One Lesson from MoveOn

Reihan Salam points to a great portrait of MoveOn by The Nation editor Chris Hayes on the occasion if its tenth anniversary. (Especially) those who disagree with MoveOn’s political objectives should read it. Being in opposition obviously tends to enable the success of non-government forms of political organization, but why was this specific entity able to capture discontent? I’m sure the personalities of those involved and the many local accidents of circumstance mattered, but MoveOn also has a structure that mattered.

They are the Richard Viguerie of the contemporary era. What distinguishes MoveOn from a just a great email list? Interactivity. Hayes’s article reminded me of nothing more than a profile of a successful Internet start-up. Leading consumer web businesses have, as a general rule, figured out that the new medium allows interactivity, and hence community-building, and hence barriers to entry. Eventually, though they usually don’t say this out loud, this also allows the capture of new types of data about consumer behavior that permit far better message development and targeting.

Important new technologies tend to create new organizational forms built around them. These new organizational forms tend to appear first in the industries that create the new technologies, and then diffuse into the broader economy. Conservative activists should study this organization closely.