Monday, October 06, 2008

The war room myth?

What's interesting about this piece in Andrew Steele's article about the war room is not so much that its role is overblown. What's interesting is that it describes the role of a good online activist community really well:

"War rooms" are well-named only because they share a cliché with combat: It's hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

One of the most remarkable differences between working in an election headquarters, compared to a riding-level role, is that you have to spend hour upon hour sitting around doing nothing.

In a local race, at least you can actually talk to voters. Working in campaign headquarters, the only normal people you see for weeks on end are the lady who gets your coffee at 6:30 in the morning and the bartender who gets your beer at 11:30 at night.

The crushing boredom of a "war room" comes from having to always be on call.

The day is unpredictable and the job is to monitor, react and only occasionally initiate.

The media cycle refreshes several times daily, but has regular lulls: early start, 7:00 a.m. news briefing, morning rush, mid-day lull, early afternoon rush, late afternoon lull, 6:00 p.m. news rush, mid-evening lull, 11:00 p.m. news rush, sleep - repeat 28 to 47 times.

But the biggest thing, as commonly noted, is the testosterone. There is a feeling of "If I'm not in the room when the story breaks, I could be exposed as unnecessary and thus lose political clout."

So campaign staff work crazy, counter-productive hours to ensure they are always in the play.

Professional bloggers tend to have this problem. Because they always want to be first out of the gate with a story, they tend to spend far too much time monitoring the media, and follow the same media-watching patterns as war rooms do.

Other than that, though, online activists have a similar job to war roomers: They catch media reports, respond, re-respond, tussle amongst each other, try to undercut official spin and stories in comment threads, and email the hell out of whatever hacks they know trying to get their views out.

(Then they try to make favored candidates some money by throwing up a "donate here" button or three.)

I've long thought of a good netroots campaign effort as a sort of distributed, leaderless, guerrilla "war room." This certainly reinforces that belief, and reinforces why having one is so important.

No comments:

Post a Comment