Have conservative groups mastered the art of internet activism? | Jen Schradie

Have conservative groups mastered the art of internet activism? | Jen Schradie

At the dawn of the internet, many believed
that it would enable a more participatory, pluralist, and really personalized platform,
particularly with politics. And it wasn’t long before people were using
terms like “Facebook revolution” and “Twitter revolution” to talk about how the internet
could enable this more democratic way to participate in collective action. In my research, though, I wanted to, first
of all, take a different tact than just looking at these very high profile movements, whether
we’re talking about the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, or more recently the Me Too movement,
and really get a more general sense of what was happening on an everyday level. I found a political issue that attracted groups
on the left and the right, because at the time when I started the research in 2011,
there were a lot of celebratory reports about very left-leaning movement. So I also wanted to look at conservative groups. And what I found was a very profound digital
activism gap. Groups that were more middle to upper class,
groups therefore with more resources, but also more organizational infrastructure, more
hierarchy, were much more likely to be online. I also found that those groups tended to be
more right-leaning or conservative. And it wasn’t just these questions around
resources and structure, it was also conservatives tended to have a more ideological inclination,
more of a motivation to use the internet than groups on the left. North Carolina really appealed to my methodological
inclinations, to be quite honest, because it did really have this far left, far right,
and really center political spectrum, Obama won the state in 2008 by a hair. He lost the state, also by a very small margin,
in 2012. And this state was really hovering between
left and right. So I decided to pick this issue around collective
bargaining rights for public employees, because it did attract both these conservative groups,
as well as these left-leaning groups. And as a result, I looked at about 34 different
organizations that had been politically active on this issue. And they varied on the left side to support
labor rights from labor unions, which you would expect, worker centers, but also civil
rights groups, the North Carolina NAACP, a student group, and other groups, as well. Because this issue really operated more like
a social movement than a traditional labor issue, largely because unions in North Carolina
are extremely marginalized. At the time, it had the lowest rate of unionization
in the country, and it still hovers at the bottom. But on the other hand, there were Tea Party
groups, other patriot groups, like Preppers, and other conservative organizations which
were very much opposed to any kind of union issue, especially around public employees. Because for conservatives, the whole idea
of public employees really represented government, particularly, big government, which they were
opposed to. And what I found by looking at what — not
only how much they were engaged online, but what they were saying online, that conservatives
were really focused on this question of freedom. And government got in the way of this quest
for freedom. The internet, however, was an ideal vehicle
for this idea of freedom. Freedom from the state, free markets, and
for them, freedom of information, as well. Because they really believed that the mainstream
media was not accurately covering their issues, or really covering their — what they were
doing with their activism on the right. And in fact, I think in many ways when we
think about these so-called filter bubbles online, that they were right, that the left,
as well as the mainstream media, really wasn’t paying that much attention to what was going
on with conservatives. So Trump’s victory, I think, was a surprise
to many. But as a scholar who had been studying what
was going on on the grassroots level, as well as online, I was not as surprised. However, groups on the left, rather than focus
on freedom, they were focused more on this question of fairness and around equity, labor
rights, wages, et cetera. Now, this question of fairness allowed for
a wide variety of groups to be involved and engaged. As I mentioned, civil rights groups, labor
groups, and also when they would post online, they didn’t have as straight forward a message
as groups on the right. So for them, that partially drove why they
were not online as much, and why their messages didn’t resonate and weren’t retweeted and
reposted as much, right? Because such a wide variety of issues, in
general, among the left, whether it’s LGBTQ issues, labor issues, civil rights issues,
women’s rights issues, voting rights, they really are a way that this idea of fairness
could really be summed up. But wasn’t this pithy, straightforward message
around freedom that the right not only was retweeting comments or posts that they created,
but also articles by conservative media, and also memes. Conservatives were really strong on visual
posts, as well, which really worked very, very well. And so this informationalizing on the right
compared to organizing on the left really helps explain this ideological gap that I
found. People on the left were interested in the
internet and definitely used it for their organizing. But even students, who you would think would
be at the leading force of digital technology, just saw it as one of many organizing tools. That this particular student group was really
interested — it was horizontally run — really interested in a wide variety of people participating. And for them, the internet wasn’t necessarily
a great way to have democratic decision-making and participation. It was one tool to help organize people. But it wasn’t what one conservative activist
told me, which is that for them, Paul Revere had a horse, but they had the internet.


