Web 2.0 and the new conservative revolution
By Rachel Alexander
web posted April 6, 2009
There is a new conservative movement sweeping the country, and it is taking place in technology. As the entire internet moves toward social networking sites and interactive media, transitioning to the Web 2.0 next generation of the internet, conservative activists are riding the crest. Frustrated by the Left's success at mobilizing activists through moveon.org and other left-leaning internet savvy organizations, the Right is aggressively catching up. Web 2.0 is the new way of communicating on the internet in real time with others using applications and technologies like blogging, Facebook, Twitter, podcasting, social bookmarking sites, and wikis.
Led by a younger generation of conservative tech-activists including the Sam Adams Alliance, Eric Odom and others, and embraced by edgy grassroots conservative organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, the movement has christened itself #dontgo. The pound sign is a reference to the Twitter moniker for a group channel, and the name was conceived as a reaction to moveon.org. This new wave of conservative internet media activists are not the geeky computer types. Now that computers have become mainstream, political activists under age 40 find using the new media to be as routine as driving a car. Julie Banderas, a gorgeous broadcaster on Fox News, touts her Twitter channel, twitter.com/juliebanderas, on every show.
Consultant and attorney Ralph Benko has written a colorful, free e-book called The Webster's Dictionary - How to Use the Web to Transform the World, educating conservative activists and policymakers on the importance of using the new Web 2.0 to advance their message and accomplish their agenda. He explains how moveon.org successfully used new internet technologies to mobilize over 3 million supporters into action. For Benko, the key thing to keep in mind is that this latest metamorphis of the internet into Web 2.0 means 99% listening and only 1% talking. Instead of running traditional informational websites, website creators need to incorporate social networking capabilities so their readers can become part. Internet users want more participation; they want to give their feedback and communicate with each other.
The incredible rise of Facebook is evidence of this change in the internet. Statistics from January reveal that Facebook had 68.5 million unique visitors last month, which mostly translates into members. As people become more familiar with the internet and are more comfortable placing their own words into writing and communicating in its vast public forum, they want the kind of social interaction that Facebook provides.
Part of the reason for the Right's rapid ascendance online is due to the Republican establishment's continued failure to adapt to the new internet. The juxtaposition of the older generation's John McCain with the young, hip Barack Obama glued to his Blackberry could not have presented a starker contrast. McCain's defeat was the final straw prompting younger conservatives to take things into their own hands. Disappointed by the Republican establishment's failure to round up the base using Twitter, Facebook, social bookmarking sites, and other new media, an underground force began mobilizing on its own and filled that void.
Within the past few months, conservative activists figured out that by adding thousands of friends ("following" others so they will become your "followers") on Twitter, they can get messages across to thousands of other activists around the country instantly. #dontgo was originally started to send messages instantly to other activists regarding action on the House floor in order to get them to contact their Congressional Representatives and complain about their voting patterns. Its success prompted its founders to expand it to the conservative movement generally. A group was formed by Michael Patrick Leahy on Twitter called #tcot, featured at topconservativesontwitter.org, which has become the primary hub for conservative activists on Twitter. A parallel website now tracks what's happening in the new online movement, called tcotreport.org, and it prominently features the live #tcot twitter stream on its homepage.
Social networking sites are popping up so quickly it is becoming difficult to keep track of them. Where will the conservative online movement go now to get a handle on all of them? RootsHQ has been started by Eric Odom for conservative online activists to coordinate projects together. RootsHQ is planning its first annual conference this fall in Tennessee. Another major new conservative social networking site is Rebuild the Party, created by Patrick Ruffini. The new movement is heavily using youtube.com and podcasting, and #dontgo has its own channel on Blog Talk Radio. #dontgo is in the midst of launching state-level conservative websites under the name News Platoon, which will aggregate news, opinion, podcasts, and other new media from conservative organizations and bloggers in each state.
How well Republican leadership embraces the new technologies remains to be seen. Senator Jim DeMint and Representative Thaddeus McCotter have been actively part of the movement since it began, but will others follow? Or are these two the exception? Newly elected Republican National Committee Secretary Sharon Day and Treasurer Randy Pullen have both eagerly embraced the new media. Sharon recruited support for her race through Twitter - http://tcotmembersforsharonday.wordpress.com/. Pullen has said, "Move over, moveon.org, Republicans get it." As for the rest of the establishment, well, Cindy McCain just joined Twitter and tweeted me back after I sent her a tweet.
Rachel Alexander and her brother Andrew are co-Editors of Intellectual Conservative. Rachel practices law in Phoenix, Arizona and blogs for GOPUSA.com. She has been published in the American Spectator, Townhall.com, Fox News, and other publications.
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