Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Movement Money Ideas

[Ed. note: We recently came across this discussion (about one of our earlier posts) at a philanthropy blog, and decided to share some of the discussion.]

Thinking for Money

Spartacus O'Neal on "The Movement." He sees not movement, but stasis. He deplores the right's funding of pseudo-intellectual work by its minions and minion-wannabees. He calls for funding from progressives to pay (I imagine) Spartacus himself and others like him to write and think for the public good.

My own feelings are different. The best minds in the right wing think tanks do indeed want so many dollars per word or hour, and considering it their livelihood, will not part with their rhetoric for anything less than top dollar. Of course they won't do it for free. It is killing their souls and their brains and their self-respect to write the stuff at all. Why would they trade their precious moments of sanity to produce more HQ orchestrated claptrap?

We who are active citizens think for ourselves, and do it for free, indeed do it for fun, for recreation and to take our minds back from the media so polluted by paid-for hack work. We have real jobs. Those of us who are professionals work in a real house of fame. We don't need to get paid to "make a case" for some funder.

The Movement is an awakening of the sleepwalkers from all walks of life. It won't happen just because a paid person plays upon a Wordygurdy for $35,000 a year so he doesn't have to punch a clock at WB. The awakening passes from person to person like a contagion. I don't know how much longer the paid for thinkers, no matter how disciplined their message, can keep us asleep. Or, better yet, they may soon put themselves to sleep.
January 26, 2006 in Think Tank Thinkers

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Phil, he's talking about much more than funding an intellectual platform. He's talking about activist infrastructure, the craft of moving the political structure and the training to do that. Good ideas are fine things to have. So are smart policy proposals. They're completely useless without a coordinated effort to move them forward. And that means there has to be way to keep body and soul together for the people engaged in actually doing it.

Everyone focuses on the intellectuals. Forget about them. It's the people who take phone calls and go out to lend a hand that make a movement.
Posted by: P.I. Tchitchikoff January 27, 2006 at 11:06 AM

OK, P.I., thanks. Good points. Do you see this kind of grassroots infrastructure funded by a few big funders, realistically, or by paypal type fundraising? Can we imitate the right wing model of astroturf funded by fatcats? I don't think so. Too few fatcats and even if they were of the noblesse oblige variety, we still would need ordinary people to put their nickles and dimes and sweat equity into it or it would again be top down. Big Foundations? Soros? One doubts it.
If people man the phones for short money, wouldn't that be raised locally in small denominations by those who can't man the phones, but can send in $10 instead?

Many-to-many against the might few?
If so, doesn't it come down again to creating ideas or songs, or art, with the lift to energize a torpid, or mass media mezmerized public?
Are we back to fundraising per se, not unlike many a grassroots org or like moveon?
Posted by: phil cubeta January 27, 2006 at 04:53 PM

Phil, I think deep pockets funders are going to be mostly interested in what funding a movement can do for their bottom lines. Building an infrastructure based on the kind of controlled disbursment of money most of them favor would cripple the ideological base. It would wind up with Stirling Newberry when we need Jay Taber, Bob Parry and Jon Schwarz.

PayPal funding has been next to impossible. Small time donors are in a hurry and give their money to high profile, sexy causes, like the Dean campaign. The disappointment dries up that well very quickly. To make it work, an outreach network that was not affiliated with dismal failures or wretched triangulating would have to be built first. Someone should start a site, maybe call it the "Gift Hub", and see if they get any enthusiasm for helping with that :~p
Spinorb has something very worth looking at. It pertains to the many-to-many question and grassroots fundraising.http://spinorb.typepad.com/spinorb/2006/01/peer_to_peer.html
And yes it does come again to revitalizing culture. The strength of movements can't be measured in dollars, but in what they have that is not for sale.
Posted by: P.I. Tchitchikoff January 27, 2006 at 05:57 PM

I just stumbled on your post, Phil. Seems like a good discussion took place.

You might want to take a look at my free online memoir in the sidebar of Skookum to get a sense of what us thinkers do besides write about lessons learned from painful experience. If you do, you'll see it involves a lot more than writing blogs, and, is rarely rewarded.

As for funding for activism, I've never in thirty years received any, so maybe you misunderstood my comments. What I have on occasion gotten is an airline ticket to a conference, or physical therapy so I could travel, or a part-time minimum wage job from someone who wanted to make it possible for me to continue doing research, education, and organizing in a way that enables the next generation to avoid some of the pitfalls we encountered.

A couple of times, people I hardly knew just showed up at my door and handed me a couple hundred bucks. No need to make it complicated.

P.S. You also might notice I don't panhandle on my blog. Food for thought.
Posted by: Spartacus O'Neal March 07, 2006 at 12:06 PM


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