Roving Reporter: A brief history of Netroots
By Jules Siegel Feb 10, 2006, 16:06 GMT
Crashing the Gate is a shot across the bow at the political establishment in Washington, DC and a call to re-democratize politics in America. This book lays bare, with passion and precision, how ineffective, incompetent, and antiquated the Democratic Party establishment has become, and how it has failed to adapt and respond to new realities and challenges. The authors save their sharpest knives to go for the jugular in their ...more
In their new book, "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics," Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga claim that Armstrong coined the term "netroots" in 2002.
Actually, a Paper Tiger Productions film, "Net Roots: Cultivating the Digital Park," was -- ironically -- already skeptical of the Internet collectivist hype in 1995. In 1997, lobbyist Jack Bonner formed a division called NETroots to dispel the myth of global warming.
Armstrong did mention netroots in a 2002 blog item about the Dean campaign. "It just came to my head as I was writing the post to describe the online activism of participating in online polls, blogs, and other online activity," he told me.
Whoever coined the term, Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga were prime movers in showing Democrats how to use the netroots to gain votes, troops and cash. Republican activists were well still ahead of the Democrats in exploiting this technology when the 2004 campaign began.
Conservative online media are mostly a one-way message machine, however. Many of the biggest right wing blogs do not permit reader comments. With the notable exception of FreeRepublic.com, story contributions are usually limited to the blog owner or a select group of trusted associates. Comments are removed and subscribers banned at the slightest sign of independent thinking throughout the rightwing blogosphere.
Armstrong and Moulitsas outflanked the right wing blog machine by deploying Internet applications such as Scoop, an advanced open source content management system that enables any registered user to contribute stories complete with illustrations, polls and other enhancements such as user-rated comments.
Subscribers automatically earn more advanced editing and viewing privileges as their activity is rated by other users and by Scoop's internal criteria. Much richer than a standard blog, Scoop brings true open source journalism to the netroots.
While Armstrong remains a mostly behind-the-scenes political consultant, Moulitsas has evolved into an Internet powerhouse. Scoop-powered dailykos.com (named after Moulitsas' Army nickname, Kos, and inspired by Armstrong's mydd.com blog) received a million visits a day during the peak of the 2004 campaign.
Some enthusiasts claim that DailyKos.com is bigger than the top fifty right wing blogs combined. Internet traffic figures are subject to much subjective interpretation, but by any measure DailyKos.com now dominates the political blogosphere, outranking mighty Instapundit.com by a factor of more than four to one.
Its advertising income has made it possible for Kos to give up political consulting. He now influences public opinion directly, and has raised several hundred thousand dollars for candidates he backed.
Even people who greatly admire Moulitsas were left mistrustful after his repeated predictions of victory in 2004 turned out to be mere wishful thinking. Perhaps Kos was entirely justified in his optimism, but unfortunately he was thinking outside the black box. A lot of other experts predicted a Kerry victory, too -- John Zogby, Warren Mitofsky (whose original exit polls showed Kerry winning), Ruy Teixeira, among others. Maybe they all were on to something. I don't know a technogeek who doubts the feasibility of electronic vote rigging. Are George W. Bush and Company the kind of guys who wouldn't try?
In his zeal to bring the netroots into the mainstream, Markos has expressed great displeasure at what he calls the "fraudsters" who keep trying to get something going about this on Dailykos, defying threats of being banned.
Prudent folk are understandably reluctant to join the tinfoil hat faction, but I don't really get the reluctance to push for a paper trail in voting. It seems like the ultimate wedge issue to me. Why are Republicans against a paper record of electronic voting? The same reason that Enron shredded documents, I guess.
Jules Siegel Apdo. 1764, 77501-Cancun, Q. Roo, Mexico
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