Zack Exley/Eli Pariser from MoveOn.org just gave a fantastic keynote at SXSW, describing the happy accident that gave rise to the best new toolsuite for organizing and sustaining Internet-based activism. Here are my running notes:
Before the war, we did a candlelight vigil in defiance of the war. You could come and punch in your ZIP and set up a location where the vigil would take place, then told our members to go and find your local vigil. We did 6500 vigils all over the world. 500k people showed up. When you signed up, it told you that there were others signed up to attend your local vigil, so you owouldn't be the only one.
Eli: This all came together in five days -- 500,000 people mobilized in five days. A vigil every 20 blocks for the whole length of Manhattan.
There are more political ways of doing this. We asked people to hold house parties and show a movie against the war, and people opened up their homes to have strangers come in and see this film. We heard from people in small midwestern towns who thought they were the lone anti-war people in their town, but the site showed them that there were dozens more who felt the same way.
The Cobham catalog, exposed by The Intercept, features countless pages of surveillance gadgets sold to U.S. police to spy on American citizens: tiny black boxes with a big interest in you. In the creepily bland feature lists and nerdy product names is a whisper of a dark future; perhaps darker than anyone can imagine.
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