Have conservative groups mastered the art of internet activism? | Jen Schradie | Big Think


At the dawn of the internet, many believed
that it would enable a more participatory, pluralist, and really personalized platform,
particularly with politics. And it wasn’t long before people were using
terms like “Facebook revolution” and “Twitter revolution” to talk about how the internet
could enable this more democratic way to participate in collective action. In my research, though, I wanted to, first
of all, take a different tact than just looking at these very high profile movements, whether
we’re talking about the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, or more recently the Me Too movement,
and really get a more general sense of what was happening on an everyday level. I found a political issue that attracted groups
on the left and the right, because at the time when I started the research in 2011,
there were a lot of celebratory reports about very left-leaning movement. So I also wanted to look at conservative groups. And what I found was a very profound digital
activism gap. Groups that were more middle to upper class,
groups therefore with more resources, but also more organizational infrastructure, more
hierarchy, were much more likely to be online. I also found that those groups tended to be
more right-leaning or conservative. And it wasn’t just these questions around
resources and structure, it was also conservatives tended to have a more ideological inclination,
more of a motivation to use the internet than groups on the left. North Carolina really appealed to my methodological
inclinations, to be quite honest, because it did really have this far left, far right,
and really center political spectrum, Obama won the state in 2008 by a hair. He lost the state, also by a very small margin,
in 2012. And this state was really hovering between
left and right. So I decided to pick this issue around collective
bargaining rights for public employees, because it did attract both these conservative groups,
as well as these left-leaning groups. And as a result, I looked at about 34 different
organizations that had been politically active on this issue. And they varied on the left side to support
labor rights from labor unions, which you would expect, worker centers, but also civil
rights groups, the North Carolina NAACP, a student group, and other groups, as well. Because this issue really operated more like
a social movement than a traditional labor issue, largely because unions in North Carolina
are extremely marginalized. At the time, it had the lowest rate of unionization
in the country, and it still hovers at the bottom. But on the other hand, there were Tea Party
groups, other patriot groups, like Preppers, and other conservative organizations which
were very much opposed to any kind of union issue, especially around public employees. Because for conservatives, the whole idea
of public employees really represented government, particularly, big government, which they were
opposed to. And what I found by looking at what — not
only how much they were engaged online, but what they were saying online, that conservatives
were really focused on this question of freedom. And government got in the way of this quest
for freedom. The internet, however, was an ideal vehicle
for this idea of freedom. Freedom from the state, free markets, and
for them, freedom of information, as well. Because they really believed that the mainstream
media was not accurately covering their issues, or really covering their — what they were
doing with their activism on the right. And in fact, I think in many ways when we
think about these so-called filter bubbles online, that they were right, that the left,
as well as the mainstream media, really wasn’t paying that much attention to what was going
on with conservatives. So Trump’s victory, I think, was a surprise
to many. But as a scholar who had been studying what
was going on on the grassroots level, as well as online, I was not as surprised. However, groups on the left, rather than focus
on freedom, they were focused more on this question of fairness and around equity, labor
rights, wages, et cetera. Now, this question of fairness allowed for
a wide variety of groups to be involved and engaged. As I mentioned, civil rights groups, labor
groups, and also when they would post online, they didn’t have as straight forward a message
as groups on the right. So for them, that partially drove why they
were not online as much, and why their messages didn’t resonate and weren’t retweeted and
reposted as much, right? Because such a wide variety of issues, in
general, among the left, whether it’s LGBTQ issues, labor issues, civil rights issues,
women’s rights issues, voting rights, they really are a way that this idea of fairness
could really be summed up. But wasn’t this pithy, straightforward message
around freedom that the right not only was retweeting comments or posts that they created,
but also articles by conservative media, and also memes. Conservatives were really strong on visual
posts, as well, which really worked very, very well. And so this informationalizing on the right
compared to organizing on the left really helps explain this ideological gap that I
found. People on the left were interested in the
internet and definitely used it for their organizing. But even students, who you would think would
be at the leading force of digital technology, just saw it as one of many organizing tools. That this particular student group was really
interested — it was horizontally run — really interested in a wide variety of people participating. And for them, the internet wasn’t necessarily
a great way to have democratic decision-making and participation. It was one tool to help organize people. But it wasn’t what one conservative activist
told me, which is that for them, Paul Revere had a horse, but they had the internet.

