Leave the ’60s Behind
Posted by Allison Fine on July 10, 2008
As I noted in a recent post a few days ago, Sally Kohn wrote an editorial that was published in the Christian Science Monitor arguing that online activism is limited in its potential for impacting large-scale social change. I among others disagreed with her assessment. Sally responded yesterday in a thorough and thoughtful post on Daily Kos.
II am glad to see her articulate that social change encompasses both on line and on land activism. I have always believed this and most folks I know who are passionate about social change believe it as well. However, the key sentence that led me to push back against her argument is exacerbated in hers old style thinking about social change. From the editorial:
“By contrast, Internet activism is individualistic. It’s great for a sense of interconnectedness, but the Internet does not bind individuals in shared struggle the same as the face-to-face activism of the 1960s and ’70s did. It allows us to channel our individual power for good, but it stops there.”
From the new post:
“But inequality and racial injustice and corporate imperialism and other hallmarks of our modern society require dramatic, structural reforms — and while the puppet-master powers of the universe might give in to increased financial monitoring in the wake of Enron or increased carbon caps in the wake of Al Gore, let’s be honest: the fundamental built-in inequalities of capitalism and democracy as currently practiced in our country will not be resolved easily.”
Sally thinks big thoughts, that’s what makes her such an interesting person. She is passionate about trying to catalyze large scale reform, but the crux of my problem with this line of thinking; both the individualistic argument is that her entire frame for “radical change” is through a 1960s Civil Rights lens. Sally is a young person who is fluent with new technology, but limiting herself in her vision of radical change to the old organizing models that happened largely in the streets. As I mentioned, I heartily agree that change will happen online and on land. Sally only sees the on land component as mirroring what has happened before. I would challenge her to think about a new model of change; one that is being practiced and refined every day by millions of people around the country and around the world.
At the Personal Democracy Forum two weeks ago, Mark Pesce gave a brilliant keynote address on what happens when we’re all hyperconnected. Mark’s main point is that hyperconnectedness is not a continuation of the old. It is an entirely new model of how we engage with one another — and we don’t know yet what those new models will look like for systemic political change. Social change isn’t about taking old forms of protest and layering some blogs and emails atop. It’s a new way of people connecting with another, of creating scalable networks of activities with enormous capacity to share information, organize and mobilize, raise money and influence the debate in the media. By the very nature of network theory and social media, the way we connect, the way issues arise and are dealt with, will be fundamentally different in this new century. It’s time to leave the 1960s where they belong, in the history books.
2 Responses to “Leave the ’60s Behind”
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.