Cluetrain Manifesto for People-Powered Politics

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Reworked by Liza from the Culture Kitchen blog at

95 Theses

1. Constituencies are conversations.

2. Constituencies consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.

6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

8. In both internetworked constituencies and among intranetworked voters, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

10. As a result, constituencies are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked constituency changes people fundamentally.

11. People in networked constituencies have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for political party rhetoric about adding value to commoditized political interests.

12. There are no secrets. The networked constituency knows more than political parties do about their own political interests. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

13. What's happening to constituencies is also happening among voters. A metaphysical construct called "The Party" is the only thing standing between the two.

14. Political Parties do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, political parties sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of politics —the sound of mission statements and brochures— will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

16. Already, political parties and organizations that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.

17. Political parties and organizations that assume online constituencies are the same constituencies that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.

18. Political parties and organizations that don't realize their constituencies are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.

19. Political parties and organizations can now communicate with their constituencies directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.

20. Political parties and organizations need to realize their constituencies are often laughing. At them.

21. Political parties and organizations need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the political party web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

23. Political parties and organizations attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their constituency actually cares about.

24. Bombastic boasts —"We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ"— do not constitute a position.

25. Political parties and organizations need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.

26. Public Relations does not relate to the public. Political parties and organizations are deeply afraid of their constituencies.

27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep constituencies at bay.

28. Most constituencying programs are based on the fear that the constituency might see what's really going on inside the party.

29. Elvis said it best: "We can't go on together with suspicious minds."

30. Political loyalty is the political party version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable -—and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart constituencies are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.

31. Networked constituencies can change political mavericks overnight. Networked grassroots activists can change political leaderships over lunch. Your own "leadership initiatives" taught us to ask the question: "Loyalty? What's that?"

32. Smart constituencies will find political mavericks who speak their own language.

33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't be "picked up" at some tony conference.

34. To speak with a human voice, political parties must share the concerns of their communities.

35. But first, they must belong to a community.

36. Political parties and organizations must ask themselves where their cultures end.

37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no constituency.

38. Human communities are based on discourse -—on human speech about human concerns.

39. The community of discourse is the constituency.

40. Political parties and organizations that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.

41. Political parties and organizations make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own constituency and activists.

42. As with networked constituencies, people are also talking to each other directly inside the party -—and not just about rules and regulations, committee directives, bottom lines.

43. Such conversations are taking place today on political intranets. But only when the conditions are right.

44. Political parties and organizations typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other party information that activists are doing their best to ignore.

45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked political party conversation.

46. A healthy intranet organizes activists in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.

47. While this scares political parties witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to "improve" or control these networked conversations.

48. When political party intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked constituency-place.

49. Org charts worked in an older political-economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.

50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.

52. Paranoia kills conversation. That's its point. But lack of open conversation kills political organizations.

53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the party. One with the constituency.

54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.

55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked grassroots activists and generate distrust in internetworked constituencies.

56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's voices.

57. Smart political organizations will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.

58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few political parties have yet wised up.

59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive political parties as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.

60. This is suicidal. Constituencies want to talk to political parties.

61. Sadly, the part of the party a networked constituency wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false—and often is.

62. Constituencies do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the political party firewall.

63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those constituencies. We want to talk to you.

64. We want access to your political organization's information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.

65. We're also the grassroots workers who make your political parties go. We want to talk to other voters directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.

66. As constituencies, as grassroots workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual party platforms and third-hand constituency research studies to introduce us to each other?

67. As constituencies, as grassroots workers, we wonder why you're not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.

68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences—what's that got to do with us?

69. Maybe you're impressing your donors. Maybe you're impressing Wall Street. You're not impressing us.

70. If you don't impress us, your donors are going to take a bath. Don't they understand this? If they did, they wouldn't let you talk that way.

71. Your tired notions of "the constituency" make our eyes glaze over. We don't recognize ourselves in your projections—perhaps because we know we're already elsewhere.

72. We like this new constituencyplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.

73. You're invited, but it's our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!

74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.

75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.

76. We've got some ideas for you too: some new tools we already use, some better services we've already produced. Stuff we'd be willing to pay you to use. Got a minute?

77. You're too busy "doing politics" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we'll come back later. Maybe.

78. You want us to pay for your campaign? We want you to pay attention.

79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.

80. Don't worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it's not the only thing on your mind.

81. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?

82. Your message is broke. Why? We'd like to ask the consultants who made it. Your political party strategy makes no sense. We'd like to have a chat with your campaign manager. What do you mean she's not in?

83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.

84. We know some people from your party. They're pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you're hiding? Can they come out and play?

85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn't have such a tight rein on "your people" maybe they'd be among the people we'd turn to.

86. When we're not busy being your "target constituency," many of us are your people. We'd rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the constituency is the Communication committee's job.

87. We'd like it if you got what's going on here. That'd be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we're holding our breath.

88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our politics. Politics is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?

89. We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.

90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most political conventions, more entertaining than any TV debate show, and certainly more true-to-life than the political party web sites we've been seeing.

91. Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Political parties and organizations that have no part in this world, also have no future.

92. Politicians are spending billions of dollars on 'security against the terrorists'. Why can't they hear this constituency timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.

93. We're both inside political parties and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they're really just an annoyance. We know they're coming down. We're going to work from both sides to take them down.

94. To traditional organizations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.

95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting." (