100 comments

How Digital Activism Favours Conservatism.

Hahahahahahahaha, that's the biggest joke I've heard today. Conservative groups have been pushed to practically the extremes as social media sites continually work to censor and shut them down.

Freedom vs fairness. Although we want to be as just as possible, the aim for fairness creates barriers, and, maybe unintentionally, limits and suppresses the freedoms of individuals.

The left doesn’t care about fairness they care about power and like terrorists they hide behind innocent people like marginalized groups so they can claim victim hood.

Meanwhile the left consists of apple google twitter etc…and a stranglehold on main stream media

As someone who leans center-right, I find that the internet has a disproportionately high rate of lonely depressed men who feel invisible.

Leftist activists ignore these people since they do not fit into certain "marginalized groups".
I think the observation of the internet becoming very conservative is the result of a very simple process, conservatives ended up expressing much more concern for people like myself. Mainstream publications tend to find the issues that relate to people such as myself to be rather laughable, because I do not fit neatly into one of the "marginalized groups".

Personally, I believe it's really that simple. It's about a whole collection of people whose struggles were ignored by the mainstream because they didn't fit with the current victimhood narrative and the internet was the only place that would listen.

No, anarchist memers have mastered online activism. Memes are the revolution.
The rest just support the Zionist agenda in one way or another, whether they know it or not.

With that being said, I wonder how really big Andrew Yang's movement is considering how Trump shouldn't have won but did.

Conservatives see the whole of mainstream media and the gatekeepers of the internet forcing their own agenda down America’s throat, when America will never sign on to this ridiculous ideology that is being pushed…so naturally we will use our only platforms available to push back.

Can we please stop labeling and stop the political bullshit please. We need less ideological crap from both sides

No it was the left turning completely fucking insane that turned me right/conservative.

Your so called progress had nothing of any progress in it. Instead of meritocracy where the best suited person to do the job gets it, you want 50/50 split between men and women while in reality its more like a 95/5 split between the genders wanting to do the work.

Your so called progress is identity politics and i can not see how that will ever turn out well, it was tried in russia between the kulaks and the proletariat.

That same idea was also tried in nazi germany if you wonder.

Also how in the fucking world is women a minority they constitute 50% of the population so if they are a minority so are men.

All you want is censorship, and tyrannical control, so in essence, fascism/nazism/communism take your pick. But please look at the horrible death tolls under each before you choose.

Now im not in favor of fascism but between the three you can choose from it seems the best if human lives matter to you.

Your choice, but the choices doesnt look so good to me.

OMG! So much alliteration at the beginning I thought this was going to be a joke or something. Where's the peck of pickled peppers peter piper picked?

Extremists people are an unemployed base with simple minds = Much more free time to spend on the internet sharing memes and visual easy stuff.

Tonedeaf and vapid word salad

The left can’t meme.

Bill Clinton is a rapist Hillary Clinton is a serial killer

Is pushing diverse opinions of so many people into two boxes, malice or stupidity?
Can someone ask this expert idiot what is left and what is right when almost everything remains the same no matter who wins?

This is a good example of an idiot getting government money to do stupid programs that mean nothing this whole speech she said two things of interest in those two things were completely left-leaning biased and stupid

STOP before you watch the video wait!

let me save you 7:54 seconds of your life that you'd never get back if you continue! The left can't meme
There that's the whole video summarised.

