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Markos 'Kos' Moulitsas on Obama, Twittering, Fighting the Blue Dogs, and the Major Changes Coming

The founder of the popular Daily Kos site discusses the growing power of the online netroots, and their upending of political gatekeepers.

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Confronting the Gatekeepers

DH: Your book was a lot about gatekeepers and how technology enabled people to get around gatekeepers. What's the gatekeeper dynamic now that we're out of the Bush administration and with Obama in office, and with many people, at least theoretically, in the administration at least sympathetic to progressives' goals?

MM: I got the idea of writing Taking on the System after reading Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

I was struck not so much by the tactics he espoused, because a lot of them were dated and obsolete, but by the notion that in his era, the only way to affect change in the ruling elite, whether it was business or government, was to influence the gatekeepers and ask them to change. So his tactics were really predicated on pressure. Building pressure against those gatekeepers.

What we're seeing in today's era, thanks to, almost single-handedly, the Internet, is that you can influence the gatekeepers.

But you can also bypass them to communicate to people. You can find alternate political structures to support progressive candidates. And you can build alternate forms of distribution for whatever your product is.

We're seeing it today with software developers and the iTunes store. They don't need to get a publisher anymore to distribute their material. They just put it right up on a page and compete on a more or less level playing field with every other developer making applications for the iPhone.

So you're seeing the Internet sort of revolutionize the way we're dealing with gatekeepers. And when they are threatened with being made obsolete, they are more likely to concede to pressure. Because you have an elite, gatekeeping core -- that's never going to go away.

The idea is that we no longer have to be content with the status quo. If we want change, we no longer have to convince that gatekeeper why we want change. Now we can build alternate institutions with influence and power to bypass those gatekeepers. And that makes it a lot easier to then influence those gatekeepers, because they're threatened with irrelevance. Nobody wants to be irrelevant. And if no one's paying attention to you anymore you're no longer a gatekeeper.

DH: Right. That's why all the gatekeepers are Twittering now.

MM: Exactly! But about the Obama stuff. So, any time you have power, power corrupts. But, on the other hand, of course the presidency of the White House may be the ultimate gatekeeper in this country. Over the economy or the flow of information -- over a lot of things.

You're going to have people working to influence them from unfriendly directions. Whether it's corporatists on the debate over the bailouts. Whether it's the right, whether it's well-meaning progressives with just the wrong approach to a certain issue. People will be working to influence those gatekeepers.

So you can't just sit it out and say, "We won," they're friendly to us. Because they're going to be under a load of pressure to act a certain way. And it's easier for them to cave to that pressure if they don't have anybody backing them up. And one way they know they have back up is you make sure you have your voice heard, you show yourself.

DH: Is that happening? Is Obama getting backed up?

MM: I think overall. When he gets attacked, stupidly, by the media, he immediately gets backed up. And sometimes it's warranted. It's interesting. Because what is it even called? This "toxic, bailout" is really complicated.