The following is a guest post from Dr. Jen Schradie, Digital Sociologist at The Observatoire Sociologique du Changement in Paris.
Post Event Update
Over the course of a fascincating hour, Jen took us through:
- How determining an actual winner is incredibly complex and difficult in the U.S. political system.
- The history of usage of the internet, and specifically social media, in regards to political campaigning and digital activism.
- The effectiveness and power of grassroots organizations, their networks, and online groups.
- Right wing conspiracy groups, citing Qanon as an example.
- Why Trump is merely a figurehead and has borrowed from grassroots and far right activists.
And much more.
"Should we continue to rely on big tech for democracy? And the answer is no."
We're now two days post election, and at the time of writing, the U.S. political system has yet to declare a winner. And regardless of the outcome, the Electoral College voting system never reflects the popular vote count.
I've received a landslide of your messages across various mediums, all asking a variant of the same question, "How did this happen?" Many of you may have expressed your shock and dismay that the election is this close, particularly considering what polls had indicated just days prior.
I have to say I'm not surprised given my research of grassroots conservatives. Rather than just blindly following fake news, both online and offline, these groups are organizing all over the country. They're also extremely effective at using collective action from a local level to affect change much higher up the food chain.
Now imagine a scene where thousands of these groups aren't acting independently to suit their own goals, but collectively to push a national agenda. In a highly organised and coordinated effort.
To far-right conservatives, Donald Trump isn't the be-all-end-all saviour of their cause. He's the man they'll vote for, for sure, but only as a symbolic leader. They have been coordinating and organizing well before the 2016/2020 election cycles, and will continue to do so.
True to their grassroots nature, these conservatives have helped place a number of political officials in local and state governments. So when a base is grown over years, it's not too surprising that this level of organization could very well shape the outcome of a national process.
What I'd truly like to see happen here is for journalists and researchers to take a step back and look at the cause, not the symptom. Instead of following another disinformation Twitter hashtag or pouring over Facebook's fake news algorithm or even interviewing an individual Trump supporter, try seeking out your local far-right meeting. They're happening all over the country, I guarantee you're not far from one.
Dr. Jen Schradie is a Digital Sociologist and author of The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives. She'll be joining us on the 11th of November to discuss how technology and media have shaped the course of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.
This is the first in our series of Selected Salon events, reserved for paid members. We're offering 5 guess seats at the table. If you'd like to join us, register to be selected.