Is a New Counter-Culture About to Hit the Mainstream?

Today, Fahrenheit 911 will pass $80M in total ticket sales (who knows, maybe the ticket I purchase when I finally go see it tonight will be the one!). By the end of July, it will probably come close to $150M, passing the previous record for a documentary film by more than seven times. If Bush loses the election, F911 might be considered the most important movie of all time.

Other polemic documentaries, such as Control Room, The Corporation, The Hunting of the President, Outfoxed, and Super Size Me have also received, or are about to receive, significant, widespread attention. It seems that every week a new documentary comes out that takes on a topic from a perspective I have long wished to be available.

The Blogosphere continues to grow in leaps and bounds. For example, check out the traffic at dailykos and Eschaton over the past year. Both have quadrupled from what were already soaring heights, and now each has almost as many readers as your average cable news talk show has viewers. Hell, the daily traffic here has more almost tripled in the past three months. At the Swing State Project, my other blog gig, it has increased six fold over the past three months.

Meetup numbers? While nothing has achieved what we witnessed in the Dean campaign, they still continue to soar, with the Democratic Party passing 60,000, and Kerry passing 125,000. Many organizations and issue groups, almost all of which lean left, have passed 5,000 members. Oh yeah--and Presidential campaigns now receive around 33% of their money from small donors.

Throw in the continuing growth of music, video and other file sharing, as well as the continuing number of people who use the internet, especially the independent internet, as their primary source of news, and I have to seriously wonder if we stand at the brink of the explosion of a new counter-culture in America. Rising out of the anti-war protests of February 15, 2003 (the largest protest in history), and before that the smaller anti-globalization protests, this is a culture that is highly active, independent, group-oriented, bottom fermenting, leftist, and viciously anti-corporate. The first two major shockwaves it has sent into the culture at large were the Dean campaign and Fahrenheit 911.

As of yet I am unable to formulate a name for it, and I am also unable to identify its "goals." While it certainly seems to have a major impact in the political, aesthetic and culinary realms of our culture, I am not sure if it extends into other areas as well. Is it even enough to be considered a counter "culture?" Perhaps, because it is still in its genesis, such determinations are impossible to make with any accuracy.

In short, over the past two years, I have slowly become more and more convinced that we are at the beginning of an enormous cultural shift, or even a rebellion. Have I just been blogging too much? Does anyone else out there feel this way?

Tags: Blogosphere (all tags)



There definitely is something remarkable happenning here.

It actually makes me stop and wonder if the FCC's predictions about diffusion of media are correct.  That said, Outfoxed is only reaching those people that order it.  $150 million for F9/11 is only 20 million viewers if everyone seees it only once.  In NY, most people I know either are unsure what blogs are or read the Gothamist, not Kos.  So while we're starting to make waves, I think 95% of it is still among the base.  Additionally, in the past month I've really noticed that dKos and Eschaton have begun to get more and more ideological.  In fact, it sometimes seem that some of the writers want Bush to be wrong at any cost; we seem to be losing our pragmatism.

Jerome can speak to this, but it seems to me that a lot of the liberal part of the Blogosphere is becoming an echo chamber like the Dean campaign was.  My fear is that we will lose the opportunity to  reach new people.  That we are becoming radicalized, dooming this movement to reaching an end...

by AngryChicken 2004-07-11 01:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Agreed
Diffusion of media is definitely happening. On average, across the whole blogosphere, I've read that blog readership increases 5% monthly. As a whole the 'blogger phenom' captures about 11% of online users, or 2-3% of the total nations population, which, in terms of special interest groups, is about the same as deaf Americans, which comprise 2-3% of the population.

Bloggers have definitely become more partisan, and less pragmatic, I've noticed that too, even amongst myself, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, and I'm not sure if it's avoidable, especially in larger communities.  In the long run, if there's a niche of demand, it'll be filled, given how democratic and capitalistic the blogosphere is-- it's zero sum. And I suspect that if the blogs do move into the 5-10% range of national readership over the next couple of years, it's not all going to be on the same blogs.

I remember when we hit a wall in the Dean campaign, it happened right after the September-ending quarter. We were supposed to go for 900K by the Iowa primary, but only gained 200K, instead of doubling from 450K, but we knew we'd tapped out by early November. There's a limited amount of potential, it's exponential to a point, but how far, I haven't really considered much. The one thing I would expect is more change.

by Jerome Armstrong 2004-07-12 05:47AM | 0 recs
Social change is slow, but quickening
The first commercial web browsers arrived less than 10 years ago.  Hard to believe that at times.