The liberals already 'own' the entire legacy press (except for Fox and a few papers and magazines) so right leaning people had no choice but to go talk radio and later online.

ya ever see that South Park episode where everyone thinks so highly of themselves that they are farting into wine classes and then sniffing it like it’s a fine wine….that’s big think

Yaa, conservatives use their words and ideas in an intellectual battle while the left jumps up and down yelling and crying in group think identity politics. Its an unfair match to say the least.

Since Left controls mainstream media and thus majority of what has become known as the fake news, people are trying to find the truth independently. Today, that is online. And when you're against the fake news, you just happen to be aligned with the Right at the moment. If and when Right goes crazy and starts to insist that white is black and male is female, people will rebel against that too.

Hint for the current Left: lie less, or simply denounce the radicals on your side- SJW, Antifa and DIE types (diversity, inclusion, equity). Also, try not to make it so obvious that even a mentally impaired person can tell when you're not telling the truth. When you say things like- speech is violence, male is female, or intolerance is inclusion- it's hard to take it seriously, even when you find a self described expert to say that with a straight face. The more academics join in to lie, the less people have trust in academia. It's not rocket surgery.

Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

Fairness? Do you mean Communism? "Fairness" is letting people be themselves, including their right to fail and die, it is not "fair" to redistribute wealth.

don't know how right is on other countrys, but in my country they love to spread lies.. and whats best to spread lies with emotional messages? WhatsApp internet and stuff… they say terrible things like gays want rape children and stuff sometimes even anti Science stuff, i guess internet allow peopel to spread lies easy.

Ok so the right is good at internet stuff, while the left hands down controls major media… Htf is Hillary not president?! Major fail!

Conservative talking points are so simple you can fit them into memes on facebook and twitter so every moronic conservative can spam them with ease on everyone's feeds with ease. To be a conservative means you are a simpleton by nature so those memes resonate with a lot of simple people.

Basically, the right is a bunch of fat ass, lonely shutins, the left are socially healthy organizers. Then, there's something about fairness vs freedom, as if they were contradictory terms.

Huh? The left is who really mastered it… By taking over every damn platform with their PC bullshit because mass bully anyone that has a different opinion than them.

This needs to be summarised a bit better. Is the answer to the question in the title: "because conservatives have a clearer message." if it is, you should lead with that, and then delve into why. And ultimately I think you will find that the reason the conservatives are on the internet is because mainstream media doesn't support their views. Where else could they go? Isn't it as simple as that?

Shouldn’t the question be, “Have liberalists mastered the technique of internet media?”

e.g. Outrage Politics
Targeting minority groups to establish political machines
Identity politics

Conservatives probably feel more compelled to gravitate towards the internet because most mainstream media doesn't address their thoughts and viewpoints.
Now I'm a liberal and even I notice the overt imbalance in representation of conservative concerns.
Actually, I notice most media outlets attacking and denigrating conservatives.
So naturally conservatives will seek conservative based sites on the internet.
Thing is, now they're be attacked there too.
This is not good.

What conservative groups? The internet is so Left heavy that every online conservative opinion is damn near worth 100 votes

My experience taught me otherwise.
If you post any conservative thought on Reddit you will get downvoted to oblivion.
Internet is by and large dominated by leftist narrative.
Even big corporations support the lefties and their views at the same time Right wing conservatives get muted and deplatformed.

The reason is simple and it is in two words "Koch Brothers". They funded a lot of money to their right wing orgs, Who saw these people as useful idiots to convince them to put R's in government office and get them rallied on dumb issues on internet. For eg. Tax cuts to rich people will help the economy and polluting environment will own the libs. Left wing organisations are often grassroots funded and rarely have backing of rich people.

hmm, Isn't it more that you are lumping in moderates with the conservatives?

Also it is really hard to use twitter to communicate to everyone if you BLOCK everyone that disagrees with you or is even tangentially related to someone you disagree with. Blocklists do just that.

You lost me at “take a different tact”.

It’s “tack”, a sailing term.

If you can’t use basic analogies, I’m not inclined to give credence to any other observations you may have.

