Review: We the Media

4 Star, Media

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4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read overview, sensible, read with Trippi's book,

October 22, 2004
Dan Gillmor
Edited 20 Dec 07 to add links.

Joe Trippi's book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything joins Howard Rheingold's book, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution and Bill Moyer's collaborative book, Doing Democracy as the companions for this book–taken together, the four books provide everything any group needs to “take back the power.”

Whereas Trippi provides a personal story that illuminates the new power that comes from combining citizen activism with Internet-enabled networking, this book focuses more on the role the Internet and blogs play in the perception and dissemination of accurate unbiased information. It is not only an elegant presentation, easy to read, with good notes and a fine seven-page listing of cool web sites, but it also provides a useful survey of past writings on this topic–with due credit to Alvin Toffler's first perception of the trend toward mass customization and the elimination of intermediaries, together with original thoughts from the author.

This book could become a standard undergraduate reference on non-standard news sources and the blurring of the lines between producers and consumers of information (or in the government world, of intelligence).

Resistance to change by established media; the incredible emotional and intellectual growth that comes from having a “media” of, by, and for the people that is ***open*** to new facts and context and constantly being ***refreshed***, and the undeniable ability of the people in the aggregate to triumph in their assembled expertise, over niche experts spouting biases funded by specific institutions, all come across early in the book.

The book is provocative, exploring what it means when more and more information is available to the citizen, to include information embedded in foods or objects that communicates, in effect, “if you eat me I will kill you,” the author's most memorable turn of phase that really makes the point.

While respecting privacy, the author notes that this may, as David Brin has suggested, be a relic of a pre-technological time. Indeed, I was reminded of the scene in Sho-Gun, where a person had to pause to defecate along the side of the trail, and everyone else simply stood around and did not pay attention–a very old form of privacy that we may be going back to.

Feedster gets some good advertising, and it bears mention that Trippi is still at the Google/email stage, while Gillmor is at the Feedster/RSS/Wiki stage.

Between Trippi and Gillmor, the term “open source politics” can now be said to be established. The line between open source software, open source intelligence or information, and open spectrum can be expected to blur further as public demands for openness and transparency are backed up with the financial power that only an aroused and engaged public can bring to bear.

Gilmor is riveting and 100% on target when he explores the meaning of all this for Homeland Security. He points out that not only is localized observation going to be the critical factor in preventing another 9-11, but that the existing budget and program for homeland security does not provide one iota of attention to the challenge of soliciting information from citizens, and ensuring that the “dots” from citizens get processed and made sense of.

The book slows in the middle with some case studies I could have done without, and then picks up for a strong conclusion by reviewing the basic laws (Moore, Metcalfe, Reed) in order to make the point, as John Gage noted in 2000, that once you have playstations wired for Internet access, and DoKoMo mobile phones that pre-teens can afford, the people ***own*** the world of information.

Spies and others concerned about deception and mischief on the Internet will appreciate the chapter on trolls, spin, and the boundaries of trust. Bottom line: there are public solutions to private misbehavior.

The chapter on lawyers and the grotesque manner in which copyright law is being extended and perverted, allowing a few to steal from our common heritage while hindering innovation (the author's words), should outrage. Lawrence Lessin and Cass Sunstein are still the top minds on this topic, but Gillmore does a fine job of articulating some of the key points.

The book ends on a great note: for the first time in history, a global, continuous feedback loop among a considerable number of the people in possible. This may not overthrow everything, as Trippi suggests, but it most assuredly does ***change*** everything.

I have taken one star away because of really rotten binding–the book, elegant in both substance and presentation, started falling apart in my hands within an hour of my cracking it open.

New books, with reviews, since this was published:
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century
Escaping the Matrix: How We the People can change the world
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

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Review: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised–Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything

4 Star, Civil Society, Communications, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Democracy, Information Operations, Information Society, Information Technology, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Wealth of Networks), Media

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4.0 out of 5 stars Great personal story, important national message,

October 21, 2004
Joe Trippi
Edit of 20 Dec 07 to add links.

Joe Trippi has produced a very fine personal story that clearly presents Trippi, Dean, and the Internet as the people's tool, in the context of “early days.” His big point is in the title: this is about the overthrow of “everything.”

I took off one star for two reasons: his very limited “tie in” to the broad literature on the relationship between the Internet and a *potentially but not necessarily* revitalized democracy; and his relative lack of attention to the enormous obstacles to electronic democracy getting traction, including the corruption of the entire system from schoolhouse to boardroom to White House.

