MoveOn’ Wes Boyd at the Digital Democracy Teach-In
❑ There was a hollowing out of the democratic process caused by the emphasis on broadcast culture
❑ In broadcast, it is all about narrative. This creates the fight story, and that has created a situation where we fend off attacks all the time. The attack-and-defend model produces the cynicism we feel today.
❑ Hitler ad — Chair of the RNC attacked us. A friend said to him "Isn't that bullshit?" and he said, "Yeah, but that's the game." Soon, no one cares [about living together] anymore.
❑ Growth in the first four days: 334 members after one day – 1506 members after two days- 9332 after three and- 23276 on day four, about 100,000 by end of first week. These were people we could reach for free. They were looking to be heard, to make a difference.
❑ 2000 — raised $2.3 million for MoveOn PAC
❑ In business, we would have seen instant replication, because it is free. There wasn't instant replication, and that was when we started to build staff and ask people what they were interested in us doing. Campaign finance reform, dismissed by the mainstream, was right at the top among people who we talked with, environment, too.
❑ After 9/11, international issues came to the fore
❑ People were very concerned about what was happening in the world, but also about how America would engage in that. People were very disturbed about an apparent rush to war and wanted to do something about it.
❑ 48 hrs — raised $400K for NYT ad, when they asked for $35,000. So, they did a TV add, too; and billboards.
❑ All these people came together around an issue — would they care about other issues? A million dollars came in about the tax cuts.
❑ We had no idea that people were steamed about media consolidation. It's too wonky for most Americans. We heard about people passing messages around the net about FCC media ownership rules. We ran a petition and got hundreds of thousands of signatures in days.
❑ Virtual march (all about logistics)
❑ Global Vigil for Peace — March 16, 2003 – 4,000 locations in almost all countries. Photos and comments from all events. Integration of a global response and a way to visualize it through the web.
❑ When I talk to leaders about what we are doing it is hard to get them to understand. They talk about message, we talk about service. We came to this not because we had nothing to say, but because we thought there were a lot of smart people who weren't being heard. We had to be leaders, but we had to develop ways of listening. Listening is effective. If you win, you listen.
❑ Strong vision, big ears.
❑ Send email to selves every week. Number of users and most important discussions in the forums. We tend to come at this like a business, asking how to provide service to our members.
❑ Part of the hollowing out that came through broadcast, when the game became "Raise money for broadcast," people were seen as a risk. The more people involved in a campaign, the more chances someone could say something stupid. You have to trust that people will do good work. Somebody may say something that will bring on the attacks, but you have to deal with that. But you have to show people why it is worthwhile to get involved despite the attack-and-defend.
❑ Political capital — someone used the phrase and damaged politics permanently.
❑ Inflection points, where people cared about what MoveOn was doing as a service to people.
❑ Is there an emerging public mind that is potentially way smarter than "we" are today.
❑ What do we need to do to bring about a happy ending?
❑ Instead of going to political consultants to get ads, we went to our members who, because of new technology, could produce ads, sometimes for pennies. WHat we got really bowled us over. One of the problems progressive leaders have is that they are perceived by the public as self-serious and humorless.
❑ We are continually surprised by the issues that come to the fore. We asked people to interview one another by telephone and send notes to us. Freedom came up even though pollsters said it wasn't important.
❑ Q: What's the relationship with George Soros?
❑ Boyd: We were going about our business and a mutual friend set up a meeting that I thgouth was going to be a meet and greet. And at the meeting he said he really liked what we did. so we had him do the donation so we could do matching.
❑ Q: why don't you have a blog. When are you going to fix that?
❑ Boyd: After 2004. There is an issue about having content on the site having to do with the attack politics. Opposition research finds this useful for conducting attacks.
❑ Q: Ultimately, your site agenda is set by you. What about accountability and how do I send a message to your people?
❑ Boyd: I don't know if this medium is going to be driven toward monopoly or driven toward diversity. There might be many MoveOns. The question will become what is the democratic process of these organizations themselves. I guess we will deconstruct a bit and that will be a good thing.
❑ Q: Who owns the forum content? Who owns the list and will you rent it?
❑ Boyd: The core part of that is ownership and use of the list. We will never sell or rent the list. In terms of copyright on stuff that appears on the forum, we haven't really thought about that. I'm sorry, maybe we should.
❑ Q: How about funding documentaries?
❑ Boyd: We have, but they have a longer lead time.
❑ Q: Could you say something about California recall, which suggests you didn't have perfect pitch? The MoveOn primary — why not another? Are you thinking what to do about presidential debates this fall?
❑ Boyd: Recall — we did get a lot of feedback from members. We knew it was going to be very difficult. With 20/20 hindsight the whole thing makes sense. We justify that on our campaign called "Defending democracy." You have an opposition that is using every tool and gaming the California recall system. On the primary, we haven't done another primary since we had the impact we wanted to. The field would have been winnowed down solely on money. We announced we were having a primary and all the candidates said "what, what, what, a primary?" and they engaged. I think it was a good process.
❑ Q: I was heartened by the importance of listening and creating a broad platform that will attract people. Can you speak to specific plans about how to set up building a broader consensus in this country?
❑ Boyd: I think that is everything we do, what we are trying to do. We haven't figured out all the processes that will make that happen. There is lots of room for people to work in this sector–there is a vacuum.
❑ Tim O'Reilly: How can you get people with different perspectives talking. How do you get the dialogue across that divide?
❑ Boyd: I think you pull people in not through extreme partisan rhetoric and that use yourself and people will see what they have in common [paraphrased heavily]
❑ Tim: Politics doesn't seem to be the middle.
❑ Boyd: I wish people would do some empirical work to see what's really going on. We're not feeling this classic pull to the middle. This is a very centrist country. We all care about the issues that bring us together. So, how do you deal in a political world where attack and defend dominates and you also want to do democracy.
❑ Q: How can we help you?
❑ Boyd: There are two threads in the tools that underlie emergent democracy. We use our own open source platform, because we don't want to be stuck in some canned package. But to make it possible for other organizations to do it is an important thing. I'm (also) very concerned that we take political speech on the internet for granted, that it is totally commercial-by law there is no public space. Commercial entities don't like controversy because it alienates part of their audience. People are going to complain because you are going to say things people don't agree with. ANd they will subscribe to find what they don't agree with.
Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.
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