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Friday, February 03, 2006

Crashing the Gates

In the preface to their new book, "Crashing the Gates," Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga acknowledge that last fall they took a long look at everything they had put together for their book to date, realized they were lost, chucked it all and started over.

After reading the book I can understand what fostered this sentiment. They had taken on the extraordinary difficult task of wrestling all the flailing tentacles of the right wing machine, as well as the horrible legacy of the past four years of George Bush's imperial reign, and tried to hone it down to a simple, direct message that was focused through the lens of their formidable online experience to forge a blueprint for the future of netroots activism. That they would suddenly find themselves sitting in a pile of unwieldy information is no surprise. That they would have the courage to throw it all out, regroup and refine their narrative to a 183 page dagger that cuts to the heart of the system most certainly is.

The book is a gem, a must-read for anyone contemplating the future of online activism, a subject that is certainly consuming pages and pages of blog space these days. Their outline of the extremely deep and well-developed GOP message apparatus is fascinating, and their examination of it as it worked to shape public perceptions around many events that should have played well for the Democrats is both enlightening and daunting.

But perhaps of even greater concern is their depiction of the DC Democratic consultant/interest group nexus that could really not do a better job of keeping their party in the minority if they tried. As disheartening as these details are to read, however, the book gives a clearer picture than anything out there to date about exactly what we're up against, its architecture and its weaknesses.

Crashing the Gate is way ahead of its time; you'll no doubt see copycat tomes just catching up to it years from now. It does presume familiarity with a lot of events, personalities and online conventions that might make it a bit challenging for people unfamiliar with the blog world to fully understand, but it is so engaging and well-written that I don't think that would be a problem for any intelligent person whose first exposure to the world of political blogging and online activism came with this book. I myself really appreciated the respect for the reader that this style of writing displays; I didn't feel like I was always trying to scan through pages and pages of exposition that I already know all too well.

Sometimes I feel like I get lost in the day-to-day aspect of blogging and never step back to take the long view of what we're engaged in. This book does this superbly and if you're on my birthday list this year you now know what you're getting.

You can buy Crashing the Gates online here through the publisher, at Amazon and also at Barnes & Noble.