Your guide to Netroots Nation 2012

Memes and madness
By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  June 4, 2012

So many panels, so many receptions, so many opportunities to get filthy drunk. It's hard to know where to begin.

Well, you've come to right place.

The Phoenix is expert in both geekery and debauchery. And after slogging through the entire program — and sampling quite a few beers (research) — we're proud to present our crack guide to the memes and madness of Netroots Nation 2012 in Providence.


Netroots Nation is not the starfucker's dream it once was.

Past conferences have attracted BARACK OBAMA, HILLARY CLINTON, and her RANDY HUSBAND, BILL. But this year, the White House aspirants are skipping the proceedings. And the conference's original headliner, KEITH OLBERMANN, has pulled out to undergo some minor surgery (swollen head, we understand).

There are still plenty of big shots to behold, though. On Thursday evening, New York Attorney General ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, dubbed "The Man the Banks Fear Most" by American Prospect magazine, will headline the opening keynote session.

Massachusetts US Senate candidate ELIZABETH WARREN is the big name at a Friday lunch panel titled "2012 and the War on (and for) Women." And New York Times columnist PAUL KRUGMAN will anchor an economics discussion on Saturday morning and — merch alert! — sign books afterward.

The Nation can also catch lefty dreamboat VAN JONES, he of the "green collar" jobs, AI-JEN POO, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and one of Time's 2012 100 most influential people, and environmentalist BILL MCKIBBEN, who shamed the Obama administration into delaying construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

There will also be plenty of national pols in attendance — Democratic senators SHERROD BROWN from Ohio and JEFF MERKLEY from Oregon among them. And the entire Rhode Island congressional delegation will be on hand, too.


If the netroots is the rabble-rousing wing of the student government, Occupiers are the punk-rock anarchists smoking in the parking lot.

Both cliques hate the jocks, but there's still some natural tension between them.

The names of a couple of Occupy-themed panels at Netroots Nation, "Collaboration, Not Co-Option: Labor, Community Organizations, and Occupy Wall Street Working Together" and "That Will Never Work: What Progressives Can Learn from OWS," suggest there's still some hope on the left that the cool kids in Occupy — or at least the secrets of their stand-offish appeal — can be absorbed into the broader progressive project.

But it won't be easy.

Max Berger, the progressive-turned-Occupy Wall Street activist leading the "That Will Never Work" panel, says the movement may be able to pass on some tactical lessons to non-profit types. But he sees the discussion at Netroots, first and foremost, as an opportunity to radicalize conference-goers.

Our political institutions, Berger argues, are simply incapable of addressing the current challenges. And a larger, people-powered assault on the system is required. "We need to take action," he says, "at the scale of the problem."

Stink bomb in the principal's office!


Consider this little nugget from the Pew Internet and American Life Project: 54 percent of women Internet users visit a social-networking site on a typical day compared to 42 percent of men.

It is but one measure of a reality the private sector — from clothiers to car dealerships — recognized a long time ago: women power the Web.

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Related: Putting the 'Arrrr' in DRM, Can Netroots make a difference in November – and beyond?, Game Change?, More more >
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