1) I love Elizabeth Warren. My greatest Netroots Nation memory is spending nearly 20 minutes sitting, face to face, talking to her. Discussing the foreclosure crisis, the legal strategies lawyers like me had tried and were trying out here in California to attack the predators, and the arguments one might make to create primary-residence cramdown rights in Bankruptcy Court. Before she became a Senator. Becfore she even decided to run for Senator. This diary has nothing to do with how I feel about Senator Elizabeth Warren.
2) I dig Vice President Joe Biden. He speaks off script and I like that. But he ain't perfect, and I am still bloody furious with him about Anita Hill. I also resent that his status at Vice President created huge delays at NN14 that had panels and the reception before the keynote address starting really late on Thursday afternoon. (Thank you Secret Service - NOT). But this diary has nothing to do with how I feel about Vice President Joe Biden, either.
3) This has nothing to do with Netroots Nation 2015 being in Phoenix, how I feel about that decision, or the Netroots Nation Board or staff. The decision to write this diary, as those who were with me in Detroit can confirm, was originally made on Friday morning, that's how angry I was. It was before most of us learned of Markos' viewpoint on the locale of NN15. Before I made clear that if he wasn't going to be in Phoenix, neither will I. It has nothing to do with the Board/staff of NN, either - they can't control what conference attendees choose to do, or not do, with their time. And in this case, NN did what anyone could have reasonably expected it to do to encourage activism at the conference.
4) This has nothing to do with the only direct political action (aka sponsored protest) that, to my knowledge, has ever taken place during Netroots Nation--the March and Rally that took place on Friday July 18 in support of the residents of Detroit's demand for renewed access to a fundamental human right - water. I have lots of feelings about that. I feel rage at the BS arrests by the Detroit PD and genuine joy about Netroots Nation's public sponsorship of the rally. And more. (Of course it didn't stop the majority of the approximately 3,000 NN attendees deciding they'd rather get lunch or schmooze than turn out in solidarity, such that only 250-300 attendees bothered to join the March--even less stayed for the Rally afterward--despite Netroots Nation attendance being at least 2,500 strong that day.) But this diary has nothing to do with my feelings about all that, either.
Actually, to be honest, it does have to do with my feelings about one aspect of (4). You see, the comparative lack of participation by NN 14 attendees as I note in (4) is a symptom of the problem this diary IS about.
Disclaimers over. Here is what this diary IS about:
The failure of the denizens of Netroots Nation to show support of, and interest in, the ONLY activist keynoting at Netroots Nation in 2014. The only one who is actually organizing, mobilizing and taking direct action as opposed to politicking, campaigning and punditizing.
It is about the attendees of Netroots Nation, for the most part, showing the most fundamental disrespect (through their absence) of one of this nation's true progressives:
On Thursday night, those who actually gave a shit enough to show up were called to action, asked to join a moral movement for a moral crisis:
There have been a number of diaries from those who Witnessed this magical keynote, discussing their reactions. Here are the ones I've found so far:
Moral Monday Street Prophets Coffee Hour by Linkage;
Rev. Barber may be the one I've been waiting for by Arrogant Ape;
NN14, Rev. Barber, and the snake line by dkmich;
Rev William Barber's electrying speech at Netroots Nation 2014 by frontpager Egberto Willies;
William Barber Takes us to Church at Netroots Nation by Frederick Clarkson (H/T to joedemocrat and Denise Oliver Velez - I'd missed this one!)
Others have noted in comments, and in references in diaries not specifically about Rev. Barber's call to action at NN14, the importance of his movement.
I maybe will write a full diary about my own feelings. Especially sharing the moment both with Denise Oliver Velez, and TrueBlueMajority, in the front. But for now, suffice it to say, as us Black folks say when someone so eloquently preaches about justice, whether or not they are an actual preacher, the Reverend took us to CHURCH.
This diary is not about those who Witnessed at NN14.
