Welcome to those who have gotten here via my appearance on Meet the Bloggers! The Voter Suppression Wiki is a non-partisan hub of information and action around efforts to suppress votes in the 2008 U.S. elections. For more information, please see our strategy and talking points, Baratunde Thurston’s launch post on Jack and Jill Politics, and my series of posts on Liminal States (most of which are cross-posted on Pam’s House Blend and Oxdown Gazette). If you’d like to get involved, please introduce yourself, check the help wanted, roll up your sleeves, and jump in!
If you’re hear to watch me, Brad Friedman and James Rucker on Meet the Bloggers, the video is at the end of the post.
If you’d like to help fight voter suppression, please get involved!
One of the things we’ve talked a lot about with the Voter Suppression Wiki is the importance of looking at bridging the gap from the online to the offline community. A good way of understanding this is by imagining two congressional districts: Techville and Reality City.
Techville is relatively affluent, mostly-white, and as the name implies, a high-tech hotbed. “Everybody” uses Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, and a whole bunch of cool web 2.0 thingies I’ve never heard of — as my brother Gregory K would say, they’re pretty well connected. Their local election board is well-funded and very proactive; they’ve got a great training program for election-day pollworkers, and many local high-tech companies encourage their employees to take the day off to volunteer.
Reality City, by contrast, is poorer, with a lot of minorities and Spanish speakers, and several large retirement communities. It’s on the “wrong side of the digital divide”, so while there are some highly-wired residents (especially students), computer usage in general is low. Just like everywhere else in America, people are fired up about the election, and so registration has surged. Unfortunately, there’s no money, so there aren’t enough voting machines to go around; and they haven’t been able to hire enough staff to validate all the registrations or find enough volunteers for election day.
Voter suppression is almost certainly likely to be more of a problem in Reality City than Techville; and so from an election protection perspective, that’s where we’d like to focus our efforts. In practice, though, an online focus risks doing exactly the opposite.
— Howie Klein, Firedoglake, announcing availability of ads for Darcy Burner, Annette Tadeo, Larry Kissell, and other netroots fave Congressional candidates
SaysMe.tv, the LA-based startup that lets individuals run their own cable ads, is firing on all cylinders these days. As well as the Blue America partnership, there’s also the Wow of Now pro-Obama site, and the Women Against McCain Palin campaign, announced here on Oxdown ten days ago, running some hard-hitting ads with rape victims speaking out on Sarah Palin’s views. Go SaysMe.tv!
cross-posted on Oxdown Gazette
The conversation in the blogosphere is — I sincerely hope — about to change.
— Jane Hamsher, And the Big Announcement Is…, Firedoglake, July 2008
I’ve spent a bunch of time at Firedoglake’s Oxdown Gazette this last week, regularly checking the home page and recommended stories, commenting here and there, as well as making eight posts of my own starting with Hiiii (waves) — enough to form some definite impressions. So I thought it would be interesting to share them and see what others have to say.
Different people are on Oxdown for different reasons; so let me start with a bit about my perspective. I’m currently engaging in a lot of online activism while working on a book about social networks (professional bio here). I started my blog Liminal States last year with a goal of mashing up discussions about computer security and software engineering, social networks, politics, critical theory, psytrance, and personal stuff. As an activist, though, it’s important to have a base in the progressive blogosphere as well; with Get FISA Right, for example, OpenLeft played a critical role. My style is very collaborative, and a community-oriented site like Oxdown has a lot of appeal; and so for the Voter Suppression Wiki I decided to experiment with cross-posting there as well as Pam’s House Blend.
One area that we think the Voter Suppression Wiki can potentially add a lot of value is getting the word out more rapidly: about important updates like polling location changes or extended polling times, and to alert the community about deceptive campaign practices. Today, it can often take over a week for information to make it out broadly once its discovered. How can we do better?
The deceptive flyers in Philadelphia are an interesting case study. Their warning that “you’ll be arrested if you try to vote with unpaid traffic fines our outstanding warrants” is a classic,* and Drexel students reported it on September 22. It was posted to the wiki after Tom Namako’s City Paper article Voter Intimidation Tactics are Afoot at Drexel, on September 24, and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE folks issued an alert Watching out for deceptive campaign practices in Pennsylvania on September 26. Even so, it was almost another week before Catherine Lucy’s Vote Scam Flyers Target Black Neighborhoods appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News for the first appearance in the mainstream media (MSM) on October 2.
