Social networking is changing politics, that fact should be clear by now. A simple proof: Trump wouldn't be in the White House without it.
But where is political networking taking us? That's the BIG question. I've been doing lots of thinking about this (it's going into my book). Here's my shorthand for where our political system is headed. We have three political networks to choose from:
Trump used an open source insurgency (I first wrote about this back in 2004) to become president. This insurgency didn't just with the election, it:
- blew up both the Republican and Democrat parties
- did it without much organization or advertisement spending
- accomplished it despite vocal and strident opposition from the entire media establishment (from NY to Hollywood), all of academia, and most of Silicon Valley
Trump's insurgency worked like open source insurgencies in the past (from the Iraq war to Egypt/Tunisia).
- An open source insurgency is a loose network (meshed) that is composed of many individuals and small groups working independently, but united by a single purpose (in this case: electing Trump).
- Open source insurgencies are much more innovative than their bureaucratic counterparts. They constantly coming up with and trying out new ideas. For example: the seventy to one hundred groups in the Iraqi insurgency rolled out new innovations (tactics to weapons) in days, while it took months for the US military to counter them.
- Trump accelerated and directed this insurgency by interacting with it. For example, he accelerate the innovation of the insurgency by paying attention to it (read Gustavo's essay for more). Tweets and media mentions incentivised innovation and spread new ideas across the insurgency in minutes (not days/weeks). Trump also selected targets for the insurgency. In many, many instances, Trump directed the insurgency to silence individuals in the opposition through a torrent of online/offline abuse.
Trump's currently trying to adapt this insurgency to govern. Where will it take us? Early results suggest that Trump's insurgency is better suited for dismantling a large, bureaucratic government and international order than running it. It's also the type of network that will erode the rule of law over time.
The second form of political social networking I'm seeing is found in the opposition to Trump's presidency. Right now, it's known as the #resistance The orthodoxy wasn't planned, it:
- arose out of the ashes of the political parties and it is growing without any formal leadership
- is ALREADY firmly in control of nearly all public forums
- enforces opposition to Trump
The orthodoxy is an open source insurgency in reverse. It uses social networking to crack down on deviation and dissent.
- The orthodoxy is tightly interconnected network that uses social networking to exert pressure on people to accept the orthodox position (in this case: #resistance to Trump).
- Online orthodoxies grow through peer pressure and disconnecting deviants from the network. It doesn't innovate. It rejects, cajoles, and pillories.
- This online orthodoxy is growing at an accelerated pace because Trump feeds the outrage that fuels it.
How will an orthodox network govern? It will eventually formalize compliance with the orthodoxy. Compliance, evidenced by a long social networking history, will qualify people for positions of authority and power. Any deviation will result in bans, loss of income, etc. until the target repents. This orthodoxy will work in parallel to the rule of law and likely exceed its coercive power over time.
This form of social networking doesn't have an example in the US yet.
- The Movement 5 Star in Italy is a political party run as a social network. It is running number one in the polls, has mayor in Rome and Turin, and recently deposed the Prime Minister.
- The political representatives the M5S sends to Rome must vote the way the party tells them to vote. They aren't independent.
- The M5S is a participatory political party. The people in the party debate the issues and vote on how their representatives should vote in Rome.
The participatory party is still young, but it combines the fluidity of the "insurgency" with the solidarity of "orthodoxy."
- A participatory party could be run as a cell phone app. This would allow it to scale... to 70 plus million members is possible.
- Unlike current political parties, this party wouldn't just vote every 2 years to elect candidates. It would operate continuously. Voting on all major issues.
- A participatory party could arise independently, growing virally, or it could coopt an existing political party from the inside out.
How would a participatory network govern? Unlike the other systems, it has the best chance of working within the confines of the current US Constitution. It also has the strength to tame political distortions caused by globalization without resorting to the extremes of either the orthodoxy or the insurgency.
My bet is on a participatory political system made possible by social networking. It's the best chance for a better future. A system where we put social networking to work for us instead of against us.
Of course, the reality is probably something different: we're prepping for a civil war.