There is a broad data point that Trippi missed that adds great power to his personal appreciation of the future: the inexpensive DoKoMo cell phone and network approach from Japan, when combined with Sony's new playstation that is connected to the Internet and opens up terabytes on online storage to anyone with $300, and to this I would add […]semantic web and synthetic intelligence architectures–these all combine into finally making possible the electronic connectivity of poor and working class voters, not just the declining middle class and the wealthy. 2008 is the earliest that we might see this, but I suspect it won't be until after two more 9-11's, closer to 2012.

There are a number of gems throughout the book, and I will just list a few phrases here:

— politics of concentric circles–find the pebble in every town

— polling substitute's conviction for bullshit (his word)

— citing Robert Putnam in “Bowling Alone,” every hour of television watching translates to a 10% drop in civic involvement

— what gets destroyed in scorched earth politics is democracy

— McCain led the way for Dean in using the Internet and being an insurgent (“the Republican branch of the Republican Party”)

— the dirty secret of US politics is that fund-raising (and I would add, gerrymandering) take the election decision out of the hands of voters

— the existing party machines are dinosaurs, focused on control rather than empowerment–like government bureaucracies, they cannot accept nor leverage disruptive innovation (see my review of “The Innovator's Solution”)

— Open Source Rules–boy, do I agree with him here. He describes Dean's campaign as the first really committed “open source” campaign, and this is at the heart of the book (pages 98-99). One reason I have come to believe in open source software, open source intelligence, and open spectrum is that I see all three as essential to the dismantling of the Maginot line of politics, institutional dominance of money and votes on the Hill.

— Media will miss the message. He has bitter words for the media spin and aggression that helped bring Dean down, but his more thoughtful remarks really emphasize the mediocrity of the entertainment media and its inability to think for itself.

— TIRED: transactional politics. WIRED: transformational politics

— Democratic fratricide killed Dean–Gephardt on his own, and Clark with backing from Clinton, killed the insurgency

— Cumulative Intelligence is a term that Trippi uses, and he puts in a strong advertisement for Google's gmail that I found off-putting. Googling on the term “collective intelligence” will get one to the real revolutionaries. When he quotes Google as saying it will “harness the cumulative intelligence of its customers” this reminds me of my own phrase from the early 1990's, one Mike Nelson put in one of Al Gore's speeches, about the need to harness the distributed intelligence of the Whole Earth. My point: we don't need Google to get there–collective intelligence is already happening, and Google is a side show.

Tripi's final chapter has “seven rules”: 1) Be first; 2) Keep it moving; 3) Use an authentic voice; 4) Tell the truth; 5) Build a community; 6) Cede control; 7) Believe again.

There are a rather lame few pages at the end on Change for America. Forget it. Change for America is going to be bottom-up, from the county level.

I want to end by noting that at one point, on page 156, I wrote in the margin, “this is a moving book,” but also express my frustration at how unwilling Dean and Trippi were to listening to those of us (Jock Gill, Michael Cudahay, myself), who tried very hard to propose a 24/7 team of retired Marine Corps watchstanders with structured staff processes; a massive outreach to non-Democratic voters including the 20$ of the moderate Republican wing ready to switch. On page 161 Trippi writes “The truth is that we never really fixed the inherent problems in the organization that I saw that first day….” I could not help but write in the margin, “We told them so.”

The problem with Dean and Trippi is they became enchanted with the blogs and the newness of its all–as well as the fund-raising–and lost sight of the fundamentals. The winner in 2008 or 2012 will have to strike a better balance. One other note: the revolution that Trippi talks about is sweeping through Latin America, with active Chinese, Korean, and Japanese interest. It is just possible that electronic populism will triumph in Latin America before public intelligence becomes commonplace in America.

See also:
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter
The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace
Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration
All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (BK Currents)
Escaping the Matrix: How We the People can change the world

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Review: Osama’s Revenge–THE NEXT 9/11 : What the Media and the Government Haven’t Told You

4 Star, 9-11 Truth Books & DVDs, America (Anti-America), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Media, Misinformation & Propaganda, Security (Including Immigration), Terrorism & Jihad

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4.0 out of 5 stars Third of Three “Must Reads” on Bin Laden and Threat to USA,

August 13, 2004
Paul L. Williams
This is the third of three books that I am reviewing today and that I strongly recommend be read by every adult in America. The first two, in order of priority, are Mahmood Mamdani's Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror and CIA Anonymous Executive Analyst, Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror. I should add that terror is a tactic, not an enemy, it is impossible to win a war against a tactic.

What this book does is piece together all of the English-language reports over the past ten years or so regarding the probabilities and specifics of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda's having acquired several forms or portable nuclear devices. Although some reviewers have slammed this book for being fictional, they do not know what they are talking about. The FACTS are that the Soviet general officer responsible for the 100 suitcase nuclear bombs designed for Spetznatz use, some pre-positioned in the USA, has said publicly, in writing, and on more than one occasion that 66 of those are unaccounted for.

