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Taking On the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era

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As founder of one of the most influential political blogs, DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga establishes the fundamental laws that govern today’s new era of digital activism. The Sixties are over—and the rules of power have been transformed. In order to change the world one needs to know how to manipulate the media, not just march in the streets. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, ot As founder of one of the most influential political blogs, DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga establishes the fundamental laws that govern today’s new era of digital activism. The Sixties are over—and the rules of power have been transformed. In order to change the world one needs to know how to manipulate the media, not just march in the streets. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, otherwise known as “Kos,” is today’s symbol of digital activism, giving a voice to everyday people. In Taking on the System, Kos has taken a cue from his revolutionary predecessor’s doctrine, Saul Alinksy’s Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, and places this epic hand-book in today’s digital era, empowering every American to make a difference in the 21st century. As founder of the largest political blog in the nation, Kos knows how it’s done, because he’s done it with tremendous success. In Taking on the System, he shares practical guidelines on how grassroots movements can thrive in the age of global information, while referencing historical and present examples of the tragedy caused without those actions. The walls between the people and the power—the so-called rabble and the so-called elite—are being torn down by technology, and a new army of amateurs are storming the barriers to effect political, cultural, and environmental transformation. Readers will come to understand how they too can change the world.


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As founder of one of the most influential political blogs, DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga establishes the fundamental laws that govern today’s new era of digital activism. The Sixties are over—and the rules of power have been transformed. In order to change the world one needs to know how to manipulate the media, not just march in the streets. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, ot As founder of one of the most influential political blogs, DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga establishes the fundamental laws that govern today’s new era of digital activism. The Sixties are over—and the rules of power have been transformed. In order to change the world one needs to know how to manipulate the media, not just march in the streets. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, otherwise known as “Kos,” is today’s symbol of digital activism, giving a voice to everyday people. In Taking on the System, Kos has taken a cue from his revolutionary predecessor’s doctrine, Saul Alinksy’s Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, and places this epic hand-book in today’s digital era, empowering every American to make a difference in the 21st century. As founder of the largest political blog in the nation, Kos knows how it’s done, because he’s done it with tremendous success. In Taking on the System, he shares practical guidelines on how grassroots movements can thrive in the age of global information, while referencing historical and present examples of the tragedy caused without those actions. The walls between the people and the power—the so-called rabble and the so-called elite—are being torn down by technology, and a new army of amateurs are storming the barriers to effect political, cultural, and environmental transformation. Readers will come to understand how they too can change the world.

30 review for Taking On the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era

  1. 4 out of 5

    sleeps9hours

    Interesting to learn about activism in the blogosphere. From the beginning of the chapters: ch1 the new insurgents To create long-lasting change in a democracy, you must shape public opinion by making your voice heard, your ideas clear, and your cause visible. In today’s world, that means you must manage modern media—not just its technology, but its gatekeepers, too, by bypassing, crushing, or influencing them. ch2 mobilize Take charge of your message, your strategy, and your effectiveness. Don’t wai Interesting to learn about activism in the blogosphere. From the beginning of the chapters: ch1 the new insurgents To create long-lasting change in a democracy, you must shape public opinion by making your voice heard, your ideas clear, and your cause visible. In today’s world, that means you must manage modern media—not just its technology, but its gatekeepers, too, by bypassing, crushing, or influencing them. ch2 mobilize Take charge of your message, your strategy, and your effectiveness. Don’t wait for orders—seek out your own fellow troops, join or start networks, and be a catalyst for change. Find creative ways to get the word out, in new and unexpected venues, tailored to your local conditions and audience. Above all, be a leader who seeks out others and creates a partnership of leaders. ch3 set the narrative Effective leaders draw people into their cause by creating powerful stories, with clear distinctions between good and evil, hero and villain. Instead of bemoaning the fact that Americans love their entertainment culture, political activists need to borrow Hollywood’s proven methods to structure gripping narratives and compelling communication strategies. Making politics and causes participatory, exciting, and fun is key to sustaining citizen involvement. ch4 reinvent the street protest To many observers, if politics isn’t in the streets, it’s not happening. This misconception is a leftover form the 1960s, when protesters were making the most of their new visual medium, television. Today’s new tools allow an exciting hybrid of technological and digital advocacy matched with real-life demonstrations, and much of the most effective current organizing is taking place under the radar before it goes public and visible. ch5 feed the backlash When your enemies begin to notice you—and attack you—you have arrived. Instead of avoiding confrontation with gatekeepers and opponents, embrace it and feed it. Stoking the flames of controversy brings visibility to your issues, raises your profile and effectiveness, and begins a cycle of ever-increasing attention that you can use to your advantage. ch6 don’t believe the hype Your own ego can be your own worst enemy. Guard against the danger of buying into hype about your personal success or brilliance. Instead, understand your place as merely one element in a broad and ever-changing movement, with your effectiveness forever linked to your individual credibility, good reputation, and the respect you show your fellow activists. ch7 fight small, win big Permanent change is created only through long-term effort, with small gains leading to larger achievements. Resist the lure of notching ujp quick and easy conquests that may harm long-term goals. On the other hand, small, well-planned skirmishes leading to incremental advances can hone strategies and skills while rewarding activists with occasional, welcome victories. ch8 the unlikely warriors The mantle of leadership can arrive unsought. Learning to embrace it by stepping outside of your comfort zone, standing tall for your beliefs, and taking a prominent role in public affairs—especially when it’s sure to draw fire—can be the most effective form of action, and the most rewarding experience.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alayna

