The Tea Party as an open source insurgency

Excerpted from John Robb:

“The Tea Party movement in the US is an open source political protest. It emerged due to a substantial loss of government legitimacy (primarily from the mishandling of the global financial crisis) and continues to percolate as legitimacy continues to drain away from the government (health care, banking reform, unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy, deficit, etc.). Here’s what open source means in this context:

* Lots of small local groups (and individuals), with a plethora of different motivations for action.
* No barriers to entry. Anybody can label themselves or their actions as part of the Tea Party.
* Lots of networked activity and cross movement communication.

As a movement, it is very similar to open source warfare and therefore shares many of the same dynamics. Here are a few of them:

* Its main value is systems disruption. It can slow political processes. It can say no (the name, “Tea Party” is derived from an act of disruptive, albeit non-violent, domestic terrorism directed at the government).

* There are lots of people trying to control it (grab the baton to lead the parade) and form it into a cohesive whole. All of these efforts will fail. Every attempt at control will be attacked and defeated by a majority of Tea Party groups/members.

* Swarms. Groups will rapidly converge on attractive protest targets (typically signaled by media coverage via stigmergy).

Traditionally, a failure by the government would result in a gain by the opposition party. However, the peculiar dynamics of the two party system in the US works against this. The two parties have converged into a single dominant party with roughly similar agendas. Further, these parties have rigged the system to prevent third party formation. As a result, there isn’t a structured process to absorb this movement into the political system. ”

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