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March 02, 2018

Why Did It Take Two Weeks for the Media to Report on the Parkland Students' Astroturfing?

I wrote a bit about David Hines' thoughts on this Wednesday -- he had written a bit on Twitter.

The Federalist knew a story when they saw one, so they commissioned him to write a real piece.

"Can you believe these kids?" Itís been a recurring theme of the coverage of the Parkland school shooting: the remarkable effectiveness of the high school students who created a gun control organization in the wake of the massacre. In seemingly no time, the magical kids had organized events ranging from a national march to a mass school walkout, and they'd brought in a million dollars in donations from Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney.

The Miami Herald credited their success to the school's stellar debate program. The Wall Street Journal said it was because they were born online, and organizing was instinctive.

On February 28, BuzzFeed came out with the actual story: Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz aiding in the lobbying in Tallahassee, a teacherís union organizing the buses that got the kids there, Michael Bloomberg's groups and the Womenís March working on the upcoming March For Our Lives, MoveOn.org doing social media promotion and (potentially) march logistics, and training for student activists provided by federally funded Planned Parenthood.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers told BuzzFeed they're also behind the national school walkout, which journalists had previously assured the public was the sole work of a teenager. (I'd thought teachers were supposed to get kids into school, but maybe thatís just me.)

In other words, the response was professionalized.

That's not surprising, because this is what organization that gets results actually looks like. It's not a bunch of magical kids in somebody's living room. Nor is it surprising that the professionalization happened right off the bat. Broward County's teacherís union is militant, and Rep. Ted Lieu stated on Twitter that his family knows Parkland student activist David Hogg's family, so there were plenty of opportunities for grown-ups with resources and skills to connect the kids.

That's before you get to whether any of them had been involved in the Womenís March. According to BuzzFeed, Wassermann Schultz was running on day two.

Whatís striking about all this isn't the organization. If you start reading books about organizing, it's clear how it all works. But no journalist covering the story wrote about this stuff for two weeks. Instead, every story was about the Parkland kids being magically effective.

On Twitter, I lost track of the number of bluechecks rhapsodizing over how effective the kids' organizational instincts were. But organizing isnít instinctive. It's skilled work; you have to learn how to do it, and it takes really a lot of people. You don't just get a few magical kids whoíre amazing and naturally good at it.

The rest of the piece details the hard work and many man-hours required to organize this sort of "spontaneous, organic" uprising by Magical Kids. A lot of phone calls, a lot of combing through online petitions to find contact information for people who can be asked to show up at a rally, etc.

The media, of course, knew all this. They knew that when they called up these Magical Kids for TV shots, they were actually talking with the Magical Kids' not-so-magical Hollywood publicity agents. And they surely knew their Democrat pals like Debbie Wasserman Schultz were helping the Magical Kids cast some spells.

But they hid this, because they wanted the Magical Kids storyline.

That's only part of Hines' point, though -- he also wants the right to know that this is how organizing is done, and if this appears to be "magical" to people on the right, it's because we're not doing it ourselves to see the "magic" is in fact just professional organization.

We need to get better at this.


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posted by Ace of Spades at 01:26 PM

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