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Save Darfur to Activists: Demand the inevitable…and, for the love of God, LOOK BUSY

June 16, 2009

Over the past few weeks, the Save Darfur Coalition’s Jerry Fowler and Mark Lotwis sent separate emails to Darfur activists requesting that they send yet another message to yet another elected official (actually it was a set of elected officials). This time it’s electronic letters to Sens. Kerry and Lugar. Here’s the gist:

Tell Sens. Kerry and Lugar: Make sure President Obama personally unveils his plan–then hold a hearing on it.

As someone who’s intimately knowledgeable of SDC’s bizarro-Rube Goldberg-styled organizational machinations, I’m absolutely sure the few Hill-experienced SDC staffers know full well that the Obama administration plans to unveil its Darfur/Sudan policy plan sometime in the next few weeks and soon thereafter Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry will convene a committee hearing to review the specifics of the new plan, regardless of whether or not they receive 50,000 e-communications from Save Darfur activists. And without a doubt these same staffers know this longstanding  process will not be impacted by 50,000 “letters” to Sens. Kerry and Lugar.

So why waste everyone’s time and energy with a fait accompli-kinda action? Simple. In lieu of smart, robust advocacy that risks failure in the name of bold strategic action, SDC continues to patronize their most committed activists by assigning meaningless busy work that has the added benefit of covering up organizational rudderlessness with purported important actions in the name of Darfuri victims. You know, it’s the equivalent of your Miss Lippy-ish first grade teacher giving you a foot-tall stack of simple color-by-number worksheets because you finished the hard arithmetic tables too quickly while the crazy loon eats paste in the corner. It’s meant to keep you busy with largely mindless, time-consuming tasks, which is exactly what SDC now demands from it’s most dedicated activists — sit down, shut up and do as you’re told. The huge problem with this setup is that it kills the intellectual dynamism and physical energy necessary on the ground for creativity and innovation that continues to fuel the activist fires in cities across the country and around the world (and is sorely needed in a movement nominally”led” by a flagging, stultified organization). But maybe that’s the point. Activists are best seen and not heard. Who needs creative local activism and community organizing when you can far more easily convince elected officials through an elaborate shell game that your organization represents a centrally-planned/run global “constituency of conscience?” You don’t need to be strong, you just need to look strong…and busy. It’s high time that activists, funders and elected officials take a much closer look at the reality behind the Save Darfur grassroots movement myth.

And since when did 50,000 become the magic number? These days, it’s safe to assume that the non-delusional members of the Save Darfur Coalition team are aware that they are only capable of gathering around 50,000 actions at a given time. Seem like a lot? Not really. Between a Facebook presence of approximately 1 million supporters and a “1 million” activist-email list, gathering a paltry 50,000 “monkey click” actions is a sign of growing political weakness and dramatic organizational decline…but ssshhh…don’t tell Congress! There was once a time, many, many email actions ago, when 1 million was the magic number, but I think we all know those days are long gone.

Come to think of it…it’s June 16th, three days beyond the reported deadline, and no word from SDC. Is it possible that SDC was unable to convince even their most dedicated to activists to participate in yet another amateur advocacy effort?


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