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
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
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”
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism
By Derrick Bell
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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The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance
Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It
By Les Leopold
How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions: Why did Americans let the gap between workers' wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives' pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America's new, postindustrial economy? How do we make sure we never give our wages away to gamblers again? And what can we do to get our money back? In this page-turning narrative (no background in finance required) Leopold tells the story of how we fell victim to Wall Street's exotic financial products. Readers learn how even school districts were taken in by "innovative" products like collateralized debt obligations, better known as CDOs, and how they sucked trillions of dollars from the global economy when they failed. They'll also learn what average Americans can do to ensure that fantasy finance never rules our economy again. The Economy
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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
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January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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update 10 April 2012