Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of DailyKos, has written a manual for internet-based activism. Taking his cue from Saul Alinsky, he aims for a pragmatic approach, deriding dogmatists and purists who believe that no progress is better than partial and imperfect progress. He is an astute analyst of the media and society. Early in the book he talks about the mass protests in late 2002 and early 2003 against the Iraq war, and about the fact that hundreds of thousands of protesters in the US and millions worldwide barely made an appearance in the mainstream press. This leads to a lengthy discussion of ‘gatekeepers’ and strategies for breaking down those gates. Naturally, netroots activism plays a huge role in those strategies.
This is an inspiring book. He talks briefly about setbacks, but much of the book is about the successes that have been achieved. The 2006 elections brought several upset victories for progressive democrats, fueled and in some cases launched by netroots campaigns. The very growth of DailyKos, firedoglake, TPM, etc. is testament to the organizing potential of the internet.
He is more than a little contemptuous of the street-level anti-war protests of the past few years. He points out the differences between the effective demonstrations for immigrant rights that took place across the country in 2006 as compared to the wholly ineffective anti-war protests. One major factor is that at anti-war protests there is never a single theme - the protests are never just about Iraq, but seem to be a mixed bag : Israel/Palestine, gay rights, US imperialism, animal rights; and all of it wall-papered with gaudy pink banners put up by code pink - an organization not likely to resonate with most Americans. Markos says that anti-war protesters need to focus on one issue, and they need to augment street protest with broad-based social networks that can really mobilize millions.
He offers advice to people who want to help effect change. You don’t have to be DailyKos to have an effective blog. If you speak out clearly, stay within a niche that you are passionate about, work hard to build your own small network, be honest and build credibility - if you do all this you can make a contribution. Even if your site gets 20 or 200 hits per day, you can help change the world.