Review: The Big Disconnect – Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet)

6 Star Top 10%, America (Founders, Current Situation), Censorship & Denial of Access, Civil Society, Culture, Research, Information Operations, Information Society, Information Technology, Misinformation & Propaganda, Politics
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Micah Sifry

5.0 out of 5 stars Should Be Top Ten Book Across All Progressive Communities, October 5, 2014

This is one of the most useful important books I have read in the past couple of years, and I am stunned that the publisher has failed to properly present the book for purchase on Amazon. This book should be one of the top ten books across the progressive communities of the world.

I rate this book at SIX STARS, which puts it into the top ten percent of the 2000+ non-fiction books with some DVDs (139) I have reviewed at Amazon. This is an *amazing* book of passionate informed truth-telling and in my view, it should be the starting point for a totally new conversation among all progressive minds going into the future.

I read this book on the way back from The New Story Summit as hosted by the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. While the book is deeply supportive of my own views on the desperate need of the distributed progressive community for tools and methods that bring together all minds and all information into a coherent whole, attending the summit and listening to the leaders of major progressive organizations including the Global Eco-Village Network and Transition positioned me to better appreciate this book by Micah Sifry.

QUOTE (34): “…has not made participation in decision-making or group coordination substantially easier.”

QUOTE (49): “We can save the body politic, but to do so we must remember that the purpose of democracy isn't only for each of us to have our say, but to blend individual opinions into common agreements. … We need a real digital public square, not one hosted by Facebook, shaped by Google, and monitored by the National Security Agency.”

QUOTE (159): “Many weak causes do not add up to a stronger movement.”

QUOTE (161): “First, we need to insist on tools and platforms that genuinely empower users to be full citizens. And second, we have to take back our own digital agency.”

There are two bottom lines in this book, at least for me:

01. The progressives are massively fragmented, all insisting on using “their” hashtags, focusing on “their” issue, going after “their” funding, and obstinantly refusing — perhaps even spiritually unable — to come together in a larger umbrella process that includes a strategic umbrella for deliberative dialog, integral ethical evidence-based decision support in a holistic analytic framework, and constructive collaborative action across all issues all the time.

01.Facebook, Google, and Twitter particularly, but all existing Internet sites, networks, tools, and all related peripherals have “sold out” and failed to attend to the public interest — the public need for tools empowering communities to form, deliberate, and take action.

While I have been saying this for some time, coming at the challenge from the point of view of a professional intelligence officer, the author of this book, Micah Sifry, is vastly more knowledgable and credible in relation to the progressive movement and the Internet domains that it uses and inhabits, one reason why I rate this book at six stars — for the complacent progressives whose idea of a success story is a marginal climate change march that will change nothing, this book is a wake-up call. It's not about climate change. It's about coming together as a community able to (these are my four constructs and my interpretation of the author's vision) integrate individual and communal spirituality, investigative inquiry, deliberative dialog, and action.

Among the insights that I drew from the book and marked down on the flyleafs:

01. Analytic tools as they exist today increase the power of the two-party tyranny, NOT the power of the individual. The author pointedly observes that most “lists” are “owned” and increase the power of the list owners while refusing any power sharing or horizontal access to the members of the list.

02. Congress ignores all electronic communications — all the polls, all the emails, largely worthless.

03. Advocacy organizations are going through the motions — they are neither creating compelling actionable intelligence (my word, understood by some as decision-support useful in educating the public), nor are the orchestrating human beings, attention, money, time, or energy in any meaningful way that changes the power structure, how big money is invested, or the sustainability outcomes of our future generations.

04. “Big Listening” is the term the author uses, the first big step that is anti-thetical to Big Data, Big Email and Big Politics.

05. Need Smart Citizens, not Smart Cities.

06. Need Horizontalism, tools to break down all barriers, rather than progressive variation of Verticalism.

07. Internet is better at gathering STOP energy than it is at gathering GO energy. As now structured, the Internet is “contributing to the hollowing out of local, cross-ideological community interaction” (47).

08. Obama 2008 took the Internet to the next level in terms of mobilizing mass support, and then “knee-capped” (citing Jessica Shearer, a labor organizer) their grassroots after victory.

The author has identified a large number of individuals and websites and capabilities that are important small pieces of a larger mosaic, but that are all, without exception, failing to be part of the larger solution. Buy the book to consider each of those in detail.

A few of the books mentioned by the author include:

Collective Action in Organizations: Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change (Communication, Society and Politics)
Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life (The Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture Series)
Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake DemocraticPolitics
The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy (Oxford Studies in Digital Politics)
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy

Missing from the author's construct is a grasp of the tri-fecta of citizen network empowered represented by holistic analytics (all threats, policies, and demographics under view together); true cost economics being visible for every product, policy, behavior, and service; and open source everything engineering. He is simply intuiting the gap. Add those three things to an Autonomous Internet (see the Roadmap at the P2P Foundation) and you have a non-violent revolution.

There are so many other books I have reviewed that I would like to link in, but with a ten link limit that is not possible. Instead I offer up the book in my signature line that is also free online with all links active, and my varied lists of lists of book reviews at the Review Page of Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

Micah Sifry has gifted us with a powerful story, a story that should seize the heart of every activist and eventually be grasped at the intellectual level as well. If there were one book I would want to give out to all the complacent self-centered progressives I know or do not know but want to engage, this is that book.

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

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