    Thanks to my sister who bought this for me as a Christmas gift. She knew I'd like it, and I did. I have been a dailykos fan since 2003, so I was familiar with his main ideas and arguments about building a people-powered progressive movement. But this book was still very valuable to me, because of how many different topics it covers, and the illustrative examples it uses. It is almost like a training guide - what to do and what not to do to make an impact in the world of Activism 2.0. He starts o Thanks to my sister who bought this for me as a Christmas gift. She knew I'd like it, and I did. I have been a dailykos fan since 2003, so I was familiar with his main ideas and arguments about building a people-powered progressive movement. But this book was still very valuable to me, because of how many different topics it covers, and the illustrative examples it uses. It is almost like a training guide - what to do and what not to do to make an impact in the world of Activism 2.0. He starts out discussing the gatekeepers in modern society - and uses interesting parallels between the music/record industry and politics. He says that with the wonders of modern technology and the ability to connect average people, everywhere, we can either influence the gatekeepers, crush the gatekeepers, go around the gatekeepers, or render them irrelevant. Examples and case studies include: Bill O'Riley v. Olbermann; Cindy Sheehan; Kos's own controversy about the Blackwater employees who died; Kerry and the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth; Carol Shea-Porter; George Allen and the "macaca incident"; Steven Colbert; and others. I would be most interested in reading more about Kos's comparison of the Obama campaign and the Kerry campaign - not in terms of technology and volunteers, etc - but in terms of responding to the attacks. He says it is a very difficult call to make - when will a story die down if you let it die; and when is it necessary to respond forcefully to end a story before it begins - with the consequent that you might make a big story out of something that otherwise would have died. One of the more "controversial" claims that Kos makes is that traditional liberals take the high-road and refuse to do things that are legal, but would violate their sense of ethics or decorum. For example, vote in the Michigan Republican primary to ensure McCain would lose. He contrasts this with movement-progressives who understand that the opposition is out there doing everything they can to win, including fabricating lies. So, movement-progressives have to fight with every legal tool they have (and of course, one tool is honesty, and building a reputation for truth). I recommend this book to people all along the spectrum, but especially to those who have not thought seriously about where they fall along the spectrum of "Democrat".

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of DailyKos, has written a manual for internet-based activism. Taking his cue from Saul Alinsky, he aims for a pragmatic approach, deriding dogmatists and purists who believe that no progress is better than partial and imperfect progress. He is an astute analyst of the media and society. Early in the book he talks about the mass protests in late 2002 and early 2003 against the Iraq war, and about the fact that hundreds of thousands of protesters in the US and mil Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of DailyKos, has written a manual for internet-based activism. Taking his cue from Saul Alinsky, he aims for a pragmatic approach, deriding dogmatists and purists who believe that no progress is better than partial and imperfect progress. He is an astute analyst of the media and society. Early in the book he talks about the mass protests in late 2002 and early 2003 against the Iraq war, and about the fact that hundreds of thousands of protesters in the US and millions worldwide barely made an appearance in the mainstream press. This leads to a lengthy discussion of 'gatekeepers' and strategies for breaking down those gates. Naturally, netroots activism plays a huge role in those strategies. This is an inspiring book. He talks briefly about setbacks, but much of the book is about the successes that have been achieved. The 2006 elections brought several upset victories for progressive democrats, fueled and in some cases launched by netroots campaigns. The very growth of DailyKos, firedoglake, TPM, etc. is testament to the organizing potential of the internet. He is more than a little contemptuous of the street-level anti-war protests of the past few years. He points out the differences between the effective demonstrations for immigrant rights that took place across the country in 2006 as compared to the wholly ineffective anti-war protests. One major factor is that at anti-war protests there is never a single theme - the protests are never just about Iraq, but seem to be a mixed bag : Israel/Palestine, gay rights, US imperialism, animal rights; and all of it wall-papered with gaudy pink banners put up by code pink - an organization not likely to resonate with most Americans. Markos says that anti-war protesters need to focus on one issue, and they need to augment street protest with broad-based social networks that can really mobilize millions. He offers advice to people who want to help effect change. You don't have to be DailyKos to have an effective blog. If you speak out clearly, stay within a niche that you are passionate about, work hard to build your own small network, be honest and build credibility - if you do all this you can make a contribution. Even if your site gets 20 or 200 hits per day, you can help change the world.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Moxie

