Yesterday I received a strange tweet from someone that informed me they would not follow anyone that supported both #CTL (#ConnectTheLeft) and #UB (#UniteBlue). Seeing as though I am a proud member of both communities, I started to investigate and discovered a full blown eruption of very public infighting going on. The founder of UB Zach Green appears to be the target of much of this, although after hours of reading blog posts, I was unable to find any single issue, but rather a plethora of them.
Now understand one thing in no uncertain terms, if there is something shady going on here, we all should know about it, but we have to be absolutely clear in our facts and keep things in context. This very public division among progressives has the right wingers literally laughing, and they could not have caused more damage with their most insidious attempts to derail progressive unity and organizing. So let’s examine the issues one by one.
1. UniteBlue Stole ConnectTheLeft
The initial accusations appear to be that UB somehow stole or coopted CTL. I’ve been helping bold progressives (and every niche thereof, from secularists to environmentalists to peace advocates, etc.) get organized all over social media for years, and #CTL has been one of the focal points on Twitter for quite a while. http://newsjunkiepost.com/2012/02/28/progressives-guide-to-social-media-5-twitter/
I have an enormous amount of love and respect for @EileenLeft and have sent in two major lists of accounts on CTL that are invalid, marketers, or not real progressives. The whole CTL team has done and continues to do wonders to help progressives connect with each other. Full list: http://eileenleft.tumblr.com/post/37094770495/ff-connecttheleft-a-group-of-logical-liberals-you
Now, I’m not sure about how precisely UB grew out from CTL, but @Karoli concluded in her latest blog post that “Therefore, I think we may have a situation where both people were right about their individual contentions with one exception: Simon [@SayethSimon] was always in control of the Twitter “ConnectTheLeft” brand.” That doesn’t do it justice, but you can read the full details on it here http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2013/03/03/cleanup-over-on-aisle-uniteblue/
So we have 2 different major efforts to unite progressives on Twitter: #ConnectTheLeft and #UniteBlue. Acutally more when you include various other communites like #fem2 #p2 #1u #OFA #Green #Eco #ActBlue #edu #gov20 #sci #secular #ows #oo #p21 #p3 #lgbt #indigenous #stoprush #RI4A #unions #mmot #topprog #EqualRights etc. etc. etc. Why can’t we all just get along? Internal divisions are far less important than combatting the freedom-crushing pseudo-fascist wing of corporate american imperialism.
2. UB falsely claims more followers will stop cons from banning you
I’m not sure about this claim in all honesty. I recently had one of my funny troll accounts banned with only a handfull of followers, an account I had been using for years, but there is no way to tell if that account would have survived if it had more followers. I can tell you that there are very few people that have mixed it up as intensely as I have on Twitter when engaging the right wing, and @novenator has never been suspended or banned. That could just be dumb luck. If anyone has any evidence either way, I’m open, but on face value, without evidence to support “more followers = harder to ban”, I’ll side with those that claim this statement is false. No protection against Block/Spam-Block techniques, and this claim should be removed, but not a huge deal.
3. Twitter Campaign Services by Elect140, LLC
OK, so as I understand it Zach Green (@elect140) accepts donations to do Twitter work. So what? There are a boatload of companies, LLC’s, and sole proprietorships that do this. That’s kind of what a Social Media Manager (also known as many other titles) is.
Social Media is a actually a critical component of campaigns, and a far more effective way to reach potential voters and supporters than traditional media. It is also usually more cost effective. This is a non-issue.
4. Zach Green is a GOP plant
If he is, he is a pretty stupid plant for uniting so many progressives so effectively. Some folks have found out that Elect140 did some Twitter work for Buddy Roemer. http://140elect.com/content/140electroemerpressrelease.pdf
From that: “Green sees the collaboration between his company’s political work on Twitter and the Roemer campaign as a natural outgrowth from their mutual support of the Occupy movement. Since Roemer began tweeting in support of Occupy Wall Street, he has become one of the most retweeted candidates.” I think the rest is pretty covered in Zach’s release here http://140elect.com/2012-twitter-politics/why-i-founded-uniteblue/#comment-67724
The only potential conflict of interest I’ve been directed to is the 2012GOP Mobile App: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2F140elect.com%2Ftwitter-political-apps%2F2012gop-mobile-app%2F&rlz=1CASMAE_enUS525US525&aq=f&oq=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2F140elect.com%2Ftwitter-political-apps%2F2012gop-mobile-app%2F&aqs=chrome.0.57j58j60.8949&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
I would never do any work for a big corporation, conservative issue, or Republican, and perhaps this product was indeed marketed to the GOP. I have done a search for this in the iTunes app store, and it is not there, so this concept appears to have never got off the ground. I’m not excusing it, but do understand how hard it is to survive doing online work, and that some folks may seek ways to fund themselves in ways I would never do personally. Regardless, do we discount the tremendous impact #UniteBlue has had because of some hairbrained plan to make money from the GOP?
5. UB is a money making tool
While I am in no way affiliated with UB other than being a member, I really hope Zach Green and others do get a boatload of donations for the work they are doing. I do over 90% of my own social media work pro-bono for various progressive causes and campaigns, I average at least 90 hour work weeks online, and have for 5 years, but accept living in abject poverty and having no social life (outside the internet). One day, I’d like to actually make some real money doing this, and understand that others would like to as well.
They key here is to determine whether UB was developed as a tool to help progressives or a tool to make money. I have seen no credible evidence it is the latter, even if Elect140 advises potential clients that they can fundraise using Twitter campaigns. I advised political candidates it was possible to raise funds online too in the last election, and some folks do it very effectively (although online fundraising is not at all a primary source of funds for local campaigns, direct mailers are). Point being, there is no reason to believe that UB was set up to make money. It is an effective tool, and if by chance I’d start to get requests for funds (either via DMs or emails), poof, I’m gone. So would most others.
6. UB uses #TeamFollowback tactics
No worries. I personally believe that you can amplify your message with a large, active follower base far more effectively with a small, active one. I’ve grown my presence on Twitter organically, but some folks with few followers that want to connect with a larger community more quickly may want to reach out with faster “norm of reciprocity” means. That’s their right, although I personally think you should check every single profile that adds you, and only add those you really like back. It just makes Twitter a better experience that way.
While everyone clearly has their faults, I can find nothing in the accusations assembled that would make me leave #UniteBlue, and see absolutely nothing wrong with also being a proud member of #ConnectTheLeft. Both are good tools. There are many folks running around in a virtual panic sowing dischord in the Twitter progressive communities trying to claim that UB is some dark conspiracy to do this or do that or do something nebulous, and while everyone has the right to express their concerns, I just hope they eventually realize that this fear mongering is causing considerable damage. The right wing is probably sitting back laughing right now at this disarray. We need to keep things in perspective here and look at the big picture.
I would suggest reading Zach’s reply to many of these issues as well, and note that he has seemed very open to answering questions from what I’ve seen http://140elect.com/2012-twitter-politics/why-i-founded-uniteblue/
If you don’t want to be a part of #UB, no worries. If you do, cool. Same goes for every other organizing community. I happen to love the tools that UB has to offer and hundreds of folks have found me using that site. It’s not for everyone, nor is #CTL, Tweet Progress, TweetLeft, the Progressive Twibe, or any other group. Do what you want. Nobody is pressuring anyone into doing anything.