Americans for Prosperity held its second annual Right Online convention in Pittsburgh last weekend. Across town, The Daily Kos sponsored its annual Netroots Nation conference. Approximately 600 attended the Right Online conference. Netroots Nation boasted 1,500 attendees, although that included several hundred speakers, no doubt an incentive to attend, and one attendee confessed to me that the left receives substantially more funding from wealthy left wing sources like George Soros to fund these types of conventions than the right does.
The right has has finally caught up to and even surpassed the left in online activism. A year ago, the #dontgo movement (now known as American Liberty Alliance) emerged in reaction to moveon.org, first using Twitter on the Congressional floor to coordinate Republicans in Congress in a last-ditch effort to stop Speaker Pelosi from adjourning the session without passing an energy bill. Organizations like Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, and Sam Adams Alliance took the lead in online activism on the right by quickly adapting to Facebook and Twitter and encouraging grassroots conservatives to add as many friends and followers as possible on the right. Efforts loosely centered around the Twitter group #tcot – Top Conservatives on Twitter, which also has its own Drudge Report like website at TCOTReport.com. There is a fast-growing list of top online activists on the right, known as “Websters” after The Webster’s Dictionary, a guide to using the new media written by new media consultant Ralph Benko.
The conference speakers were not establishment Republicans, but primarily online grassroots activists. Michelle Malkin, who has become one of the most active users of twitter, youtube videos, and other new media, was a natural fit for featured speaker. Other speakers included AFP president Tim Phillips, AFP Director of Policy Phil Kerpen, the Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore, and Eric Telford of Americans for Prosperity, the genius behind the conference who has been called “The Second Most Evil Person in the World” by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann for organizing the April 15th teaparties.
Dan Phillips, writing for my website Intellectual Conservative, criticized the conference for featuring “establishment” conservatives over paleocon conservatives like Ron Paul. However, he failed to take into account there were very few Republican politicians or officials who spoke. Simply because one faction of the grassroots right wasn’t prevalent among the speakers, the paleocons, does not mean the conference was not a true grassroots conference. Harris lists numerous leaders from the paleocon faction that he would have preferred to see speak, but fails to explain why they would have been more appropriate. Not only are most of them little known which wouldn’t help attract attendees, but they are not known for utilizing the new media successfully like most of the speakers.
The conference agenda included various classes on how to use the new media as well as policy lectures on the hottest issues today like healthcare, global warming, and internet regulation. There was a “Send Specter a Message” Cap-and-Trade rally, a film screening of a new movie exposing global warming hype, “Not Evil, Just Wrong,” and a “Hands Off My Healthcare” rally. Conference attendees twittered throughout the conference on the #righton channel, and monitored the Netroots #nn09 channel, which contained a large number of tweets complaining about race issues, and an equally large number asking where the parties were.
My friend Melissa Clouthier, one of the most active conservatives on Twitter, received the Al Gore Award for Internet Excellence. I received the Activist of the Year Award, no doubt due to the hours of work I have put in being paid by stealth corporate interests – so stealth I haven’t been told who they are nor have I been paid. However, I must admit I had the most fun crashing the Moveon.org party across town.