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Turns out ICANN's Beckstrom is an Inspirational Patron of the Tea Party

John Berard

Friday's edition of National Public Radio's "On The Media" devoted attention to the rise of the Tea Party and its widespread use of the social media. In the report Ken Vogel of Politico noted that the movement drew inspiration from the book, "The Starfish and the Spider" co-authored by ICANN President, Rod Beckstrom.

The National Journal described it this way:

"The Starfish and the Spider, a business book by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, was published in 2006 to no attention at all in the political world. The subtitle, however, explains its relevance to the tea party model: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations."

Traditional thinking, the book contends, holds that hierarchies are most efficient at getting things done. Hierarchies, such as corporations, have leaders who can make decisions and set priorities; chains of command to hold everyone accountable; mechanisms to shift money and authority within the organization; rules and disciplinary procedures to prevent fracture and drift. This type of system has a central command, like a spider's brain. Like the spider, it dies if you thump it on the head."

By John Berard, Founder, Credible Context & CEO, Vox Populi Registry
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Probably not Phillip Hallam-Baker  –  Sep 20, 2010 1:18 PM PDT

I somehow doubt more than a few members of the Tea Party movement have even heard of the book, much less read it.

Many people have been pointing out that the Internet is making 'new' forms of organization possible. And many other people have been pointing out that these 'new' forms are not in fact new at all.

I have not read the book. But given that Beckstrom knows something about what he is talking of, I would expect that his book follows similar contours to Clay Shirky's 'Here Comes Everybody' and is describing patterns that are already emerging on the net rather than saying 'hey thought of doing this'.

Leadership-less organization is not even new in the political sphere. Pretty much every major social and political movement begins without a clear leadership structure. The question is how long a system is stable without a leadership structure.

In the case of the Internet, the design of ICANN and the IETF management structures was to prevent someone else creating a management structure to fill the vacuum that would exist without any structure at all. Hence the endless arguments over what ICANN is going to do about issues that ICANN has absolutely no ability to control.

In the case of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin is rather clearly the leader. She has the power of patronage and had greater control over the flow of funds than any other party, including the Koch brothers who write the checks. She has redefined a protest movement as a personal political machine dedicated to getting like minded people elected.

Far from enabling a leaderless political movement, the Internet (and Fox News) have enabled the Tea Party to find a leader within a few months of becoming a significant political force.

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