Power to the People

Yuki Noguchi of the The Washington Post reports that there is a lot of effort being made by Democrat and Republican staffers to reshape the political listings in Wikipedia. “On Capitol Hill, Playing WikiPolitics, Partisanship Tests Web Site’s Policies.”

“A popular change in recent weeks has been deleting mentions of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) from politicians’ profiles.”

The Wikimedia Foundation asks us to, “Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge,” but they go one step further in giving people the power to edit.

On 12/8/2005 Kos comments on A new study (PDF) by the USC Annenberg School shows that People feel increasingly empowered by the Internet. But Kos mentions, “so-called reformers” like Fred Wertheimer at Democracy 21; Carol Darr at the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet; the Campaign Legal Center and Common Cause, want to put a stop to the threat of freedom of speech.

Democracy 21 filed an FEC complaint on Jan. 15, 2004, along with the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive Politics, that charges ACT and The Media Fund – the pro-Democratic 527 groups that are the principal recipients of George Soros’s campaign contributions – with violating the nation’s campaign finance laws. It also charges the Leadership Forum with similarly violating the campaign finance laws.

Kos fears the threat of bloggers being regulated by the FCC, “By classifying this (his Web site) as a political action committee, reporting requirements and spending limits would force me to shut down. And as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not the Republicans who are threatening this. It’s Democrats.”

The dialogue that follows the initial Kos entry is worth tracking in regard to how screen activity can be transformed to real grassroots action. Five of Diamonds says, “The Internet is the GOP’s worst nightmare. That makes us the GOP’s worst nightmare. I like the sound of that.”

The Kos discussion fails to make note of the fact that during the 2003/2004 national election cycle, a half-million American citizens conducted over 25,000 official political Meetups using Meetup.com, a non-partisan, publicly accessible and open community organizing tool. Other tools, largely inspired by Meetup, were used to enable thousands more political gatherings. While voting levels increased an impressive 15-20 per cent, grassroots activism skyrocketed several hundred percent.

“Providing the catalyst to transform grassroots politics and ushering in a new era of participatory democracy was not the intention of Meetup’s creators, but as with many great inventions, users employed it in unforeseen yet world changing ways,” says Don Means, Meetup.com’s Chairman.

“Meetup… helps to enable citizens to make their voice heard, and to organize on their own grounds, not against formal politics, but outside formal politics. So doing, Meetup greatly contributes to undo the rampant crisis of legitimacy that is deteriorating the quality of political life around the world.” says Manuel Castells, Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society.

“Around the world, political participation is increasingly taking place using online tools and applications. The potential and implications of these new forms of political activity are enormous yet barely understood by researchers or political experts.” says Jane Fountain, Director of the National Center for Digital Government, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” says George Orwell.

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