Salsa Scoop> tag: ”blog:troy davis“

On Sitting in Section 214 When Finding Out Whether a Man Lives or Dies: Anatomy of a Successful Online Action

There's nothing like receiving a verdict of life or death while doing something embarrassingly trivial to force one out of the mundane. It was sometime around the sixth inning of a lackluster dog-days game between two dog teams at seemingly vacant RFK Stadium that my old comrade had a text message reporting that a man won't be put to death tomorrow. Such a tiny little message, and so many mountains moved to get it. It's beyond me at this hour to go more deeply into the facts of the Davis case than the links here indicate, and I'm a few years removed from pretension to insider expertise in any event. With bed beckoning, I apologize for the dearth of well-annotated links herein. But the victory -- actually, to switch sports metaphors, a punt: a 90-day stay of execution and a fall do-over bound to require the campaign described below to keep boiling -- is topical in this space for ICT use with all the dispatch of desperation, and with a certain plausible claim to authorship of success. Here are a few things I thought worth taking away: Advocacy where it can still pack a wallop. We've talked before in this space about the fundamental ineffectiveness of write-your-rep action pages as standalone advocacy. It's a little difficult to break through the noise. Congress gets 5,000 constituent e-mails when the Senate cafeteria changes the font on its menus. But a board of pardons and paroles -- officially remote and Solomonic in its detached judgment, deaf to the din of public sentiment -- is in reality apt to be impressed by the far-from-everyday appearance of 5,000 (printed) letters asking for clemency. In this sense, it's like many government entities lower (even only slightly lower) from cabinet posts and constitutional offices, where advocacy tools can leverage their greatest effect and the timely and calculated presentation of several hundred messages can change the rules of the game. None of the numbers reported in this post are going to blow you away like Obama's small donor base. But they're big in this class, and they've been concentrated to punch above their weight. Old-school media strategy. The sad fact is that crappy murder-one cases held together by a jailhouse snitch, a shaky witness ID and a turnstile defense at trial procedurally defaulting a fistful of germane issues are not so rare on death row, a number of which soldier through the calendar year by year and into the great beyond. To make a story like Troy Davis' pop, it has to achieve wider circulation -- has to be lifted out of ordinary. While there's been a notable blog-born exoneration investigation, the dead tree media are invaluable for such a purpose -- especially given the often tight timetables from scheduling an execution to a clemency board hearing. And frankly, carrying a politically fraught decision in this venue absent a Damascus-road seizure of individual conscientiousness requires a signal that events have elite attention (misallocated as this resource is) and the wrong vote may even have a cost to its author. D.C. readers may have caught the Washington Post's front-page feature on Troy Davis. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorialized for clemency. These are notables, but there are more. The behind-the-scenes legwork preceding stories like this remains considerable: there's nothing to do but hammer out the releases and work the phones. Web 2.0 isn't going to do it for you. But ... Add social networking. The Facebook group for this campaign boasts 315 members (another such group has 160 more). The MySpace "Free Troy Davis" page is pushing 500 friends. It's helped drive a serious network of concern. Google blogsearch reports (as of this writing) 291 entries since the beginning of the month on "Troy Anthony Davis". Russell Simmons pushed the cause on his own MySpace page. This is really brass tacks here -- there's no sexy custom application or AJAXified Google API widget; just easy, simple content distribution, of the sort anyone and their granddad could set up and participate in with no more coding prowess than god gave a horse. Great stuff in tandem with the more traditional media advocacy. The peer-to-peer power of social network channels are the perfect distribution vector, and the credibility of links to an "innocent man executed" story are the perfect vehicle. And the product? That sweet Miracle on 34th Street moment when a few sacks of letters land on the authorities' desks. Don't sweat the list. Building a list of future donor prospects is the outright reason behind so many online advocacy pitches that one is hard-pressed not to become cynical about them. Coalition projects have been known to get bogged down in conflict over the distribution of this invaluable resource. But the Davis campaign is a serious-as-cancer attempt to sway votes on the board where next December's donation ask doesn't even register as a consideration. It's damned refreshing to see and might be one of the most important aspects of the online component. NCADP and Amnesty International are the name-brand water-schleppers on this project. (Amnesty uses Kintera, not us.) In order to achieve the effect of delivering masses of letters together, all links by both parties ask for printed letters (or an online form to create a printed letter, rather than a general e-mail) sent to Amnesty for delivery en masse. NCADP's pages cheerfully point visitors to this same action, and all the links picked up by friendly bloggers go to the same place, too. I have no idea what considerations, if any, were made for list-sharing behind the scenes, but you can see the endgame here as well as the tactical collaboration, and I daresay it's reassuring to activists to see it as well instead of the "Troy Davis is a hot search, so a dozen different groups have a dozen different action pages functionally identical in content" model. It cuts out confusion and makes the campaign's soberness instantly apparent.
The Davis campaign is a living organism, not a done deal ... and the 90-day stay means it's going to keep going, and quite possibly ramp as the school year starts up. Tune in: you may be blown away by what you don't see in technical wizardry. This is e-organizing with an emphasis on the organizing. And the next 90 days decide whether Troy Davis lives or dies.