Obama Blogger Joins Wired Youth Movement (and Here's Why in Particular You Might Care)
BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, March 9 2010
The Obama campaign's chief blogger and Blue State Digital vet Sam Graham Felsen announces on HuffPo that he's joining the growing Alliance of Youth Movements as its new Director of Strategy and Communications; Blue State Digital's David Nassar joined AYM as Executive Director in October. Besides being a bit of interesting hiring news, there are, we'll suggest, two additional little angles on the Felsen hire that really sum up the current state of digital politics and advocacy in their entirety. Or, short of that, they're just kinda telling.
The first, in the realm of ideas, is that, as Felsen mentions, there's a widening school of thought that considers the downsides of what the Internet brings to the political space, something that Felsen rightly associates with Foreign Policy writer Evgeny Morozov. Techno-utopianism is, perhaps, maturing into techno-realism -- an examination of how Internet-based communications can be used to advance extremism, equip dictators, and generally cut off populations from the free flow of information. It's something, writes Felsen, that he got a taste of in his two years on the Obama campaign:
While experts often credit the Internet as the major factor that lifted Obama to the presidency, it's also true that the Internet nearly brought the campaign down. For every megaphone the Internet provides to truth-tellers and democratic organizers, it also elevates con-artists, hate-mongers, violent extremists, and most troublingly, government authorities who aim to crush free expression... Viral misinformation about Obama presented major problems for us: it seemed like everyone had an aunt or cousin who had received an email warning them that Obama was a crypto-Muslim.
The second potentially important angle on this, in the realm of alliance-building and organization, is that it points to just how central the State Department is becoming in the world of digitally-enhanced politics, diplomacy, advocacy, and organizing. Yep, the U.S. State Department, what with its 21st Century Statecraft, Civil Society 2.0 and all. The Alliance of Youth Movements is closely tied to those efforts coming out of State. (For example, the tech delegation to Mexico City that I got a chance to go on this fall was a blend of State Department meetings and attendance at the second AYM summit.)
Our advice to you: if you've got an interest in this stuff, then keep an eye on this State Department/AYM nexus.