Civic Geek: An Update

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

So what have I been up to as a Civic Geek?  I figured I’d do a quick summary.

  • First, still doing social media work for a local political group.  I’ve been focusing more on making sure people are aware of local and national/international groups they can join, as well as doing daily activism posts – ideas of what to do that day.  I may have mentioned this recently, can’t recall as it’s been awhile.
  • I’ve also started to add a news roundup mostly every weekday.  There’s so much damn stuff to keep up with it’s necessary.  Because of that . . .
  • I’ve had to work harder to keep up on local news as national/world can be distracting.  So that’s taking some effort for obvious reasons.
  • I’m trying to get back to being more active – calling, writing, etc.  That’s been surprisingly hard considering so many recent changes, but I got a bit closer this week – I think you need to have a strategy for these kinds of things.
  • I’m also trying to remember that when I miss calling a representative I can always email them.
  • Because of all the crazy news, I find the news reporting I do for the group helps me keep the big picture.  If you’re having trouble keeping up on the news then maybe sitting down to round it up yourself will help.
  • Because more and more is becoming apparent in what’s going on in the world, as more things are exposed, as we have people push for change it’s educational.  Pay attention and think philosophically about what we can learn from all of this – and how we got where we are (good and bad)

– Steve

Civic Geek: What If We Do The Right Thing?

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Following up my various thoughts about the Parkland students, I noticed a few things:

  1. They’re unapologetic.
  2. When they do go on the attack (such as David Hogg’s push for against Laura Ingraham’s advertisers), they stay unapologetic.
  3. They keep doing their thing.

This made me realize something about modern politics. We don’t often realize what actual *activism* looks like.

We’ve confused activism with arguing. With spewing pundists. With internet comment battles. With silly memes. We’re used to yelling and arguing, but for the sake of yelling and arguing. We’re often too trained to look for a “win” or stay inside an echo chamber.

When we do engage, then we’re often dragged down by the lowest common denominator in a debate – and there’s plenty of that to go around. Most conservative pundits do not debate in good faith, most conservative “intellectuals” are clearly disingenuous. Their goal is not nuance or communication or convincing, it’s to win a screaming match.

Now, what if we step back from this and ask what happens when *we ignore engaging with people who aren’t interested in discussion.*

Reach out to people that do want to talk. Demonstrate in ways that do get attention. Engage in causes that actually bring people together and *do shit.* Let actions speak for themselves, and when you do speak don’t let yourself be dragged down but take action.

Most of all, don’t get dragged into the battle of pundits and provocateurs rolling in shit.

This is a lot of what I see happening now in politics. People engaging, getting active, getting involved. There’s assorted lists to give you ideas of how to actually do stuff, teams trying to flip districts, more folks running for office. A lot of it flies under radar as it’s not spectacular and yelly and in the news by people trying to sell advertising.

This kind of activism is immensely frustrating to the people whose livelihood and jollies rely on pointless bad faith argument and mud-slinging. When you’re the one screaming until people worry you’re going to wet yourself, you look bad. When you’re busy screaming obscenities and claiming High Schoolers are a secret Deep State Cult, you look sort of dumb.

We need more of this. More real activism. Less mud-slinging. Even if it’s just donating money or marching – or just making sure you post relevant news articles to your social media.

If those of us really concerned with society move forward, do the right thing, engage less with the people acting with no good faith, we’ll get a lot more done. Best of all the various liars and decievers and screamers will just get more frustrated and further undermine themselves.

Me, I know I can do better at this. But when I see what you can do when you stop and focus on doing the right thing first, it certainly tells me what I have to do.

And what I don’t.

How are you going to do the right thing?

– Steve

Civic Geek: The NRA’s problems and the future

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

The Parkland student-inspired MarchForLife protests have certainly had an impact. The NRA’s image is obviously tarnished and American opinions on guns have changed. Those bodes ill for the NRA – but also gives us ideas to address other issues where financial interests work against our citizens.

First, let’s look at where the NRA is:

The Parkland Students Got Organized Got Attention

The Parkland students got organized, got attention, and got a protest. This has had an impact, and it’s not going away – even if it fades (and it may) it’s inspired people and gotten them organized.

Two things stand out here:

  • * They were articulate and sympathetic by basically being themselves.
  • * They kept focused (though obviously there’s interest in other issues).

It’s really, really hard to argue with articulate people making the human point “I’d like not to be shot in my classroom.” There’s a message and people you can connect with.

The NRA Went On The Attack

And it looked awful. The NRA’s entirely geared up to be an attack machine (it’s really a PAC) and it responded as it does. When no one backed down, of course, what else can they do? They came of looking unsympathetic and unrelatable (wheres the students were otherwise)

Which brings us to a big issue . . .

The NRA-Adjacent Are Worse

Christ, I couldn’t believe the amounts of personal attacks on the Parkland students from assorted “journalists,” bloggers, and media lack-of-personalities. I mean I expected some of this, but it was far more vicious, petty, and stupid than I expected.

Then you get to the real fringe groups, the people looking for crisis actors and connections to pizza cults. They’ve already easily created or internalized various insane narratives. These both feed more “mainstream” journalists as well as self-reinforcing their own delusions.

The people towing the NRA line, the “NRA-Adjacent” look far worse – and that rubs off on the NRA. I have enough trouble telling Dana Loesch’s rants from someone on Twitter with six followers.

Which means that these people, when they look bad, make the NRA look bad EVEN IF THE NRA WERE TO GO QUIET. Since they can’t shut up, their activities are going to keep making the NRA look bad.

The NRA-Adjacent Are Vulnerable

Look at how fast Laura Ingrham apologized for mocking David Hogg when people went after her advertisers. Consumer revolt is not only helpful – it points out hypocrisy, viciousness, and provides publicity.

Remember how many people make a living providing punditry, and saying whatever pays.

There’s More To Dig Up

The NRA accepts foreign donations and has admitted it. There’s been suspicions for awhile about how they act as a kind of PAC/money laundering operation, and connections to Russia. They’ve got enough questions that additional public scrutiny isn’t going to e good for them.

Now they get to have it. When they and their adjacent advocates can’t shut up while they attack teenagers who don’t want to get shot.  We’re probably seeing a self-exciting system.

What We Can Learn

So what does this teach us about modern politics? It gives us some ideas of how to take on various corrupt groups and government officials – because they often fit the same pattern. They’re beliigerent, only know how to attack, have a “halo” of even more extreme believers, and there’s always something more to dig up.

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. This means:

  • Be sincere and human.
  • Use the media.
  • Build focused movements.
  • Don’t give in to the attackers, but expect attacks.
  • Let those “adjacent” to corrupt organizations make the organizations look worse.
  • Be sure to use consumer boycotts and awareness against those adjacent to corruption.
  • When you have belligerent corrupt organizations and politicians, there’s usually more dark secrets to dig up.

These Parkland students didn’t just give us advocacy on gun rationality; they point to other ways to take on corruption in the system.

– Steve