The problem of leftist fairness is that it's not fair. It's aimed at controlling behavior and exchance of ideas. No wonder that people who see themselves unfairly treated don't jump on the idea.

Have conservatives mastered the internet you ask? No. We have only "mastered" this tech because we are free to think as we believe and have not adopted the NPC cult-left ideology that traps free-thinking under the umbrella of group-think. We do not succumb to the tyranny of weak and stupid which oppression Olympics have created.

Right leaning groups interested in free speech are fighting for everyone's rights on the internet where the big tech oligarchs and left leaning media are trying to silence anyone who dosen't mindlessly regurgitate their Anti-American, Anti-Constitution, Anti-Free thinking, Socialist Agenda. The internet is also the best way for people with steady jobs to spread their word when they cant take weeks off work to travel across the country to protest like many of the left leaning supporters.

While it's probably impossible to prove, if could also be that conservatives have simply optimized the vulnerabilities of the internet – nonsense claims and false flagging – to their advantage; it's as much about freedom of misinformation, usually free of any real blowback consequences, as freedom of information. If the left fights fire with fire, if it hasn't already, the net effect will be to invalidate the internet as an information source, and this is already in process. Whether saying something is effective or makes money is becoming the only guiding principle; whether what's being said is true is becoming dangerously irrelevant. One can promote the idea the earth is flat and simply defend it as free speech and personal opinion. One of the main effects of the internet has simply been to provide global soapboxes for people intentionally out to mislead you on a commercial and intellectual basis.

Funny how intellectuals used to go after the elites and now days the 'intellectuals' go after people that are tying to express their point of view while protecting the elites who are causing all this shit in the first place. Divide and conquer!

The amount of alliteration within the first 20 seconds of this video threw me off so much

THE COX BROTHERS ARE STARTING THEIR INFLUENCE ON THIS CHANNEL LOL. JUST WITH THEIR TITLE: IM CLOSE TO UNSUBBING FROM THIS ACTUAL SOON TO BE PROPAGANDA

Freedom freedom freedom and the Internet as a safe haven, yet I didn't notice as many sources from the right raising hell about NN when Ajit Pai and the FCC moved to tread on our net. Probably because of cognitive dissonance from the seemingly contradictory principle of 'government regulations = bad' many on the right seem to knee-jerkingly hold to almost regardless of context…despite if it's something like e.g., Title II common carrier regulations that would safeguard a less bottlenecked access to information and such. Meh.

Altemeyers body of works in psychology shows us that Right Wing Authoritarians are highly submissive to Social Dominance Oriented leaders. SDO leaders tend to be Narcissists and Psychopaths.

Modern psychology shows us the far right and the Conservative Leadership are the Dark Tetriad. Narcissists and Psychopaths are more driven than most people; therefore they tend to get more exposure.

More money from big business opportunists, too. If you look into these groups, you find the digital activism is driven by wealth flooding in from Billionaires.

They have PR, groups like Cambridge Analytica that use computational psychology and big data to optimize manipulation via emotional hook propaganda techniques. Also interconnected networks of billionaire thinktanks and donor groups.

As for the Left, they tend to start out less organized. When their discomfort levels hit a certain level, though, they turn into a wave.

The problem with the left is they tend to start to organize to late, as we see in the Spanish Civil War. When the Far Right take over too many strategic points in government, the army, etc, if you aren't planning your own resistance early, you tend to end up behind the 8ball.

Most of the time the Left Wing response to the Far Right overwhelms them, when people realize just how bad their leadership gets.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5680983/

Should I say I see 213 viewers so far who are stupid enough to give it a thumbs down? As a Stanford alum, I stress I like each and every one of you, stupid or not.

Let me save you the waste of time watching the video:

Cons are able to "use the internet" b/c their message is simple and sensible, so sending it directly to the masses resonates with other sensible people.

Progs cant do this b/c their message sucks. So, to get said sucky message across, they need their legacy media brothers in arms to dress it up and assure the "correct" (read: totally biased) narrative.

Pretty simple, really.

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