It's about those who chose not to.
By way of background, I had a very hard time with the fact that putting Reverend Barber's address up for all to access after the event was not a priority for Netroots Nation. You see, as of when I came back to my hotel to first begin drafting this diary on Saturday afternoon, no video of this keynote appeared at the NN14 site. No video appeared at NN's page on You Tube until about 3:00 PM on Saturday, July 19. When the conference was virtually over. TWO DAYS after the opening keynote, when all other keynotes had been uploaded.
This would be bad enough, this level of delay. But the delay is itself also somewhat unexplained. Elizabeth Warren's keynote went up very quickly after her presentation on Friday July 18, even though it required video editing to splice the video montage that was shown before her introductory speaker started. Joe Biden's video went up early on the 18th, even though hadn't finished speaking until after 6:00 on the 17th. Reverend Barber's went up around 3:30 PM on July 19.
And no, it is no excuse that, as some unknown-to-me white girl in the video booth with Elon James White blurted out on Saturday morning when Denise Oliver Velez and I were asking Elon what the status of the Barber video was, "he went on too long." Elon said that the length was the reason for the delay and that he needed to either negotiate with You Tube or split the video, which he said would take many hours. Biden's 48 minute address was a lot longer than the 33 minute Warren video. But....was it really that much less long than the 68-minute Reverend Barber speech that it took another day and a half to get Barber's posted? Or was it simply not a priority for Netroots Nation? Especially when I consider that, like Biden's, Reverend Barber's piece was entirely unedited (but for the same TWiB/NN branding that all 3 of them got), with no separate video that needed to be weaved in, unlike Warren's. I don't understand how Egberto Willies was somehow able to upload his personal, unedited, video recording of the entire Barber keynote up to YouTube within 1 hour of finding out from me at 3:00 PM--I know the time because I was checking--that it still had not been posted as of Saturday afternoon. Netroots Nation finally got around to loading its own, admittedly higher quality, video not that long before Egberto got his up.
(I know I know - Egberto's isn't "hi def". But with all due respect, anyone who thinks that the video quality issue justified any meaningful delay at all, in light of the substance of Barber's remarks misses the entire point. )
But that's not what motivated this diary. What motivated it was the reality that I confronted when I went to hear the Reverend, filled with activist passion, spiritual need for the fight and certainty that I would truly be feeling the spirit with other NN denizens.
Here is that reality:
[As an aside, Reverend Barber is NOT some "non-superstar" as someone in comments to another diary asserted (Oh, and BTW, I was in San Jose too and disagree with the assessment that just as few folks attended that Thursday keynote last year. I was there, and saw it with my own eyes. Had I realized what would happen this year, I'd have taken pictures then too to put that claim to rest.) The right Reverend Barber is the leader of one of the country's only consistently boots-on-the-ground movements in the face of the right wing. It may have began in North Carolina, but today the Forward Together movement is in 7 states and counting. Words from the leader of this movement should not rationally be deemed "local" or "non-superstar" when compared to either Senator Jeff Merkely or Mike Honda for any true progressive.]
Oh, by the way. Before folks start making excuses about how tired people were. I happened to oversleep, and got to Elizabeth Warren's early morning (10:00 AM on Friday) keynote late. When I entered the ballroom, this is what I saw:
As of now (7:30 PM Monday night PDT) Elizabeth Warren's video from NN14 has 24,161 views. Dr. Barber's has only 4,300, but I only get there when I combine Egberto Willies' views with NN's views. On Netroots Nation's own feed? 1,292 views.
(For the record, just so folks know I'm honest, Joe Biden's video has only 300 views. But on the other hand, it ain't like we haven't heard Biden a billion times over the decades he's been a politician. And right now, so many folks are hating on the Obama Administration, it makes perfect sense that not all that many folk want to hear anything from Joe Biden.)