  • DC says:

    So telling truth is now activism?

  • LacyBeee says:

    They love to use bots to boost unpopular opinions

  • OCASM says:

    Leftist activism is manipulative, censorious and tyrannical.

  • 𝕍𝕆𝕃𝔸𝕀ℝ𝔼 says:


  • DC says:

    Google gets government money – which means free speech rules apply. A Indy baker doesn’t have free speech but gigantic companies that get tax breaks and subsidies are “private business.”

  • G Watsittoyaa says:

    Believing in Freedom and Family , isnt activism Old Hag who has no children.

  • G Watsittoyaa says:

    Have you honestly sat down with some young adults and showed them videos of TYT and Vox , then compare it to Ben Shapiro , Crowder etc and see which they enjoy more. ???

  • DoomRulz says:

    How Digital Activism Favours Conservatism.

    Hahahahahahahaha, that's the biggest joke I've heard today. Conservative groups have been pushed to practically the extremes as social media sites continually work to censor and shut them down.

  • Who Where says:

    Not far right, I like freedom and rights.

  • Alberto Medrano says:

    Freedom vs fairness. Although we want to be as just as possible, the aim for fairness creates barriers, and, maybe unintentionally, limits and suppresses the freedoms of individuals.

  • Elliott Denizen says:

    It interesting how this video highlights "conservative" activism. I see most of the activism on the Left.

  • DC says:

    The left doesn’t care about fairness they care about power and like terrorists they hide behind innocent people like marginalized groups so they can claim victim hood.

  • Yung Learner says:

    So many words saying so little

  • South Florida's Restaurant Guy says:

    Meanwhile the left consists of apple google twitter etc…and a stranglehold on main stream media

  • Empathy Lessons says:

    As someone who leans center-right, I find that the internet has a disproportionately high rate of lonely depressed men who feel invisible.

    Leftist activists ignore these people since they do not fit into certain "marginalized groups".
    I think the observation of the internet becoming very conservative is the result of a very simple process, conservatives ended up expressing much more concern for people like myself. Mainstream publications tend to find the issues that relate to people such as myself to be rather laughable, because I do not fit neatly into one of the "marginalized groups".

    Personally, I believe it's really that simple. It's about a whole collection of people whose struggles were ignored by the mainstream because they didn't fit with the current victimhood narrative and the internet was the only place that would listen.

  • The Watcher says:

    No, anarchist memers have mastered online activism. Memes are the revolution.
    The rest just support the Zionist agenda in one way or another, whether they know it or not.

  • Keenan Smith says:

    With that being said, I wonder how really big Andrew Yang's movement is considering how Trump shouldn't have won but did.

  • Steven Rodriguez says:

    Conservatives still believe in Gods. All they've mastered is RACISM

  • EliasDanger says:

    Conservatives see the whole of mainstream media and the gatekeepers of the internet forcing their own agenda down America’s throat, when America will never sign on to this ridiculous ideology that is being pushed…so naturally we will use our only platforms available to push back.

  • Amanda Mc Carthy says:

    Can we please stop labeling and stop the political bullshit please. We need less ideological crap from both sides

  • Daniel Lassander says:

    No it was the left turning completely fucking insane that turned me right/conservative.

    Your so called progress had nothing of any progress in it. Instead of meritocracy where the best suited person to do the job gets it, you want 50/50 split between men and women while in reality its more like a 95/5 split between the genders wanting to do the work.

    Your so called progress is identity politics and i can not see how that will ever turn out well, it was tried in russia between the kulaks and the proletariat.

