05 December 2008

The Obama Techno-Cool-Bubble

This is more of a question/musing than a prediction, but here it goes.

Todd Gitlin wrote a piece on Obama as a techno-community-organizer-par-excellence. Writing in a tonethat could be conservatively described as fawning and sycophantic, Gitlin clearly has visions of web 2.0-backed Democratic supermajorities dancing in his head. He writes:
Now, thanks to his deft use of the social-network applications of the Web, Obama retains the means for netroots operations, high-octane fund-raising, smear-fighting and get-out-the-vote operations. His more than 3 million names—disproportionately young and energetic—remain a political force as long as he satisfies them that, once in office, he can deliver.
Gitlin isn't alone, apparently.
Democrats believe (and many Republicans fear) that Obama allowed his party and its allies to take an enormous leap forward in both technological sophistication and grass-roots activism. Preserving those gains and building on them is a priority for a man who sees organizing not only as instrumental but also as a way of transforming democracy itself.
That's from E.J. Dionne's column last month about the debate on who gets to keep the Obama campaign's 3 million contacts, the DNC or Obama's people.

Now, I know this spits in the face of all the hope we've been brewin' over these past few months, but can I ask: Can anyone prove to me that the entire Obama-netroots organism is different from other Web 2.0 phenomenons?

Show me one sustained web-event. Nearly all of them have a brief tizzy of wild popularity followed by a dramatic dowsing. Even cult terror-squads like the Colbert Nation have drawn down dramatically from their highs. Just browsing the "Causes" on Facebook, if you take 3 or 4 of the most popular and least controversial topics (stuff like Curing Cancer, Animal Rights, and Child Abuse) and add their supporters together, here's the numbers I crunched: 7.9 million supporters (assuming no overlap between causes), $133,000 donated. That's $.0168 per person.

There's a cruelly funny quality to this situation, where all these D.C./political types are giddy over the prospects of politics being permanently cool. I don't buy it. There's just gotta be a decline in political awareness. At some point a lot of the people who are on the Obama lists will move away from it, bored by the inanity of "Help President Obama Secure Card Check For American Unions, Use This Webvideo Form As A Guide For Your Own YouTube Plea to Congress!!!" emails and "Fight the Emoulments Clause!!!" Facebook groups.

We millenials are a proud people, lazy and slack. We practically invented the digital poseur. Why should that change now?

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