I first posted the discussion below in January. Couple striking recent developments to add. The Germany Pirate Party is now polling better than the Greens. And the UK’s Daily Mail – very much a mainstream conservative paper – has published a clarion call to support Marine Le Pen for the French presidency. Go figure.
I’m about to discuss this in the context of Gov2.0 at #gov20la
People have pointed out that others use this term to refer to the politics of space exploration involving inhabited planets. I think it has a much more useful meaning. Sorry, ETs.
Oh yes, and @mikenelson picks up the theme in this essay: http://www.europeaninstitute.org/EA-April-2012/battles-over-digital-copyright-sopa-and-acta-and-the-rise-of-exo-politics.html
On Exopolitics: Tectonic Plates are shifting in America
So far as I can see, no-one else is using exopolitics in the sense I have been this past year on Twitter and in various blog posts to refer to fundamental shifts in American political culture. So it makes sense to lay it out here in one place, though in brief compass. The general use of the term (well, not that it is in general currency) refers to extraterrestrials and prospective engagement with them. In this new coinage, exopolitics has a lot more work to do. ETs are not in the news every day. Exopolitical phenomena sure are.
Briefly, exo means outside; exopolitics therefore, for our purpose, politics outside politics. Because politics outside politics is emerging as the core phenomenon of American culture. And on the scale at which we are experiencing it it is novel.
So: the biggies: The Tea Party. The Occupy movement. And now, what I have begun to call the Internet Party, which brought down the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate equivalent in a way unparalleled in history. There are other exo-phenomena to be noted, especially the huge rallies promoted and led by cable news stars in Washington in the summer of 2010. Point is: these forces are emerging outside of and, while influencing, largely remaining outside of the normal political processes of which they are critical. It would be a mistake to see them as essentially reformist in their orientation; in important ways they represent a turning away from government as much as an effort to get it more to their liking. These movements arise at a time when polls consistently show public confidence in Congress in single figures. Perhaps this situation was best summed up by The Onion, in one of its occasionally quite brilliant headlines. After the 2010 election: Brave Americans go out to vote, despite the fact they may be electing Congress.
Plainly, the three movements noted above differ from in each other in many respects, and even the most organized of them, the Tea Party, refuses to be monolithic in a way that fascinatingly mirrors the Occupy movement and gives something of an anarchistic flavor to them both. While their goals are plainly diverse, a Venn diagram reveals some overlaps, especially their distaste for the bank bailout. In one of the most striking (though little reported) statistics of recent years, three or four weeks into the Occupy Wall Street protest a Fox News Online write-in poll of 300,000 readers recorded 60% support for OWS. This should have been the lede in the mainstream press. And it could also have been a point of departure for an adventurous political leader’s campaign.
The SOPA protest has been astonishing in its rapidity, its force, and its speed – leaving the smarter Washington insiders mulling whether it will become a regular and disruptive feature in the increasingly IP/digital focus of the policy agenda. While not naively attributing it to people power (the new-economy firms let loose their old-style lobbyists as well), the day Wikipedia went down will not soon be forgotten. The internet community, which is of course all of us but especially the younger and smarter, united to take down a proposal with wide support that included, for example, both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the AFL-CIO.
We can also bring into evidence the various third-party candidate movements, even though they are somewhat more traditional. And of course the striking success of Ron Paul’s candidacy (with his echoes of left as well as right in his emphases) also draws on similar dissent.
But at base we are seeing shifting tectonic plates as forces are loose that have the capacity to reshape our political landscape entirely. How, when, and in what direction is unclear. But to regard them as isolated, isolable, and traditional protest efforts on “left” and “right” is naive.
Exopolitics. Things are changing at a fundamental level. They are becoming unstable. This is not business as usual.