    That same idea was also tried in nazi germany if you wonder.

    Also how in the fucking world is women a minority they constitute 50% of the population so if they are a minority so are men.

    All you want is censorship, and tyrannical control, so in essence, fascism/nazism/communism take your pick. But please look at the horrible death tolls under each before you choose.

    Now im not in favor of fascism but between the three you can choose from it seems the best if human lives matter to you.

    Your choice, but the choices doesnt look so good to me.

  • animbot says:

    OMG! So much alliteration at the beginning I thought this was going to be a joke or something. Where's the peck of pickled peppers peter piper picked?

  • John Gischala says:

    Got to get right with Torah. Choose Judaism

  • Rene Gade says:

    Stop trying to pretend you are unbiased. Berkeley Socialist Sociologist.
    I heard you are now hiding out in Paris.

  • Dick C. Normous says:

    Ugh what a disgusting looking scum bag

  • Zenn Exile says:

    You spelled Broadcast Terrorism wrong…

  • imfrommanndame says:

    Look at this armpit of a comment section.

  • Naci Rema says:

    Extremists people are an unemployed base with simple minds = Much more free time to spend on the internet sharing memes and visual easy stuff.

  • Tim Brooks says:

    I would like to think not, but then I remember joe33030 😓

  • TheRazzaManazza says:

    She lost me at "innernet"

  • Bubblegum Kush says:

    Tonedeaf and vapid word salad

    The left can’t meme.

    Bill Clinton is a rapist Hillary Clinton is a serial killer

  • Marko Kraguljac says:

    Is pushing diverse opinions of so many people into two boxes, malice or stupidity?
    Can someone ask this expert idiot what is left and what is right when almost everything remains the same no matter who wins?

  • Lee Alexander says:

    We want to have nuanced conversations about complex issues, not just throw talking points out there.

  • Sophus VD says:

    Sure, you can see how they use their power to censor their political opponents… oh wait!

  • Mikerphone says:

    This comment section is full of literal, non hyperbolic, imbeciles.

  • webkilla says:

    So.. even Big Think knows that the left can't meme

  • mauricehayes says:

    This is a good example of an idiot getting government money to do stupid programs that mean nothing this whole speech she said two things of interest in those two things were completely left-leaning biased and stupid

  • SuperKami says:

    STOP before you watch the video wait!

    let me save you 7:54 seconds of your life that you'd never get back if you continue! The left can't meme
    There that's the whole video summarised.

  • rpatto92 says:

    Nope, the left just went full-retard.

  • dutchdaedalus says:

    The liberals already 'own' the entire legacy press (except for Fox and a few papers and magazines) so right leaning people had no choice but to go talk radio and later online.

  • Victor Sanchez says:

    Uh um uh and uhm

  • Frankie Cal says:

    Conservative Groups = Anyone who disagrees with the government on the internet.

  • Vagabond Jon says:

    Yes and dems mastered the art of outrage and cancel culture.

  • EliasDanger says:

    ya ever see that South Park episode where everyone thinks so highly of themselves that they are farting into wine classes and then sniffing it like it’s a fine wine….that’s big think

  • Christian Ebers says:

    What makes Jen think she isn’t ideological?

  • Doctor Doom says:

    Left would crumble and cry hysterically if you break their cookie.

  • Mario mario says:

    No they mastered the art of playing victim and lying

  • Brando Commando says:

    Yaa, conservatives use their words and ideas in an intellectual battle while the left jumps up and down yelling and crying in group think identity politics. Its an unfair match to say the least.

  • Petar Stamenkovic says:

    Since Left controls mainstream media and thus majority of what has become known as the fake news, people are trying to find the truth independently. Today, that is online. And when you're against the fake news, you just happen to be aligned with the Right at the moment. If and when Right goes crazy and starts to insist that white is black and male is female, people will rebel against that too.

