[Marxism] Gender-Race Interactions
Ruthless Critic of All that Exists
ok.president+marxml at gmail.com
Sun Jun 8 00:04:57 MDT 2008
On Thu, May 29, 2008 at 11:03 AM, Mark Lause <markalause at gmail.com> wrote:
> Ruthless Critic of All that Exists <ok.president+marxml at gmail.com> wrote:
>> In the case of Obama: no. I was told he raised most of his money from
>> the Internet in small contributions from a very large number of
>> people. That is highly untraditional (if true).
> I think one person or another seems to be saying this about half the
> candidates running ever since Howard Dean. What this means varies
> with how they might choose to define "small contributions" and "a very
> large number," but we don't have to rely on hearsay...
Noam Cohen has an interesting article about Obama and the
Internet/decentralization in today's New York Times:
'But at the same time, Mr. Obama's notion of persistent improvement,
both of himself and of his country, reflects something newer — the
collaborative, decentralized principles behind Net projects like
Wikipedia and the "free and open-source software" movement. The
qualities he cited to Time to describe his campaign — "openness and
transparency and participation" — were ones he said "merged perfectly"
with the Internet. And they may well be the qualities that make him
the first real "wiki-candidate."
'Wikipedia is the influential online encyclopedia that is in a
constant state of revision, thanks to its tens of thousands of
contributors around the world. There is no single "editor," no
presiding panel of experts for its 2.4 million articles in English.
Indeed, anyone can pick up an article and make changes immediately
("wiki-wiki" is Hawaiian for fast).
'Similarly, open-source software is created by groups working on
"patches," as programmers call them. Anyone can contribute, and the
most useful ideas thrive. A result has been successes like the Linux
operating system and the Firefox Internet browser.
'Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor whose book "The Wealth of
Networks" is a manifesto for online collaboration, points out a
crucial difference between Mr. Obama's approach to attracting
supporters and that of his chief rivals. "On the McCain and Clinton
Web sites, there is a transactional screen," Mr. Benkler said. "It is
just about the money. Donate, then we can build the relationship. In
Obama's it's inverted: build the relationship and then donate."
'For this reason there are thousands of people working across the
Internet to build enthusiasm for the campaign, some of it even gently
mocking, like Barackobamaisyournewbicycle.com, a site listing the many
examples of Mr. Obama's magical compassion. ("Barack Obama carries a
picture of you in his wallet"; "Barack Obama thought you could use
'For his part, Mr. Obama is quick to take himself out of the
narrative, even as he promises to remake Washington. 'This isn't
simply modesty. It reflects the utopian, community-building vision
central to the Internet. Wikipedia's unpaid collaborators, for
example, hope to "distribute a free encyclopedia to every single
person on the planet in their own language," says the site's
mastermind, Jimmy Wales. So too the thousands of programmers in the
open-source world intend not just to develop a free operating system,
but vanquish Microsoft.
'In this scheme, Mr. Obama's role, at least in the rhetoric, is less
leader than facilitator, a conduit for decentralized collaboration as
described by James Surowiecki in his book "The Wisdom of Crowds." "The
ethos of the Net is fundamentally respectful of and invested in the
idea of collective wisdom, and in some sense is hostile to the idea
that power and authority should belong to a select few," Mr.
'This is not to say that open projects always produce the best
results. Thousands of ordinary people having their say can lead to
dubious outcomes. And in politics, particularly at the presidential
level, where decisions affect the lives of millions, the risks can be
'For a candidate, there is always the danger of "making yourself
vulnerable" by "giving participants control of chunks of the
enterprise," Mr. Benkler said. Mr. Obama has to walk a careful line.
It's one thing to help popularize a campaign, quite another to shape
policy. And Mr. Obama's team has been as adamant as any about staying
'To some extent, however, Mr. Obama has invited policy ideas from
outsiders. Deb Barry, an Obama supporter in New Hampshire, said she
was impressed that the organization she belongs to, Educators for
Obama, had a chance to speak with his education-policy staff members
before the primary there. "I went into that conference call, kind of
with the impression that the purpose was for us to ask questions," she
said. In fact, "they were picking our brains. They had specific
questions they wanted to ask us, and were seeing how we felt about
what had already come out from the campaign."
'Not that Ms. Barry expects to play a direct role in shaping
government policy. "There is a huge limitation about how much contact
someone like me can have with the big decision makers," she said, but
a critical first step is reaching out: "Not just reaching out to
experts, with big titles and degrees after his name, but people with
'Other online activists are more skeptical about the openness to
outsiders. "The Obama campaign is still very much a top-bottom
operation," Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, of the influential DailyKos Web
site, wrote in an e-mail message. "They've made it very easy for
people to hop on the bandwagon, but those in the back of that wagon
still get no say in where the campaign is going."
'Yes, someone is driving the bandwagon, even if he constantly plays
down his role — describing himself as a Rorshach image on whom others
project. Even Wikipedia has administrators who monitor the work there,
and open-source projects have their "leaders," who keep them on
'In truth, there is no such thing as purely collective decision
making. As Mr. Surowiecki summed it up in his book: "It has
historically been unusual for change to bubble up from below on its
own. So it is, in fact, more likely that someone will take it on
himself to champion the idea of collective wisdom, and in that way
create the conditions that allow it to flourish. This is paradoxical,
but no more so than the fact that an individual, not a crowd, wrote
'The Wisdom of Crowds.' " '
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