In Henry IV, part 1, Shakespeare penned a brilliant outburst by the great warrior, Hotspur. As he stands bloody and exhausted from battle, a mincing nobleman demands that he immediately turn over his prisoners to be taken to the King. Hotspur’s later response to King Henry IV:
It sounds like any warrior’s disdain for those who benefit from battle but choose not to participate. It echoes my raging disregard for Lt. Bush, who enlisted at the same New Haven USAF recruiting office that I did, but three years later.
Bush and I received the same expensive pilot training, which obligated us to serve a specified period, as a pilot, to return the public’s investment in us. I trained with National Guard guys, and respected their participation and future role. But none of the kinds of people I trained with had any choice but to keep flying airplanes and keep taking flight physicals until they fulfilled their obligation.
In short, there are those who serve and those who do something else.
Yesterday, Clay Shirky straightened us all out again in Dean and the Last Internet Campaign. I stipulate unreservedly that Clay Shirky is more qualified than I to comment on social software and on social movements. However, I cannot escape my sense that a culture needs to fully honor its heroes and do so for more than a news cycle. In this medium called the Web, designed to post and comment on scientific observations, should we not embrace the obvious and dismiss the superficial? Here’s the beginning of Shirky’s post:
This is interesting. Clay Shirky isn’t part of Dean’s place in history. I’m pretty sure he never visited headquarters in Burlington or even on Lexington Ave. He didn’t attend the Digital Democracy Teach-In last week so he has no direct experience to report there either. What we have here is Clay Shirky’s musings on David Weinberger’s report of Joe Trippi’s speech.
Shirky’s diatribe against
Aha! There it is, the root of the outrage:
“This is it — the campaign we’ve been waiting for”
It took me a while to understand the love-hate relationship so many social software advocates have with the Dean boom-bust cycle. Having embraced the campaign early, they feel betrayed by its meatspace results. Since the campaign “failed” in winning a primary, they must either dismiss social software as a force, or savage those who try and “fail.”
They never suited up for the game, but feel qualified to judge it from the cheap seats. They play the smaller and safer pundit game, where expertise and wisdom is implied by the voice of profundity, uncompromised by the inconvenience of engagement. What would be wrong with “Hey, this and that worked great! Why don’t we work together on this other thing?”
It’s like the guys peddling books on getting rich. Why would anyone skilled at no-risk wealth bother selling books about it?
On Sunday night before his keynote, Joe stopped by our table for about an hour with Josh and Franz and Neil and me. Joe has a huge heart and passion for the work he started wit
Joe is amazingly open and humble and has anecdotes from decades of Presidential campaigns. He also has some serious technical chops. He was the energizing and intellectual force that made the possibility of Digital Democracy even coherent enough to have a name. When Tim O’Reilly asked me the best way to introduce him, I suggested that Joe is the Thomas Edison of the movement, whose accomplishments are undimmed by our collective failure to identify better filaments.
Tim O’Reilly knows what all of us do, that Digital Democracy was the most galvanizing topic of what may prove to be the most seminal conference O’Reilly has produced; and that without Joe Trippi, the most urgent topic this week in San Diego might have been something about secure WiFi or maybe military robots.
It was interesting to follow the IRC channel during Joe’s talk. It gave me a raging case of cognitive dissonance, as I struggled to reconcile my direct personal experience and what I was hearing from Joe’s mind and heart, compared to a self-destructive dialogue of experts lacking expertise.
Snatching Disappointment from the Jaws of Exuberance
Net-savvy techies and blogizens have a liberating message for the world: The Internet is the planet’s best hope for deliverance from incompetent and often conspiratorial media, political and corporate dinosaurs using entrenched power to stifle innovation, information and individual freedoms. This is the “Information wants to be free” cohort of our culture, and there can be no better thought space as a basis for third millenium values.
Clearly that was the dominant mindset at Etech–the people commenting on Joe Trippi’s description of the intersection of politics and the Internet as expressed by the Dean campaign.
The mystery was why so many of them, rather than listening to the were telling each other that they understood this problem so much better than Joe Trippi, and so dismissive of the best work yet done in this space.