Democrats got pretty lazy during the Clinton years, with the possible exception of supporting him during the impeachment.  The far left didn't make headway either.  

But the trend over several decades is clearly a more liberal, diverse, and accepting society.

The Dems were angry with the 2000 election outcome, but after 9/11 Bush had a chance, which he blew bigtime, to forge a middle to conservative majority.  Afghanistan was supported by the large majority of people.

The whole Iraq obsession has sped up resistance to BushCo, and lots of minds, previously not thinking Democratic, have been been changed on Bush.  I think the national polls substantially underestimate the depth and breadth of growing support for the Dems, not just Kerry/Edwards, but for change in Congress as well.  

All the anecdotes seem to point to change. The polling organizations aren't getting opinions from a growing body of people who with wireless technology aren't reachable via their standard polling techniques.  The online polls, although they aren't statistically reliable and accurate, ARE showing this change however (and maybe some blogging on these online polls needs to be done for trend/tracking purposes).    

F-9/11 has played a major role outside liberal areas.  The Internet world has made wide but not deep penetration for news information in the non-urban areas. The real change that Chris hopes for will come when more/most people use new media as a regular part of their news diet. That has yet to come, but I sure wish I knew how to facilitate that outcome.

What seems to be changing rapidly is that memes and topics that get big coverage in the blogs is being picked up or influencing the major media.  There is a distinct tone difference in newspaper and Cable/TV public affairs discussion in recent weeks.  Maybe they are realizing that Bush is likely not to be the next President, and Kerry hasn't given them much to complain about, but BushCo has.

This is a good time to be a liberal/progressive.  We aren't likely to have better candidates and issues for many years to come, so we'd best work hard to make sure that the post-election situation works for our causes.

by JimPortlandOR 2004-07-11 05:44PM | 0 recs
Rely on Data
One of my great concerns for the lefty/liberal blogosphere is the recurring hope that we are the spear point of mobilizing millions of previously apathetic non-voters who will come out in droves for our favored candidates.  I want this to happen, but I do not think that any reasonable political strategy should be based upon this assumption.  

The Dean campaign or at least the proud posters at Blog for America routinely made the same claim as you did, that there is an underrepresentation of young, tech-savvy progressive voters because of the increasing number of individuals who do not own a landline but have a cellphone.  This is a valid concern but a couple more questions need to be asked.  First, how large of a group is this?  Secondly, how often does this demographic vote?  Thirdly, do they behave any differently than other similiar individuals who do own landlines?  If they don't behave any differently than other young, tech savvy progressives, then this critique of polling methodology is pretty irrelevent.

Now there is good reason to believe that young voters are becoming more progressive than the quad-annual Republican is the new black motif media gagfests suggests but right now I would want the Kerry campaign and any other Democratic campaign that has a damm good chance of winning with the voters that we know will normally vote to work on getting their 50%+1 from this pool while working the unknown voters in order to get a blow-out win if that eventuallity passes.  Long shot candidates should focus on the unknown voters because the known voters won't give them a majority, but the data is not there to suggest that the passive non-voters will come out in droves.  Or at least, the data is not there yet.

by fester 2004-07-12 06:25AM | 0 recs
As far as documentary is concerned
We really are in a golden age, but I think it's as much due to the fact that fiction, both in the written and the film form, is weak right now. The most exciting work out there right now is in the field of creative nonfiction, history and biography, and documentary film. Hollywood spends more time making sequels and remakes than they do making new stories, and most of what isn't a remake or a sequel is simply a variation on a tired theme.

Make no mistake though--the second that the big boys in Hollywood realize that there's big money to be made in documentary, it'll be co-opted and the counter-culture will become mainstream.

by Incertus 2004-07-11 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: The change, it had to come
The movement is wonderful because it's free, chaotic, and American, in a classic American populist reaction to overreaching by the powerful. Damn, I really like the sound of that.
by Chris Bowers 2004-07-11 07:30PM | 0 recs
yeah, I've been thinking the same thing!
I think its definately felt in the politcal realm. "Liberal" is not a dirty word anymore. The Republicans will still scream "Liberal" in all the TV ads they can pay for, but all that will do is harden their base. An undecided unafilliated voter might just think that liberal's not a bad way to go.
by claw 2004-07-11 07:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Great! Just one quibble...
I meant worldwide. The March for Women's Lives was amazing--much bigger than any of the protests aagainst the war in DC. However, worldwide, 2/15/2003 saw around 30 or 40 million protest against the war. Largest ever, I would imagine.
by Chris Bowers 2004-07-12 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: keep it up
There is an even better daying about Mexico:

"Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States."

by Chris Bowers 2004-07-12 12:06PM | 0 recs


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