conversation. Our new community-funded cable TV ad and participation in the Listening to America platform discussions both look quite promising. What’s even more exciting is to see people watching us and thinking of new ways of applying these approaches!


  2. Pingback: Liminal states » Towards a rebirth of freedom: activism on social networks, part 1 (DRAFT)

  3. Anne Juel Jorgensen

    Thanks Jon for the comment and adding another perspective onto my reflection. What I am curious about is – will other campaigns in the future include a social networking platform and really open up? Or maybe it does not matter – because activists can just get organized “another” place.

  4. While Sen. Obama didn’t agree with those in the “Get FISA right” group he did respond to their activism by blogging on Huffington Post.

    I think an Obama White House will have more transparency that ever before on where Tax Dollars are spent and how major domestic policy is made (particularly for healthcare).

  5. I’ll say it too. Fascinating post, Anne! The FISA-Issue on Obamas campaign is actually the first time I see real and substantial debate on a politicians website. Thanks for letting us know here in old Europe.

    As you say it yourself. The question is not wether the discussion will change anything in Obamas POW, it’s wether the possibility to show dissent is real.

    The next question is, as mr. Jarvis say, if it is wise to have open dissent on a campaign website. To much discussion and newcomers may find it harder to find out who this guy actually is.. It’s obvious that to much discussion can destroy the propandistic effect, but a few discussions actually underline Obamas will to change.

    It will be really exciting to see the campaigns reaction, if more (too many) discussions emerge.

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