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Netroots is a recent term coined to describe political activism organized through blogs and other online media, including wikis and social network services. The word is a portmanteau of Internet and grassroots, reflecting the technological innovations that set netroots techniques apart from other forms of political participation. In the United States, the term is used mainly in left-leaning circles.[1]

The term necessarily overlaps with the related ideas of e-democracy, open politics and participatory democracy, all of which are somewhat more specific, better defined, and more widely accepted. Netroots outreach is a campaign-oriented activity that uses the web for complementing more traditional campaign activities, such as collaborating with grassroots activism that involves get-out-the-vote and organizing through interconnecting local and regional efforts, such as Meetup, and the netroots-grassroots coalition that propeled the election of Howard Dean to the DNC Chair in January, 2005.

Advocates claim that the essential quality of the netroots is its flatness and inter-linked web connectiveness -- that it constitutes communication points that reach out to influence traditional media, but is not directed outward from any one point. Through events like a blogswarm, the netroots displays non-hierarchical and decentralized features.


American origins of term

The first popular use of the term in its modern definition is Netroots for Howard Dean, by Jerome Armstrong in December 2002 on MyDD. Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi credits the success of his then-client Howard Dean to their listening and taking the lead from netroots activity.

The netroots also played a key role in drafting General Wesley Clark into the 2004 Presidential campaign. The growing power of the netroots was seen most recently during the 2006 midterm elections. In one such instance, a volunteer for the senate campaign of Democrat James Webb of Virginia filmed remarks by then-Senator George Allen. The remarks in question, in which Senator Allen referred to the volunteer as a "macaca" (the volunteer was of South Asian ethnicity), were viewed by many as being racially insensitive. The video was posted on the popular video-sharing website YouTube. The resulting netroots attention to the video triggered a series of events that resulted in the defeat of the incumbent senator.[citation needed] James Webb had, in fact, been the subject of a successful netroots draft, which resulted in his entry into the Virginia senate race. Netroots activists also supported Ned Lamont in his 2006 primary victory over Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, wrote Ari Melber in The Nation magazine [1].

Coverage of several major news controversies have also been attributed to early netroots attention. Amongst these were the remarks made by then-Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott at a birthday celebration for then-Senator Strom Thurmond, the Dubai Ports controversy, the Mark Foley congressional page controversy, and the recent US Attorney controversy [2]. In addition, the recent controversy regarding a Democratic presidential debate sponsored by Fox News, which the left-leaning netroots attempted to stop, ended with the debate being canceled [3].

In a December 2005 interview with Newsweek magazine [4], Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of Daily Kos, described the netroots as "the crazy political junkies that hang out in blogs." He is also the co-author (with Jerome Armstrong) of the book Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots and the Rise of People-Powered Politics (ISBN 1-931498-99-7).

William Safire explained the term's origin in the New York Times Magazine on November 19, 2006:

... the Nation's Web site [5] cited the unabashedly liberal Jerome Armstrong's praise of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee "for reading blogs and being ready to work with the netroots." From these citations and a few of the million and a half others in a Google search, the word netroots has a left-of-center connotation. The earliest use I can find is in a Jan. 15, 1993, message on an e-mail list of the Electronic Frontier Foundation from an "rmcdon[ell]" at the University of California at San Diego, apparently complaining about an internal shake-up: "Too bad there's no netroots organization that can demand more than keyboard accountability from those who claim to be acting on behalf of the 'greater good.'" ... Popularizer of the term — unaware of the obscure, earlier citation when he used it — was the aforementioned (great old word) Armstrong on his blog, MyDD, on Dec. 18, 2002, as he went to work on the presidential campaign of Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont.... headlined his entry “Netroots for Dean in 2004” and told Internet readers where to get the first inkling of a groundswell: “O.K., so Dean is still polling 1 to 4 percent nationally, so what. Look at the netroots.”[1]

Similar activities elsewhere

So-called netroots activity also takes place in Iran, which has a disproportionately high number of bloggers, and in the United Kingdom, where there is strong support for e-democracy in the form of local issues forums have become an approved form of feedback on government performance. In Australia, the netroots progressive lobbying group GetUp has more members than all Australian political parties combined.

Netroots activity has also begun to spring up in student politics where online social networking programs such as Facebook have been used in student elections.

In Sweden Social Democratic Party have initiated a network open to all progressive bloggers in Sweden. The network meets on a regular basis and holds a yearly gathering, Nätrot (Netroot in swedish). The first Nätrot gathering was held in the swedish parliament 2006 with Joe Trippi as guest speaker. The second one, 2008 also in the swedish parliament, and the third, Nätrot '09 was in Visby, Almedalen featuring John Aravosis from Americablog and Jane Hamsher from Firedoglake.

See also


External links

  • Netroots Nation — Netroots Nation produces convenes the largest and most concentrated gathering of progressive bloggers an actvists each year.
  • Netroots For Democracy — Netroots is a community-oriented website platform that allows people-powered campaigns and organizations to thrive.
  • — This organization started in 2003 to bring online resources to republican candidates.
  • Netroot Campaigns — Netroot Campaigns creates effective and affordable campaign solutions specifically tailored to local, regional and statewide political campaigns.
  • Swing State Project — Blog focusing on netroots and political news from and about the key swing states in the 2004 Presidential election.
  • My Democracy Directory — My Democracy Directory helps activists find each other so they can team up to make change in their communities and across the country.
  • Crashing the States — Crashing the States is a cross-country journey to capture firsthand the excitement and activism of netroots-supported campaigns.
  • Resources for Progressives — This netroots page was started in 1996 to bring together progressive-minded people with action alerts and links.
  • — A swedish network for socialistic progressive bloggers


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