Organizing over the Internet sometimes seems like an uphill battle. If you’re unsystematic about it, it will often seem like you’ve just got a small cluster of people, and momentum diminishes very rapidly. Such projects often end up being small political centers where a few activists publish materials and distribute them.
The other negative possibility is if you run a political project on the Internet totally openly, things can get very big and chaotic, very quickly, with radical inclusivity threatening the meaning of the project. Somehow Podemos seems to be making this work, perhaps making a good case for direct democracy and having no real guidelines. Then again, they may start suffering Occupy’s problems, of lacking substantial strategy and direction; we’ll see.
However one of the main tasks of an Internet project is to help Internet connections transfer to becoming in-person connections, as much as possible. It is possible to have a project with many sympathizers, enough that chances are, some of them are probably near each other. But if there is no system for mapping ourselves, we can’t know this.
One of the projects I’m involved in, Socialist Electoral Alliance, is working on creating a map of the USA with socialist candidates pinpointed. What if we did something like this, not just for the big dogs, but for every participant?
Maybe it could be a map. Maybe it could just be a spreadsheet instead.
People are often uncomfortable about sharing too much info on the Internet; all this would require is a name and a town, or a nearby prominent town.
I know what you’re thinking. When people discuss political organizing on the Internet, there is such a knee-jerk reaction of someone immediately blurting out “BUT OH MY GOD!! THE NSA WILL SEE US!!” to the point that it makes me vomit. Yeah, like they haven’t socially mapped us already anyway. But unless (1) the government actually begins blatant repression, like jailing Leftists just for admitting to being Leftist on the Internet? Or (2) you are actually some kind of underground guerrilla waging a Protracted People’s War, you need to realize that the biggest effect of surveillance culture is its chilling effect on activism.
They already know who we are. But they don’t want us to find each other. They want us to be scared of that, scared of exposing ourselves, as if we are not already radically exposed. Now we need to know who we are, so we can move from being scattered individuals to being a real we, and we can overtake them.
These maps could be viewed by members-only. They would not include a street address, but simply give people an idea of people roughly close to them, so they could make contact.
Are there risks involved? Sure. I think there was one murdered who used Craigslist – but only one. Let’s not be scared of the Internet; that’s for the British SWP. This silly pretention that we must stay “covert” only hurts us; it’s the grown-up equivalent of your parents telling you not to talk to strangers — and you obeying them. The boogeyman will get you!
We are the strangers. We are the people our parents warned us about. Let’s network, map, connect, consolidate, and act.