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Tea Party Patriots Tout Their Leader(lessness)

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 23 2010

Based on an unconfirmed report on Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment site that former President Bill Clinton and James Carville are supposedly planning a dirty-tricks campaign against seven or eight top leaders of the Tea Party movement, the Tea Party Patriots network has responded with an amusing and effective expression of solidarity. A website called "IAmTheTeaPartyLeader.com" is displaying 210 video testimonials from grass-roots activists, each declaring "I am the Tea Party leader."


Click on any thumbnail and you're taken to a short video; click on a "load random video" if you want the "chatroulette" version of the site. Most of the videos appear to be of middle-aged white people, a sign of the Tea Party movement's tech savvy. There are also a surprising number of videos of children. I'm not sure what I think of that.

I do like this video:

I'm fascinated by how the Tea Party movement is evolving in a distributed, networked fashion, deliberately avoiding anointing any one figurehead or central hub, while using the web to coordinate and share messages and actions. What's still unclear to me is how much of this is by design, how much by accident, and how much a product of the times we live in, where organizing without organizations is easier than ever. A few weeks ago, one of the movement's leaders, Keli Carender of Seattle, was profiled on NPR, where she made this telling comment: "If you have a machine, you know exactly how to attack it, exactly how to shut it down," she says. "If you have 3 million machines coming at you, you don't know where to turn."