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Is there no sense to be made of the social or revolutionary use of the Internet? Or shall it be left to

develop in accordance with chaos rather than reason?  These questions must be answered if

the left-moderate, radical, or revolutionary is to use their websites in a “scientific” manner. 



How To be Effective & Political on the Internet: Guidelines

Notes from the Digital Revolution

By Amin Sharif


The discussion that follows concerns an on-going phenomena that is now found everywhere of the Internet—the social or politically progressive website. These sites can be distinguished by their non-commercial funding source or liberal founding sources. And by the fact that they fall into two general categories:

1. Those that have as their goal the elevating of a social ill (i.e., racism, sexism, economic, or political oppression, etc.) by limited social reform—voting, petitioning, direct action . . .

2. Those that have as their goal the elevating of social ills by revolutionary goals.

We may call the former “social reformists” websites. While the latter we shall call “revolutionary” websites. In essence, these websites are the equivalent of the political tract, pamphlet, and newspaper. The social reformers and revolutionaries have merely shifted partially or solely to these new electronic forms in lieu of older forms in the hopes that they will find a broader or more receptive readership in accord with whatever goal they might advocate. 

But, if anything is clear, it is that, for the most part, these websites have fared only slightly better than the newspaper or non-digital modes that they have replaced. Yet there is scant little analysis as to why this is so. For the social reformers, this question can afford to go unanswered. But for the revolutionary sectors that wish to use these websites as tools toward a more radical end, such a lack of analysis is unforgivable.

Where is the dialectal method of the Marxists when it comes to the use of the Internet, one might ask? Where is the analysis from the revolutionary Black Nationalists, Black and white feminists or any part of the progressive left? Is there no sense to be made of the social or revolutionary use of the Internet? Or shall it be left to develop in accordance with chaos rather than reason?  These questions must be answered if the left-moderate, radical, or revolutionary is to use their websites in a “scientific” manner. 

The fact is that for many the Internet is not seen as an arena where any real analysis should take place. The reformists and revolutionaries have an economic or political agenda that comes complete with an ideological solution for any circumstance. All they have to do is plug, more appropriately download, their ideology on to a publishing system and a bright, new electronic website is born. There is little regard for the physical appearance of the site. 

Many political sites have little or no graphics or graphics that are pleasing. They have little regard for the content of the site. Polemics ten to twelve pages long are posted containing the most arcane political subjects. All of these things are certain to result in one thing: that only the converted will come to these websites. Or worse no one at all will come to them. They proudly post the numbers of visitors, perhaps tens of thousands, and beat themselves on the chest.

What these websites and their webmasters do not realize in that they are reaching only the smallest minority of visitors. Real political effectiveness will come when these sites count visitors in the hundreds of thousands instead of the tens of thousands. But, in order to do this, one must have some sense of what is going on.

Now at this point, we expect to hear so much whining about the fact that progressive websites are in competition with commercial websites. And, that they are not equipped to compete with these websites for the bulk of visitors on the Internet. Well, this is in fact true. But, if the Vietnamese could defeat a superpower with the meager tools that they possessed, doesn’t it seem silly for those who possess the most sophisticated tool in the world to complain? What is missing among digital progressives is what the Vietnamese possessed—the will to succeed.

We might start out with a general analysis of those who have taken up the work of building political websites. They include

1. The Old Left-Marxists of all types, anti-war groups, progressive that were born in the decades of the ‘50’s through the 70’s.

2. Feminists—old and new—black and white.

3. Cultural workers and minority progressives and revolutionaries of the old Guard.

4. Cultural workers of the New Guard—spoken word poets, afro-centrists, etc.

5. True digital progressives and revolutionaries (New Guard) who are in tuned with the power of the Internet.

6. Community based websites that speak to needs of small segments of the population.

7. Websites geared to sexual equality—gay rights and such.

Of course, there are many other players that have been left off this list. But, for right now, let’s deal with these trends.

