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Inside the Clown Car

Less than a month into the new Justice Party, and already ossification and incompetence have settled into key positions. What took the Greens years to devolve into, the new effort seems to have happily achieved at stillbirth. The left in this country couldn’t struggle their way out of a paper bag.

It comes down to communications, effective communications. Political parties seem to fill up with secretive types who want to wall off from the public and just have the little people magically create something wonderful for them to lead. Now I may seem harsh and unfeeling, but I have my reasons. I’m not an objective observer.

Anyway, Rocky Anderson is a pretty credible guy who says the right things and gets on TV. This is good news. He inspires, and he wants a lot of the same things I do, and a lot of unrepresented people across the land do too. The fact that he’s getting on television news shows has value and reaches others out there who will want to get involved and build a challenge to the two party stranglehold. All fine and well, and quite a good thing if they can actually get a viable party out of it.

That’s the kind of “if” that requires a movement like abolition to achieve in this nation. To say the odds are stacked against them would be ridiculously unnecessary. They would need to pull out all stops, learn from the most successful models and not repeat the blunders of the past, all the while ratcheting up their numbers and giving their members meaningful tasks so that all their resources are constantly maximized. This would be an organizational miracle that needs cogent design so that their greatest resource — the people — are not squandered and left to bicker and squabble about trivialities such as email lists, web platforms, control of groups and yada yada…

In other words, the party needs to provide a communications framework — first — an infrastructure that gathers the flock, gives them the tools to organize and engage the public and continues drawing the general public in to participate and discuss their concerns and to learn more about the party, its initiatives, its successes and/or failures. It must allow the little people to work together, share knowledge and resources and transmit the word back to their own circles in order to constantly expand its base.

The Greens failed precisely because there was no such infrastructure set up, and it existed as a bunch of lame websites, hundreds of them, in pockets all over the country with seemingly no interconnectivity and nowhere for the public to see the Greens in sufficient numbers to believe they actually existed. There is no “Green Central” where someone can start engaging with the party and see it in existence. The Greens don’t seem to have done much outreach either. They don’t produce films, tv shows, radio broadcasts or much art of any kind; none that I’ve ever seen, and that’s the problem.

So what would an effective and proven successful public communications platform look like?

In my experience, there’s a web forum I could point to run by a certain digital camera company named after a color that has proven to be one of the most successful internet outreach efforts of all time. The company doesn’t pay anything for advertising, yet has risen to be a formidable Hollywood and world cinema player with its high resolution cinema cameras mostly because of its smart use of an internet forum design. The company, and its eccentric billionaire founder release their news on their forum, and they let the world talk about it right there. More than announcements, they let the world talk about all facets of filmmaking. And they let the world lurk and read and learn and get expert advice for free without having to make a commitment.

Their key players interact with the public on a daily basis. They answer questions, and they divulge what’s coming. A (rabidly) loyal fan base of knowledgeable customers helps support the company by providing expert advice and feedback to both the company and to the public who come by.

That forum is a central place where things are happening, where questions get answered, and where the thoughts of the little people are able to be aired. It is two-way communication, and people can meet and network and pass on opportunities and skillsets to one another, all because of a well thought out communications infrastructure that brings the people in and shows the world they are actually there.

Did I mention excellent forum software like that is actually free, plus the minimal web hosting charges?

If anyone doubts the success of this digital cinema company, they can go check the Chapter 11 status of Kodak.

There is a tendency on the left to reject anything that is centrally organized and streamlined: to their own detriment. The fact is that organization is necessary and desirable, as long as there is accountability. Is there? Are your “leaders” accountable or did they install themselves and remain entrenched by default, mostly because they were involved early in the process?

Everyone scattered in their own worlds trying to reinvent the wheel is unproductive. There are efficiencies to be gained by having all the knowledge centered in one easily-accessed place. This central place serves as a depository of knowledge, a library and a well of experience for others to draw upon. Without such a place, the knowledge and the experience is lost and not passed on to where it is needed, when it is needed.

Just as important, by having a large number of supporters gathered in one place it shows the electorate that you exist, that you are mounting a viable challenge, and that the barriers to joining are small and easily overcome. This is where enlightened leadership is crucial. Failure to understand the benefits of organizing to maximize your resources and efficiencies and your public image is killing the left in the US, even right now, today.

So anyway, what went on?

The climate is cold, as in the national people aren’t all that interested in working together with the base, and apparently want to insulate themselves from the discussions of exactly how to build a communications platform that works for everyone and is affordable. Since nothing much else exists of this “party” this was a bad sign from the start.

Immediately numerous proposals went all over the map, and would lead, I knew, to fragmentation and a scattering of people into neutered little fiefdoms (like the Greens). They needed to gather in one place, so that they could be seen by the world, hear from the world, and interact with the world.

Delusions of grandeur also accompanied these pushes. One insider championed the most expensive software platform he could find, with costs so prohibitive I was incredulous at hearing it. Steadily rising costs per user per month would bankrupt a new party in a matter of months.

I had yet to see even 100 people, never mind the 103,000 required for ballot access in California. The fact that the party started late in the year and had no time to gather enough supporters by the January 3rd deadline was the first blunder to note. A party is a long-term proposition, and I was still eager to help get them started on the right path for 2013 and beyond.

The expensive solution however seemed to be dazzling them at the top, although no one had indicated that the party was in possession of even dollar one to pay for it. The 100 or so members that may or may not exist today would cost $800 per month just to have a place to talk together on the net. Well, that’s not much of a party.

Assuming 2,500 members joined up, the cost would shoot to $14,000 per month, every month, or $168,000 per year.

Well, that’s not much of a party either, 2,500 people. You get the idea.

After beating my head against the wall for several weeks, I had finally had enough of this foolishness. It wouldn’t be ethical to raise money from hard working citizens who are crying for justice only to have it squandered on unnecessary high-tech toys that aren’t really necessary. I want no part of it. Not that I think they will actually raise any of the money required at the rate they’re going.

They’ll probably come to their fiscal senses pretty quickly, but for me it’s too late.  It’s just a lot of bad karma that I needed to shake off and go looking for what else is coming down the line.

Joe Giambrone is a filmmaker and author of Hell of a Deal: A Supernatural Satire. He edits the Political Film Blog. He be reached at: polfilmblog at gmail.

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