How Tea Party Organizes Without Leaders:

This particular article stirred up a lot of emotions with me as I think the tone of the article of very pompous and ignorant. The article discusses how its tea Party group does not have a designated leader, yet despite this, they are not leaderless, rather leaderFULL. I think the group expects far too much of its members, stating “you need to take leadership and stand up.” Not every member is going to possess the qualities necessary to lead a group, hence why certain members are chosen to run corporations or governments. The party brags about how quickly they were able to form, as if that equates to success fulness. Yet later in the article, they discuss how members are constantly leaving and it is a struggle to keep member participation up. I think this is a bigger issue than they lead it on to be. Members may be leaving because they are disgruntled with the lack of leadership or direction, and they simply brush it aside because they say they will get more members. This is a horrible mindset to lead a group because of the time and energy it will take to train those new members and get them thinking in a collective action mind. As I mentioned about Al-Qaeda, collective action groups must possess a strong passion about their subject. This can’t be the case if so many members are constantly leaving and few members are joining. As with every attempt at cultural reform, it is cool at first, but the lack of leadership eventually leads to its demise. It reminds me of the article we read about the Pirate party in Germany and how they started off with a large amount of support, and now can barely receive double-digit support. All of these new movements popping up are cool at first because they go against conventional wisdom or are cool to say they are a part of, but unless you have truly passionate members, they rarely work.
The most interesting thing I found about this article, however, was how the Tea Members work completely from home and rarely, if ever, have met one another. I think this is interesting as it goes against everything I learned in my Organizational Behavior class. Without interpersonal interaction, how can there every be a sense of unity? Groups and businesses succeed because the harmony that exists amongst members. The best corporations and sports teams are those that feel like a family. How can you truly say you have collective action when you simply facetime or email someone a couple times a week saying we should try to make a change? In my opinion this model is not sustainable and will never work. You need members that are held accountable and a recognizable face to take orders from. I believe the interpersonal role plays a major factor in the success fulness of a group and a movement. As a member of the Tea Party group, you could be emailing someone for several months than never hear from them again, and you are simply left in the dark. You do not know what your next step is or who to turn to, and as a result, you leave the group. The members say that they all know the right thing to do at the right time, but this is impossible if they are blind to what is currently going on. I am a supporter of peer networks and collective action, but in order to be successful groups need to be aware of the vital role leadership provides.

Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody Chapter 6 & 7

This week’s readings from Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody were some of my favorite I have read this semester. I always enjoy reading Shirky as I think he approaches situations with an unbiased, realistic approach. Shirky discusses collective action and its role in finding solution to existing problems. One of my favorite quotes from the reading is “social tools don’t create collective action — they merely remove the obstacles to it.” Shirky discusses how the simplest forms of technology, that we have had for about a decade, are the main reason for change because it encourages people to talk to one another and discuss. The ability to group likeminded individuals together for a common goal has always been readily available, but much more challenging as Shirky explains is the case in 1992. In 1992 people were frustrated with the church, but unable to coordinate and realize that there were so many people with the same thoughts as them around the world. With the addition of the internet, groups from around the world were able to coordinate and meet up much more efficiently and effectively.
    As it pertains to collective action, I like Shirky’s notion of audiences are built, communities grow. In this case, the audience was unified under the same idea that the church needed reform. As a result, the online community was constructed under the same idea. The barriers between audience members were broken and they were able to communicate with one another to plan their next step. It is situations such as these were peer network groups are most successful. Collective action is similar to the birthday paradox in that it is very hard to successfully coordinate because so many people have differing point of views and different schedules. The internet allowed for shared awareness, where every member was exposed to the same information and knew what everyone was thinking. No one was kept out of meeting details or information; rather it was freely passed from one member to another. Shirky talks a lot about how these groups are effective because they fly under the radar and the government is kept in the dark of what is going on. A situation that this reminded me of, unfortunately, is that of Al-Qaeda and the effectiveness of their decentralization. The formation of the group was highly invisible, where cell phones were rarely used and members often did not know where they were getting their information from. The United States had a very hard time tracking them because they did not know which group member was where or what information they had. These groups, as Shirky explains, are ridiculously easy to from and just as hard to stop. The US government is unable to place a face to the group, and if they are, there are likely several other leaders they are missing. That is why decentralization works so effectively for Al-Qaeda because they use their terrain and lack of hierarchy to their advantage.
    In order for collective action groups to be successful, all of the members must be extremely passionate about the cause. Sure retweeting “Stop Kony” passes on the idea, but a retweet goes very farther than that. In the case of Al-Qaeda, every member is extremely passionate about demolishing everything the western countries stand for. They are willing to sacrifice it all for the betterment of the group, and that is why, unfortunately, they are a great example of how decentralized, collective action groups can be successful. The group is highly self-creating, where all of the actions are done so in the interest of the group. Members are not there to post a picture to twitter telling their friends they joined Occupy, and then leave two days later. The terrorist members are unified under the same notion that binds their trust and actions. Al-Qaeda is able to maintain an inner equilibrium despite constant pressure and attacks from the United States. An Occupy movement may come to an end because they are not making headway or police put an end to it, but it takes much more to put an end to Al-Qaeda. I do not know a great deal about Al-Qaeda, nor will I claim to, but there specific group just intrigues me. I am not sure if they are similar to other peer-network groups in that it is very easy to join, such as a free subscription to a website so you can share ideas with other people who agree with you. I get the sense they are very secretive and I just find it fascinating how they operate, unfortunately, a successful collective action group.

Occupy Sandy: A Movement Moves to Relief: Alan Feuer
I found this article to be interesting because it takes a behind the scenes look at how occupy volunteers are trying their best yet still struggling when it comes to providing aid for those effected during hurricane Sandy. The members discuss the disconnect between the “leaders” and the members on the field. They discuss how they are overwhelmed with the amount of work necessary to successfully help those in need while continuing to operate a functional group. While I was reading this article I kept thinking back to the idea we talked about earlier about receiving too much news and not knowing how to process it. In this case, the volunteers were receiving too much demand and cries for help that they did not know how to adequately and efficiently respond. Whenever I read about the Occupy movement, there short-term gains are always good, but I do not feel as if they are established for a long-term run. As is the case with any team or group, members get discouraged when they constantly strive for something and the end goal appears to be moving further and further away. One of the quotes that caught my eye was “the amount of self-organizing here, it’s coming a bit too fast. I’m losing track, all right?” The Occupy group prides itself on its lack of leadership, but I think their pride is making them blind to their inner problems at hand. At some point, top down leadership needs to become a priority. People with boxes need direct locations to bring them, not vague directions with what to do with them. If the leadership is completely horizontal, no one will ever truly know who their orders are coming from. Personally, I believe Occupy needs elected officials and voices so its members know who to turn to for guidance. In its current state, it is nothing more than a group of people who kind of sort of share the same idea, but don’t know how to effectively carry it out. I just view the Occupy movement as a cultural fad that in time will die out as so many do. People believe a retweet or “like” will suffice as helping, but very few realize how much work it takes to execute change. It reminds of the anger I have towards bloggers sometimes. I feel as if they think they are above people sometimes, they simply waltz out of bed in their pajamas and bash those in charge, whether it be politics or news coverage. When push comes to shove, I am curious to see how many would be in the battlefield of Iraq completing the investigative journalism they so often critique.

1)    Do you believe a recognizable figure is necessary in order for a group to be successful?

2)    Why do you think Al-Qaeda was so successful at doing what they did?