    Hint for the current Left: lie less, or simply denounce the radicals on your side- SJW, Antifa and DIE types (diversity, inclusion, equity). Also, try not to make it so obvious that even a mentally impaired person can tell when you're not telling the truth. When you say things like- speech is violence, male is female, or intolerance is inclusion- it's hard to take it seriously, even when you find a self described expert to say that with a straight face. The more academics join in to lie, the less people have trust in academia. It's not rocket surgery.

    Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

  • Rand Huso says:

    Fairness? Do you mean Communism? "Fairness" is letting people be themselves, including their right to fail and die, it is not "fair" to redistribute wealth.

  • RamsestheGreat says:

    If this comment section proves anything it's that we have failed in the West to properly educate people.

  • jackschueth says:

    It's called using logic not feelings

  • The Firmamentalist says:

    Liberal Technocrats gnashing their teeth.

  • Christian Ebers says:

    Jen’s cats are secretly Trump 2020

  • Avicenna M says:

    Not sure if the US is the internet as the internet is quite big over the globe.

  • Anderson Junior says:

    don't know how right is on other countrys, but in my country they love to spread lies.. and whats best to spread lies with emotional messages? WhatsApp internet and stuff… they say terrible things like gays want rape children and stuff sometimes even anti Science stuff, i guess internet allow peopel to spread lies easy.

  • BIG BUNDURU says:

    You talk too slow. Next.

  • Rekkn_ says:

    Want the answer to the title's question? Scroll thru the comment section.

  • p j says:

    Ok so the right is good at internet stuff, while the left hands down controls major media… Htf is Hillary not president?! Major fail!

  • Sovspot says:

    Conservative talking points are so simple you can fit them into memes on facebook and twitter so every moronic conservative can spam them with ease on everyone's feeds with ease. To be a conservative means you are a simpleton by nature so those memes resonate with a lot of simple people.

  • Willie A says:

    Basically, the right is a bunch of fat ass, lonely shutins, the left are socially healthy organizers. Then, there's something about fairness vs freedom, as if they were contradictory terms.

  • Arcticnerd says:

    You mean the groups with money backing them were going after conservatives? Shocking.

  • OutOfSight123 says:

    Huh? The left is who really mastered it… By taking over every damn platform with their PC bullshit because mass bully anyone that has a different opinion than them.

  • garfunky2 says:

    This needs to be summarised a bit better. Is the answer to the question in the title: "because conservatives have a clearer message." if it is, you should lead with that, and then delve into why. And ultimately I think you will find that the reason the conservatives are on the internet is because mainstream media doesn't support their views. Where else could they go? Isn't it as simple as that?

  • L3GITME says:

    Shouldn’t the question be, “Have liberalists mastered the technique of internet media?”

    e.g. Outrage Politics
    Targeting minority groups to establish political machines
    Identity politics

  • kaede19xx says:

    Lady you spent 8min saying absolutely nothing.

  • john maziasz says:

    How Big Think became leftist garbage

  • Derk guez says:

    Nah….its just that more and more people are growing tired of your politically homogenous orthodoxy

  • SuperSix Delta says:

    Conservatives probably feel more compelled to gravitate towards the internet because most mainstream media doesn't address their thoughts and viewpoints.
    Now I'm a liberal and even I notice the overt imbalance in representation of conservative concerns.
    Actually, I notice most media outlets attacking and denigrating conservatives.
    So naturally conservatives will seek conservative based sites on the internet.
    Thing is, now they're be attacked there too.
    This is not good.

  • Jay Arre says:

    What conservative groups? The internet is so Left heavy that every online conservative opinion is damn near worth 100 votes

  • The Prince of Space says:

    I think she meant to say "freedom of information" instead of "freedom from information"

  • Eddie Gooch says:

    I don't understand…

  • roccoisawesome says:

    Too verbose.
    Need more brevity.
    Nearly induced a sleep state upon me.