The good news is that word is getting out — the Daily News article was followed by a flurry of attention. Suppose, though, that the time had been much more compressed … for example, deceptive flyers being posted the weekend before the election. In that case, the reaction will need to be a lot faster.
I’m currently scheduled to be on a Meet the Bloggers‘ discussion of voting rights on October 17, along with Brad Friedman of THE BRAD BLOG and presumably at least one other guest. It’s a great opportunity to get the word out about the Voter Suppression Wiki, and in particular to enlist other bloggers in helping us. What to discuss in my blog post (or posts) before the show? What to concentrate on during the 30 precious minutes of airtime? Where to focus energy for follow discussions?
I set up a page on the wiki to sketch my thinking — and even more importantly, to get others ideas. Feedback welcome, there or here!
Brad’s a voting rights expert, and so if I get a chance I’d rather focus on the activism and social computing aspects of our campaign. This ties in both with my recent experiences and my multi-year research agenda of computer science as a social science — and I think will be interesting in general for the Meet the Bloggers audience, because it’s not something I’ve seen discussed there before.
Here are some very quick initial thoughts on the topics I could potentially cover:
Bitch magazine, the wonderful feminist publication, is in dire need of help. The past issue it put out may be its last if the mag doesn’t raise $40,000 by October 15.
That’s a lot of money – but with all the kick-ass feminists out there who know and love bitch, I’m betting it’s possible.
So please take a moment to watch this video of Debbie Rasmussen and Andi Zeisler explaining what’s going on, and consider donating here. I know I will be.
Me too … in fact, I already have. I’ve been a fan of their “feminist response to pop culture” for years, and we need to keep voices like that around.
Debbie’s post on Bitch’s blog gives more details …
And here’s the video:
The new ad stars the Constitution as the main player, with the visual featuring a pan over founding documents. One version of the ad takes aim at the Republican Senators, who voted unanimously to extend the powers of government to listen to Americans’ phone calls and read their emails without a warrant; another highlights John McCain’s strong endorsement of the Bush Administration’s wiretapping policies over the last eight years.
Even though I push back on the media’s framing of civil liberties as a partisan issue — libertarians, greens, and “classic” conservatives value the Constitution just as highly as progressives — there’s no denying the Republican party’s party-line vote on FISA and McCain’s enthusiastic support for the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping efforts. With the conventions signalling a shift into high gear in the campaign, it seemed like a great time for Get FISA Right to complement our earlier non-partisan Don’t let our Constitution die ad.
As the discussion threads on the wiki page show, there were a lot of different ideas for what we might do. There was a tight deadline in order to get things ready to air by the RNC, so we wound up going with a very simple visual; and after some discussion, chose a couple of different voiceovers. We got the usual stellar help from saysme.tv, and I’m really happy with how the ads came out. Here’s one of them:
Revised version posted at Pam’s House Blend and (under a different title, and minus the introduction ) Open Left.
“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.
Wow, what a weekend. Friday, the Get FISA Right campaign was on CNN a couple of times (including a brief clip by me on American Morning that also got picked up internationally and a great discussion of Obama & Get FISA Right Activism by Ari Melber on CNN headline news where he challenged the left/right media narrative) and in TIME magazine. “That’s mainstream media, right?” I kept asking people; everybody reassured me the answer is yes. Over the weekend Laura Flanders talked with me and Ari on Radio Nation; and I heard we were discussed on Meet the Press today. Wow. Or did I say that already?
The overall situation is still what I described in my OpenLeft diary on Friday: now what? I’ve got my opinions of course; so do others. The discussion process over the next few weeks as we decide should be really interesting. See the Vision of the future thread on the discussion board for more, including my summary of the discussion so far and current thinking — and add your thoughts in as well.
There’s lots of other great stuff on the discussion boards, including planning for an organized attempt to influence the platform, meetups, and other activism ideas that may or may not pan out. There’s also a thread about the discussion of the direction of the email list, and that’s where Clay Shirky comes in. If you haven’t read his essay A group is its own worst enemy, now would be a very good time.
An op-ed piece by Edward Luttwak the New York Times last week relied on a very questionable description of Obama as a “Muslim apostate” to argue that he’d have a hard time reaching out to Muslim leaders and would be at risk of assassination if he visited any countries with a lot of Muslims. It was widely criticized in the blogosphere.
Yesterday, Clark Hoyt, the “public editor”, weighed in:
I interviewed five Islamic scholars, at five American universities, recommended by a variety of sources as experts in the field. All of them said that Luttwak’s interpretation of Islamic law was wrong….