Paradigm Gap

December 2, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Society, Web

It struck me this evening that there are no Leftist specialists on the Internet and the Internet’s influence on Left politics.  There are journalists that write stories about the Internet and politics.  There are Left and left-of-center blogs that discuss the influence of the Internet on politics.  There are books, such as Viral Spiral and Here Comes Everybody, that are partly devoted to Internet activism and how the Left is impacted by the web, but I’m having trouble finding examples of those concentrating pretty much exclusively on Left politics and the net.

There is Richard Stallman’s late 20th-century crusade to carve out a commons on the web.  His influence has been astonishing.  In the Left community that I am part of, I am in contact with hundreds of activists.  His name has never been mentioned.

The word “hacker” has evolved over the last 20 years.  It rarely appears in Leftists’ conversations.  Nevertheless, its emerging meaning has more to do with an egalitarian revolution than with one that violates private cyber space.  The folks I am in contact with are little aware of the young programmers’ community fighting for free code and shared universal software.  There are few bringing the young, creative, digital commons movement to the older Leftist radicals writing leaflets and blogs.

I end up part of many discussions that involve bringing in speakers to Chicago to raise funds and excite the Left/Progressive community.  Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky are the names most often raised.  Cindy Sheehan and Seymour Hersh come up.  Never do the names of the champions of the electronic commons, the creative commons and Internet freedom come up in those conversations.  Names such as Richard Stallman, Lawrence Lessig, Joi Ito…

We need bridges between the political Left and the Internet commons.  I’m not clear why there is such a gap, perhaps because it seems most of the Left is 55 and older.  Not unlike the 60s when there was a clearly identified generation gap, there is perhaps a wider one now featuring older Leftists unable to see the commons that is growing around them.  Most older Leftists don’t identify the rip, burn, share, create Internet culture as a natural ally.  To the older folks, change has to be political.  Cultural change is just not on their radar.

Right now, actions are proliferating across the country that protest Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan.  Yet, there is relatively very little activity on Twitter.  Little on Twitter is alluding to the depth of the demonstrations.  There are almost no links to those pages showing over 80 cities conducting protests.  Few Twitter posts call attention to local protests.  I predict that tonight’s December 2 protests will be mostly older activists.

We need translator advocates that can speak both lingos, ones who can talk both cultural change and political transformation.  We need blogs dedicated to explaining to the denser old folks what exactly is going on with the young.  The older postmodern-angst advocates need to be introduced to the young horizontalists that have little respect for what has gone before.

There is a generation gap.  We need some writers to bridge the chasm.


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