  • Normie Normalstein says:


  • John Doe says:

    hahahha, the left can't meme, cry me a river

  • yankees gohome says:

    Leftists are annoying. They control most of the Internet and are still unhappy.

  • Jomish Johny says:

    My experience taught me otherwise.
    If you post any conservative thought on Reddit you will get downvoted to oblivion.
    Internet is by and large dominated by leftist narrative.
    Even big corporations support the lefties and their views at the same time Right wing conservatives get muted and deplatformed.

  • Decent Fellow says:

    She lost, get over it.

  • Dreamy says:

    Anonymity gives power. That can be good and bad

  • rajan lad says:

    The reason is simple and it is in two words "Koch Brothers". They funded a lot of money to their right wing orgs, Who saw these people as useful idiots to convince them to put R's in government office and get them rallied on dumb issues on internet. For eg. Tax cuts to rich people will help the economy and polluting environment will own the libs. Left wing organisations are often grassroots funded and rarely have backing of rich people.

  • ReatuKrentor says:

    hmm, Isn't it more that you are lumping in moderates with the conservatives?

    Also it is really hard to use twitter to communicate to everyone if you BLOCK everyone that disagrees with you or is even tangentially related to someone you disagree with. Blocklists do just that.

  • Hugh Mungus says:

    Im so smart, Im educated, Im an expert.

  • Kyle Carpenter says:

    Maybe if the right wasn’t censored it would be different, and more to your liking…

  • Mark Deavult says:

    You lost me at “take a different tact”.

    It’s “tack”, a sailing term.

    If you can’t use basic analogies, I’m not inclined to give credence to any other observations you may have.

  • Quinny McGee says:

    No boomer, no they havent

  • Pouty MacPotatohead says:

    The problem of leftist fairness is that it's not fair. It's aimed at controlling behavior and exchance of ideas. No wonder that people who see themselves unfairly treated don't jump on the idea.

  • Thermia says:

    Man the right sure targets big think

  • Will S says:

    Have conservatives mastered the internet you ask? No. We have only "mastered" this tech because we are free to think as we believe and have not adopted the NPC cult-left ideology that traps free-thinking under the umbrella of group-think. We do not succumb to the tyranny of weak and stupid which oppression Olympics have created.

  • James Apperson says:

    "Have conservative groups mastered the art of propaganda?"

  • Peter Peterson says:

    Right leaning groups interested in free speech are fighting for everyone's rights on the internet where the big tech oligarchs and left leaning media are trying to silence anyone who dosen't mindlessly regurgitate their Anti-American, Anti-Constitution, Anti-Free thinking, Socialist Agenda. The internet is also the best way for people with steady jobs to spread their word when they cant take weeks off work to travel across the country to protest like many of the left leaning supporters.

  • Malt454 says:

    While it's probably impossible to prove, if could also be that conservatives have simply optimized the vulnerabilities of the internet – nonsense claims and false flagging – to their advantage; it's as much about freedom of misinformation, usually free of any real blowback consequences, as freedom of information. If the left fights fire with fire, if it hasn't already, the net effect will be to invalidate the internet as an information source, and this is already in process. Whether saying something is effective or makes money is becoming the only guiding principle; whether what's being said is true is becoming dangerously irrelevant. One can promote the idea the earth is flat and simply defend it as free speech and personal opinion. One of the main effects of the internet has simply been to provide global soapboxes for people intentionally out to mislead you on a commercial and intellectual basis.

  • mostawesomedudeever1 says:

    Funny how intellectuals used to go after the elites and now days the 'intellectuals' go after people that are tying to express their point of view while protecting the elites who are causing all this shit in the first place. Divide and conquer!

  • HAguayo says:

    How did you find? Google?

  • Skum Night Shyamalan says:

    This is why Trump2020

  • Sangwoo Han says:

    She represents everything that is wrong with social sciences 😂

  • I MadeThisEmailWhen I WasTen PleaseDontJudgeMe says:

    The amount of alliteration within the first 20 seconds of this video threw me off so much

  • olel says:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *