Get FISA Right: “Don’t let our Constitution die” (DRAFT)

DRAFT! Please see the revised version on OpenLeft.

Get FISA Right logo“We’ve got more than a million volunteers on my.barackobama.com. They’ve planned more than 70,000 offline events through the system, made millions of phone calls from home, and formed thousands of grassroots advocacy groups, including one you might have heard about recently.”

– Barack Obama, Netroots Nation video

Hey! That’s us! :-)

There’s a lot of energy in the Get FISA Right group these days. The getFISAright.net website is the best jumping-off place to find out what’s going on, and the Strategy page on the wiki gives a big-picture overview. It’s all interesting, it’s all timely … and I’m going to ignore most of it in this post and focus on the “Don’t let our Constitution die” video.

A day or two before the July 9 Senate vote, some folks from LA-based startup SaysMe.tv approached us with an intriguing suggestion: would we be interested in working with them to get ads about FISA on cable TV? SaysMe’s community-funded ad model, where people can pay for a single placement of ads in various markets, seems a great match for our grassroots style. And the timing’s perfect — it’s a great chance to spread the word that while we’ve lost a battle, the fight to roll back government surveillance and restore the rule of law isn’t over yet.

The video came together remarkably quickly; we revised the script collaboratively on the wiki and message board and email and IM, getting input from over 20 people. Cognitive diversity in action: we had lawyers, journalists, techies, ad execs, marketing people, a professional comedian, and plenty of “just plain folks”, and virtually every piece of input was valuable.

The video’s up on our site — check it out, and if you’re interested in getting it on the air, there are some surprsingly affordable prices, as little as $21 at off-peak times in zip code 27601 (Raleigh). Some ad slots more expensive, of course: a single airing in the 4 pm-12am slot in 90036 (LA) on Fox News runs $1750. Something we’ll need to figure out is how to aggregate smaller amounts of contributions to get these big ticket items; it might make sense for us to partner with the Accountability Now PAC or somebody else. Details TBD, but think about the possibilities:

A 25-second high-quality “Don’t let our Constitution die” ad running on FOX News.

That’d raise some awareness.

And on top of that, there’s YouTube. As well as my.barackobama.com, we’re already on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, and now … another social network! Whee!!!!!!

Based on another great suggestion from SaysMe, we’re also putting the video up on YouTube, with a personal postscript from one of the Get FISA Right members, inviting people to join us as well as letting them know that they can pay to place the ad.* It’s hard to know how many people we’ll reach this way … as far as I know, the most-watched FISA video is Russ Feingold’s with 50,000 hits, and if we get a solid percentage of that, say 10,000 or 20,000 viewers, I think we’d all be quite pleased.

Then again you never know what turns into a hit on YouTube. If we can get things cranked up on MySpace, Facebook, and iLike, we could do even better. A couple of people on the message boards mentioned that they’re going to contact Air America and ask them to cover it; we might well get some other press coverage too. And if anybody has ObamaGirl’s contact info, please ask her if she’d be interested in doing a video response. That’d help!

And looking even more broadly … on RadioNation, Laura Flanders had commented that while the online political world was consumed with FISA in the run-up to the vote, it was almost completely absent from TV, and both Ari Melber and I agreed that this was a problem online activists still need to solve. Especially with Obama’s call at Netroots Nation for other progressive groups to follow Get FISA Right‘s lead and organize on my.barackobama.com, SaysMe.tv seems to me like a company that’s in the right place at the right time. [They've also been a real pleasure to work with.]

One of the things that’s really striking about Get FISA Right is the speed with which things happen. Two weeks after the huge disappointment of the Senate vote — expected, but still devastating — we’re back with a new web site, message boards, and a video. As well as the incredible competence of the people involved has a lot to do with it, a lot of the reason for this is the skill we’ve developed at collaborating. On top of that, we’re in the right place at the right time, benefitting from the convergence of a whole bunch of technology and business trends. Three weeks ago I had never even heard of SaysMe.tv, and I’m still not completely sure how they found us; now, working with them, we’re gonna be on TV and prototype an approach to political advertising that could have a major impact on the 2008 election.

This is the kind of stuff people mean when we talk about the transformative possibilities of social networks. Hopefully everybody watching is taking good notes and learning, and will find ways to build on these exciting first steps.