I took one star off for excessive reliance on two secondary sources, both excellent but never-the-less cited too often, and the commensurate lack of attention to foreign language materials that could have deepened this study considerably, especially when one takes into account the CIA executive analyst's comments in IMPERIAL HUBRIS regarding the straight truth-telling that can be found in Bin Laden's Arabic-language postings. “Nuclear hell storm” is out there (the author does cite this), and we had better take this more seriously than our government has.

The author opens with a notional “letter to America” from Bin Laden that is based on Bin Laden's actual statements (as itemized in IMPERIAL HUBRIS) and is alone worth the price of the book. If we don't take a long hard look at ourselves and correct the misbehavior that is radicalizing over a billion Muslims, we will not (not!) win this war.

The author does a really fine job, not just of amassing and stringing together a coherent story of Bin Laden's likely possession of nuclear capabilities, but also of showing the inter-relationship between the Afghanistan drug fields that the U.S. Government has stupidly allowed to flourish, the Pakistani production facilities that take the opium to a “Number 4” level of quality, and criminal organizations as well as corrupt governments everywhere that facilitate Bin Laden's operations. The roles of Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan (especially Pakistan) in facilitating the storage, refurbishment, and technical maintenance of the purchased nuclear elements are covered in a manner that persuades me–this is a very real threat.

The book is a useful compilation of both mistakes by the US, and events taking place from 2002-2004, and it ends with full translated copies of the 23 Aug 96 Fatwa and the related 23 Feb 98 World Islamic Statement. Within the book are some extracts from Al Qaeda training manuals, one portion of which make it clear that the “sleepers” now in the US are specifically forbidden to go to mosques or appear Islamic in any way.

Bottom line, totally consistent with the other two books I recommend: the US needs to meet Bin Laden's reasonable demands, and redirect its focus from occupying Islamic countries toward cleaning up its own homeland. [I realize that calling Bin Laden's demands “reasonable” in going to infuriate many people, but I have to say, based on all three books taken as a whole, that all three authors agree on this point, and they have persuaded me. We cannot win if we persist in supporting 44 dictators, occupying Muslim lands, demanding cheap oil at the expense of the Muslim populations, and supporting an Israel that is racist as well as terrorist in nature toward the Palestinians. It is what it is–the sooner we stop deceiving ourselves, and demand that our government get back to the ideals of moral capitalism and truly representative democracy, the sooner we have a chance to avoid this “nuclear hellstorm” that I believe this book credibly documents as a very real possibility.]

See also, with reviews:
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025
Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq
Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack
America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It

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Review: Those Who Trespass

5 Star, Biography & Memoirs, Censorship & Denial of Access, Culture, Research, Media

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5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into Workplace Terrorism and Network Corruption,

December 1, 2001
Bill O'Reilly
Novels by authoritative figures are a proven way of telling shocking truths without having to deal with lawyers. Richard Marcenko did this to U.S. Navy Special Operations with “Rogue Warrior”, Winn Schwartau did this for American's vulnerability to anonymous electronic terrorism with “Terminal Compromise.”O'Reilly was written a fascinating novel, one that is not only a first-rate thriller in its own right, but that also lays out some of the really outrageous manipulative and corrupt behavior that is common among senior network managers. He introduces the concept of workplace terrorism (by managers), of “bigfooting” (the theft–plagarism–of good work by field reporters so that the pretty face names (both male and female) can be reinforced); and the falsification of market surveys for the purpose of slandering and firing really good people who refuse to be cowed by bad and unethical network managers.
This novel has it all–engaging truths, a solid plot, a sentimental love story, good police thread, and a dramatic climax. I ended up buying a used copy and am glad I took the trouble. If you ever wondered what traitors to our national intelligence community and some senior network managers have in common, read this book–O'Reilly has put a stake through their hearts.
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Review: The No-Spin Zone–Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America

3 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Culture, Research, Media

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3.0 out of 5 stars Wanders–With More Structure, Sequel Could Be Sensational,

November 17, 2001
Bill O'Reilly
Unlike the first book, which offered a very fine slice of structured thoughts across 20 topics, this is more of an ego-driven one-upsmanship volume, and it does not help the intelligent reader (or their intelligent cheerful gifted pets) make sense out of the world. This one wanders.I would like to see O'Reilly do a “Mandate for Leadership” type book where he invites more than one expert at a time to his show, structured over the course of a year to cover each aspect of the real-world threat and how our government is organized to manage American on our behalf, and let's see if he can bring out the best of our distributed citizen knowledge.
We know the author is really good at rooting out the truth–can he take it to the next level and manage a national conversation that actually improves the State of the Nation?
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