We’ve just entered into a partnership with the Progressive Book Club, a fantastic group that sells great progressive books, non-fiction and fiction alike, at low prices. Full disclosure: we receive a payment for each person that we refer to the club who signs up for a membership. On the other hand, by buying a membership, you’re helping to support us AND you’re getting great books to boot. Another bonus – the Progressive Book Club donates a portion of each book purchased to progressive organizations like Habitat for Humanity, GLAAD, and Green for All. So each book you buy helps build progressive infrastructure.
And I know some of you made New Year’s resolutions to read more. Here’s an easy way to save money on those books you’re going to be reading anyway.
And now, on to the review.
Reading the title of Markos Moulitsas’ Taking on the System, released in the summer of 2008, I got a strong whiff of radicalism, but if you’re looking for a step-by-step manual to leftist revolution using online tactics and strategies, look elsewhere. Despite using Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals as a template for Taking on the System, Kos is a pragmatic center-left Democrat, hardly a leftist radical. And if Rules for Radicals is akin to paint-by-numbers for effecting real long-term societal shifts within the limitation of the system, Markos’ book is more of a broad sketch, a series of examples that undergird maxims that explain how he and a few other Davids took on Goliaths and won again and again. And how presumably you can, too, if you choose to do so.
Moulitsas shouldn’t have to go far to look for examples. His own blog, Daily Kos, blossomed as a hub to swap news and best practices among activists disgusted by both the Bush Administration and the ineffectual Democratic opposition in his first term. By 2005, it had more monthly readers than any of the top political journals in the country. By 2008, its readership rivaled a daily newspaper in a large city. But to Markos’ credit, he casts the net wide, focusing mainly on the efforts of other online activists, many of whom have little do with his own blog.
Markos doesn’t just stick to progressive online politics in his copious list of parables. He uses the example of pop artist Fiona Apple using internet activism to force her record company to release her album. He contrasts Apple’s marketing campaigns for iPod to Microsoft’s for the Zune to illustrate the power of image and story over raw information in making a convincing argument. He cites Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys as trailblazer musicians using the internet to reach their audience directly, without a record label as a middleman.
It’s fitting that Markos uses stories instead of just listing his maxims or writing a logical treatise. The key to Markos’ success has been his storytelling ability, and so his book is largely advice on how to write a good story, with specific stories to back up each piece of advice.