Iraq antiwar protest and the web

If you were lucky enough to be at the Clue­train Man­i­festo dis­cus­sion at SXSW, you got a fab­u­lous treat of hear­ing Doc Searls, Heather Arm­strong, Hen­ry Copeland, and Bri­an Clark dis­cussing where we are today again­st the bench­mark of the 95 The­sis that was the CM

Uber-cool Bri­an Clark of IndieWire got asked what might be com­ing down the pike in 7 years time. He thought we might see things that behviourists say shouldn’t hap­pen, like mas­sive­ly mul­ti­play­er games in which 5000 peo­ple are act­ing as a group with­out lead­ers in the­se mas­sive­ly coop­er­a­tive sit­u­a­tions.

I think we’ve already seen it. But it wasn’t in a game and it was mere­ly enabled in vir­tu­al space, tran­si­tion­ing to phys­i­cal space. It was that his­toric moment a cou­ple years back when 30 mil­lion peo­ple agreed a date to show up on the streets all over the world to ask George Bush not to invade Iraq. (With the quirky excpep­tion of Cal­i­for­nia, which had theirs a week lat­er) I’ve been an activist for decades and what blew me away about that was a sil­ly lit­tle logis­ti­cal thing: the fact that the inter­net enabled a glo­cal group deci­sion about what day to do it. It was a com­plete­ly decen­tralised deci­sion — no lead­ers, no major groups took on a cen­tral coor­di­nat­ing role, sug­ges­tions got thrown out here and there but there was no sin­gle steer­ing com­mit­tee, no top dogs. The entire process was organ­ic in that way that looks like mag­ic, because you’re see­ing some­thing inex­plic­a­ble.

Any­one who has every tried to get 300 or 3000 or 30,000 peo­ple togeth­er to show up on the same day with the same mes­sage, much less 30 mil­lion, know how much work those sim­ple deci­sions usu­al­ly are — you have to nego­ti­ate between indi­vid­u­als and groups, there’s always stu­pid nig­gling about con­flict­ing events and the gra­di­ent of mes­sag­ing and who’s in and who’s out and who won’t be in if some­body else isn’t out. But this uni­fy­ing pas­sion of oppo­si­tion just blew that away and with­in the space of a cou­ple weeks, one or two city list­ings were up at, then that became a snow­ball that start­ed down­hill until the con­cen­sus was so clear and so big it just kept pick­ing up more cities, more snow, until it became unstop­pable. I´d still like to know what hap­pened in Cal­i­for­nia, though: some­body had a wed­ding and couldn’t can­cel?

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