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Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Eraby Ma Moulitsas Zuniga
Synopses & Reviews
As founder of one of the most influential political blogs, DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga establishes the fundamental laws that govern toda‛s new era of digital activism.
The Sixties are overÂ—and the rules of power have been transformed. In order to change the world one needs to know how to manipulate the media, not just march in the streets. Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, otherwise known as“Kos” is toda‛s symbol of digital activism, giving a voice to everyday people. In Taking on the System, Kos has taken a cue from his revolutionary predecesso‛s doctrine, Saul Alinks‛s Alinsk‛s Rules for Radicals, and places this epic hand-book in toda‛s digital era, empowering every American to make a difference in the 21st century.
As founder of the largest political blog in the nation, Kos knows how i‛s done, because h‛s done it with tremendous success. In Taking on the System, he shares practical guidelines on how grassroots movements can thrive in the age of global information, while referencing historical and present examples of the tragedy caused without those actions.
The walls between the people and the powerÂ—the so-called rabble and the so-called eliteÂ—are being torn down by technology, and a new army of amateurs are storming the barriers to effect political, cultural, and environmental transformation. Readers will come to understand how they too can change the world.
"In this primer for activists in the digital age, Zniga, founder of the influential lefty blog DailyKos, argues that if activists harness new technology such as blogs, podcasting and YouTube, they can 'bypass the old-world gatekeepers to communicate to the masses' in order to bring about political change. Tidily organized into pithy directives, including mobilizing, reinventing the street protest and feeding the backlash, this informative and entertaining book — inspired by Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals — moves easily among the current campaign cycle, pop culture phenomena such as Stephen Colbert and the successes and failures of the progressive movement in America. Zniga's pragmatic, inclusive tone takes the edge off his sometimes didactic insistence that 'there's no reason anyone should whine or complain that they are being shut out of the system.' It should be noted, however, that the book is targeted directly to other liberals and wastes no time with conciliatory measures toward the right. Anyone in his camp, however, will be rewarded by the read. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Voters who go to the polls today carry with them their hopes and fears for the future. This election, perhaps more than any that has come before it, offers stark evidence of all that is right with American democracy — both its power and potential — as well as what has gone terribly wrong. Three new books — primers on how to become a citizen activist — are for anyone who cares about living in a... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) democracy that works. "Effective activism requires that those who have the heart and passion for it step out of their comfort zone and into the fire," writes Markos Moulitsas Zuniga in "Taking On the System," which includes a step-by-step to-do list, as well as philosophical encouragement. The book celebrates "change agents," as Moulitsas calls them, who are fighting for that most basic democratic principle: the right to speak out in a system that, too often, controls the message. Moulitsas, founder of the influential political blog Daily Kos, heralds Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, who decided to make a run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 without financial resources or political experience. First she faced a primary no one thought she could win. Then she faced a general election against a strong incumbent. She won both races. "Shea-Porter's wildly surprising victory — over two outsized opponents — should serve as both an inspiration and a valuable primer about overcoming obstacles put in the way of activists who buck the system," writes Moulitsas. Her supporters ignored the party establishment, which wrote off Shea-Porter's campaign as hopeless and offered no backing. Instead, her supporters built a campaign directly from the grass roots, creating low-budget commercials, sending personalized postcards, talking directly to voters, both in person and online. With "innovative tactics and (the) smart use of money," they got Shea-Porter's message out. (My husband, who was involved with her campaign, was not a source for this book.) Moulitsas' book is a call to join the fray, and it is peppered with examples of people who are managing, against the odds, to be heard. Grass-roots networking is helping long-shot candidates like Shea-Porter get elected. Bloggers are drawing national attention to issues that otherwise might be overlooked, such as the violent racism that erupted in 2006 in the town of Jena, La. And in countries where democracy is literally a life-and-death issue, the Internet offers activists an alternative to official propaganda machines. In 2004 in the Ukraine, for example, cyber-movements helped to expose government wrongdoing and electoral fraud — and bring about regime change. Citizens of a true democracy, argues Naomi Wolf in "Give Me Liberty," think of themselves not as lucky recipients of the gift of liberty, but as its stewards, crafters and defenders. "Liberty is not a set of laws or a system of government," she writes. "It is not a nation or a species of patriotism. Liberty is a state of mind before it is anything else." The problem right now — and the situation is dire, she warns — is that most Americans are dozing while their liberties have quietly eroded. But "Give Me Liberty" is essentially an act of optimism. "I wrote this handbook with the faith that if Americans take personal ownership of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they can push back any darkness," Wolf writes. Drawing on the words of the country's founders, she lays out seven principles, devoting a chapter to each: We must speak. We have a duty to rebel continually against injustice and oppression. We can disagree with one another without violence. And on it goes. In "The User's Guide," Wolf collects guidelines from "patriots in various fields ... to equip any American who wishes to defend liberty." Wolf's goal is to educate a wave of "democracy commandos": Learn how to write a news release and how to be safe as you protest. Get tips on how to speak in public, how to raise funds and how government works. In short, use this book to study up, and you'll be ready to start your own movement. Which is precisely what Wolf hopes readers will do. "We need more drastic action than e-mails to Congress," she implores. "We need the next revolution." John Whitehead's take on the crumbling of America is more ponderous than his fellow authors'. "The Change Manifesto" devotes many pages to describing the post-9/11 problems plaguing the country, from loss of community and privacy to increasing authoritarianism and a growing military-industrial complex. Americans have forgotten the Constitution, he argues, and we must take a stand. If readers manage to slog through the first 260-plus pages, they'll find a detailed, if somewhat pedantic, review of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — and more examples of the "governmental onslaught" on individual rights. But the "tools" provided here tend to be lofty generalizations rather than practical advice: "Courage does not come from merely reading stories. It comes from within. Only when that inner courage is found can one serve the purpose of the Bill of Rights and engage in the free and lawful advocacy that the revolutionaries intended." Whitehead speaks from his experience as a constitutional lawyer and founder of the Rutherford Institute in Charlottesville, which fields thousands of requests each year for legal assistance. (The organization has been characterized by some as a civil liberties union for people of faith.) And while the book is filled with grievances, many worthy of concern, I couldn't help thinking, as I turned its pages, about the "change agents" Moulitsas celebrates in his book. Shea-Porter, for example, stands in stark contrast to the politicians Whitehead skewers: "Today's politicians, many of whom are far removed from those they represent, are chauffeured around in limousines, fly in private jets, and eat gourmet meals, all paid for by the American taxpayer." Politicians who fit this description deserve pointed criticism — and voter rejection. But it's good to know the change agents are out there, too, hard at work. Here's hoping each of these books will spark a few more to join the revolution. Reviewed by Suki Casanave, who writes for a number of publications and is an associate editor of the University of New Hampshire magazine, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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The founder of one of the most influential political blogs in the nation establishes the fundamental laws that govern today's new era of digital activism.
The laws of power have changed-and will continue to do so in our ever-evolving, digital culture. Societal shifts require mastering new skills for effecting positive change. Now it's out with the old rules, in with the new...
Founder of one of the nation's most influential political blogs, DailyKos.com, Zúniga has drawn up his revolutionary strategies such as:
? Don't mourn the street protest-reinvent it
? Feed the backlash
? Demolish your opponents with ridicule
? Identify heroes and villains
Written for both the general public and the grassroots activist, this is a new great awakening- as the crowds learn the laws of power that will lead to effective transformation.
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