An examination of the Old Left websites will quickly reveal that they have no strategy for surviving in the new digital environment. First, they are myopic in structure. They only wish to push a political line. And they are no more than a digital reflection of their off-line existence. The most essential element that these sites lack is dynamism. They have come to the digital environment with only a limited understanding of how to wage struggle on the Internet. One cannot predict whether these Old Left forces will ever learn the skills to make any inroads on the net.

But one thing that they will have to understand is that the environment of the net is fluid and immediate. If they are to survive then they must be able to respond to fluid conditions.  This may be hard, if for example, they are Marxists. On the Internet highly hierarchical structure such as those that are based on centralization may actually impede one’s survival rate.

Surprisingly, the websites of feminists do not seem to be attracting as many women as they would like to, either. There may be many reasons why this is so. First, there is definitely a lull in the Women’s Movement. And it might be assumed that women may not have the time to engage in Internet activities. They are, after all, the most economic burden sector of the working class. Earning a living, child rearing, and other activities may be a more worthy use of their time than being on computers. This may change in the near future as more women are attending college and may find their way to the computer. So the best progressive websites for women may be just below the digital horizon.

The next categories of website to be examined are those run by the Old Guard—civil rights types and other progressives. These websites are well funded. And, due to the financial investment in them, are usually more attractive to the Internet visitor. Because they are digital expressions of organizations of “struggle” and are somewhat venerated by an already established audience. They usually do better than the websites mentioned above. 

These websites enjoy a kind of quasi-sanction from the establishment. Thus, they are reformist in nature. The problem is that they, also, lack dynamism. These are best described as “museum” websites. They display the fossilized struggle of a bygone era!

We have next up for examination the so-called New Guard cultural websites. These are composed of young cultural workers—spoken word poets and Afro-centrists. These website are of some value in that they attempt to extend the cultural horizons of the Black Arts Movement and other cultural efforts from the ‘60s. The problem with the Spoken Word movement is that it has no equivalent structure in the political realm. The BAM was the cultural arm of the Black Power Movement. 

The Spoken Word Movement is a thing on its own and unto itself. As such, they are fine if one wishes to study trends in poetry. But it is yet to be seen if they will meet more immediate needs of the masses.

The Afro-centrists have websites that are very good in espousing their ideology. But it is yet to be seen how their program is related to more than the desire to praise Africa and Africans. And, of course, there is no harm in any of that. But, from the prospective of being progressive, reactionary, or non-political, one must examine the ideology and program of each individual website to gain any insight as to what they are up to.

Before we speak of the true Digital Worker or the Digital Guerilla, something must be said of gay and sexual equality websites. There are scant few of them on the Internet. And, while I am against homosexuality by orientation, I am also against oppression by nature. I do no know what is to be done about these sites. I can only wish them well in their struggle to end their oppression.

Today, there is emerging a new kind of political and cultural worker. He/she is as much engrossed in Microsoft, or even non-traditional operating systems, as they are in revolutionary theory. They have grasped the understanding that the Internet-cyberspace is just another battlefield in the war against oppression. Some of these persons consider themselves digital workers, digital progressives, the electronic intelligentsia, or digital guerillas. 

But whatever their names, they have one characteristic in common. They see the Internet as a new battlefield for freedom, democracy, and human dignity. By outlook and inclination, they are revolutionary. They have broken away from the consciousness of the Industrial Age and have turned to a new post-Industrial awareness to lead them to a new promised land. You have but to log-on to these websites to see the work they are up to.  These websites are characterized by the following:

1. Flexibility in presentation and form

2. Diversity of opinion—they are not afraid to post divergent and opposing ideas on their site. They believe that truth is arrived at through ideological struggle

3. Openness—they welcome outside sources to contribute to their growth. They nourish other websites and intellectuals.

4. They stand for the political truth . . . they stand on the side of the oppressed.

5. They are analytical . . . they are committed to finding out what works and what does not work on the Internet.

It is these websites that will survive the fluid environment of the Internet. And those who wish to stand with them must incorporate these characteristics—and others yet to be discovered—into their website’s Struggle for Freedom.

posted 2003

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In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school's hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell's fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard's president and all of the school's black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination. Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell's And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.Publishers Weekly /  Derrick Bell Law Rights Advocate  Dies at 80

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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