That the utter disinterest, by the majority of the attendees of Netroots Nation, in hearing and supporting the ONLY keynote speaker of the entire conference who is an activist, not a politician or pundit, was not a fluke of fatigue, or Joe Biden messing up the schedule, but instead an unintended statement about priorities is clear when you juxtapose the empty hall on Thursday night with the rally in support of Detroit's residents in their battle with Detroit Water and Sewage on Friday.
To Netroots Nation's credit (and with my eternal thanks), it was a banner sponsor of that march, along with many other organizations from Detroit and Michigan. Maureen Taylor, the fierce activist from the Michigan Rights Organization who Egberto previously diaried about when she tore a pundit a new you-know-what for lying about the water shutoff situation in Detroit was leading the march. It was known before the scheduled march at noon on Friday July 18 that this was a sponsored event at Netroots Nation. At NN14, folks were continuously handing out flyers making sure folks knew it was happening. Well, come Friday? We had 1,000 people, from all over the state.
At best, 250-300 of those 1,000 were from Netroots Nation. (We were easy to spot because of course we were wearing our bright orange lanyards.)
This didn't surprise me, given what I witnessed before the march from someone who should know better. I overheard a fairly well-known Black woman who regularly attends NN (she has been on panels as well) screaming like a little girl at Mark Ruffalo's appearance on stage to request that folks join the Detroit Water Rally immediately after Elizabeth Warren spoke that morning. Was she yelling "Hell yeah!" or "Fight the Power" or "Forward Together, Not One Step Back!" or something like that in support of the march and in solidarity? Nope. She was screaming to Mark, as if he could hear her, "I'll be there because YOU are there, babee!!!" in paroxysms of joy. (Joy that dissipated completely once he'd left. She sat down and went right back to her tweeting.)
[No diss intended to Mark Ruffalo either, before someone ignorant gets started on that. One, he is hot. But he got even hotter when I saw him outside, on the truck, pumping us up to march. (I find activist men with greying hair unbelievably sexy.) Now, to be fair to the hollering sister, I never actually heard her say he was "hot"; it's quite possible that she was just starstruck. But still. Maybe she marched, maybe she didn't. I didn't see her, though.]
In other words, she was saying she'd march not because of the majority-Black folks (Black like her) in Detroit who are suffering because of Detroit Water & Power's actions, and needed her to stand with (mostly) her people for their human rights cause. But solely because a TV actor she thinks is hot asked her to.
My people, my people, my people.
But she was not alone, in her superficial concern about the water, and the march. The number of folks I saw casually strolling off to lunch offsite, or swapping business cards with no intention of heading 100 feet down the street to join the marchers, immediately after the 11:00 AM panels wrapped up was too many to count. Too many who simply didn't care.
The overwhelming majority, if I go by Netroots Nation's estimates of 2,500 to 3,000 registrants and attendees.
Given this, I don't think it's unfair for me to believe that activism simply ain't what most Netroots Nation denizens appear to be about. I don't know what they ARE about, but if I go by appearances it seems that if there ain't a politician, self-promotion, or a potential high profile appearance/internship/job somewhere in the mix, they aren't about much at all.
Except for possibly the parties.
If I go by what I saw and heard as it related to Reverend Barber (and the Detroit Water March and Rally) most Netroots Nation attendees today are far, far more interested in being the Professional Left, than actually being Leftists showing their support through presence and salute to others doing yeoman's work through direct action.
That's some shady shit right there.
I cannot tell you how sad I am, realizing that the nagging feeling that Netroots Nation was morphing into a politicians' and pundits' conference I started having a couple of years ago in Providence, isn't me being unfair. It's me seeing a depressing reality develop before my very eyes. I know it is not intended, and I pray the Board of Netroots Nation makes every effort to stem the tide going forward. This platform, this gathering, has SO much potential and SO much value. But only if it draws, ultimately, the folks who are truly going to work to create social change in our country, through their work in local communities. Not just blog about it.
Now THAT would be Netroots Nation Sexy.