    I had high expectations for this book since it is written by the founder of my favorite political blog, Daily Kos. And maybe because I am such a frequent Daily Kos reader, I found that many of the ideas Markos talked about in the book were not very new because they are talked about every day on his website. But if you are a new commer to the progressive political blogsphere or an activist who hasn't payed much attention to the netroots, reading this book will help you gain some perspective on wh I had high expectations for this book since it is written by the founder of my favorite political blog, Daily Kos. And maybe because I am such a frequent Daily Kos reader, I found that many of the ideas Markos talked about in the book were not very new because they are talked about every day on his website. But if you are a new commer to the progressive political blogsphere or an activist who hasn't payed much attention to the netroots, reading this book will help you gain some perspective on why liberal bloggers are the way they are and what exactly they are trying to accomplish. The best part of the book is that Markos goes out of his way, with example after example, to say that he is not the leader of the progressive webmovement (even though the traditional media treats him that way), but merely an enabler of that movement. Its a bottom-up movement where politics really does become a people powered movement. Reading this book now, after the election is over, is very fascinating because it allows you to see how many of the strategies that Markos discusses in his book come to fruition and really work in a practical sense. Anyone who has got an ax to grind or an issue they are passionate about but feels like their voice is not being heard by the people in power who could change things ought to read this book, take good notes, and try some of these strategies.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Adam Grandberg

    An interesting book – Daily Kos is a liberal blog, and I wanted to see “how the other half writes.” (Disclaimer: I am conservative on fiscal issues, moderate to liberal on social issues.) The biggest idea I got out of this book is the concept of “gatekeepers”. These were people who many moons ago controlled the print media, electronic media and music industries, would accept a payment/royalty, and distribute a portion of that royalty to the author/musician. Now, with the Internet, the “middleman An interesting book – Daily Kos is a liberal blog, and I wanted to see “how the other half writes.” (Disclaimer: I am conservative on fiscal issues, moderate to liberal on social issues.) The biggest idea I got out of this book is the concept of “gatekeepers”. These were people who many moons ago controlled the print media, electronic media and music industries, would accept a payment/royalty, and distribute a portion of that royalty to the author/musician. Now, with the Internet, the “middleman/gatekeeper” is removed, and an author/musician assumes all risks for the product, but ALSO keeps ALL PROFITS. Zuniga also showed, in the case of Cindy Sheehan, how the original message can get trampled and overrun by similar causes that see an opportunity to get their “15 minutes.” I would recommend everyone to read it. Three stars.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    A good perspective on the evolution of the BLOG movement. How things have changed so dramaticaly in a digital age. The comparision of the protest of the 60's and how they have lost thier thunder to what now creates a movement or rallies a cause. Just a little dry of a read... I prefer to read the KOS itself.... A good perspective on the evolution of the BLOG movement. How things have changed so dramaticaly in a digital age. The comparision of the protest of the 60's and how they have lost thier thunder to what now creates a movement or rallies a cause. Just a little dry of a read... I prefer to read the KOS itself....

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Markos creates a very interesting expose in the importance of non-traditional media in political outcomes over the past many years. He has tons of research to back his book up, which makes it all the more poignant, especially in today's checkered campaign. A must read for anyone politically-minded, and something I think that organizers and campaigner advisers should have on-hand at all times. Markos creates a very interesting expose in the importance of non-traditional media in political outcomes over the past many years. He has tons of research to back his book up, which makes it all the more poignant, especially in today's checkered campaign. A must read for anyone politically-minded, and something I think that organizers and campaigner advisers should have on-hand at all times.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    KOS history 2002 - 2008 and lessons learned (ends prior to Obama's election) KOS history 2002 - 2008 and lessons learned (ends prior to Obama's election)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jill Richardson

    A second slam dunk by Markos Moulitsas. I found this book to be incredibly valuable as well as enjoyable to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Margot Friedman

    Kos is the best chronicler of modern history we have.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Kos has some really good and useful advice about how to lead/create a social movement that works. Good, lucid writing, too.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Liked it, a little dated, but good to go back and remember 2008 and before ... found it both inspiring and depressing (how much more there is to do?).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rose

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katey8

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zac Smith

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terry

  22. 4 out of 5

    Raimey Gallant

    Inspiring.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marc

  24. 5 out of 5

    ProgressiveBookClub

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dean

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tom Head

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ben Fabian

  30. 5 out of 5

    Flash Johnstone

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