Political engagement online takes work, too. Here’s why.

When it comes to effectively propagating a message in the modern day, few do it quite like internet activists.

JEN SCHRADIE: So when we think about the digital activism gap and how I found that groups with more resources, groups with more organizational infrastructure, and also conservatives were more likely to use the internet than their left, more horizontal, poor and working class counterparts, it's important to think about why that is and how that could possibly change, and what we can really learn from that.

And one key element of my findings is that online engagement takes work. So some of us may feel like we are tethered to our computers all day, and that we wish we could just kind of check out digitally, or do a digital detox. But on the-- at the same time, there is this sense that a viral tweet just happens. That a movement online just emerges without work.

And because I found that groups that not only had more financial resources, but also groups like these Tea Party folks who are middle class, not working class, middle class, generally, or maybe a lot of people with master's degrees, et cetera, or even higher, had a lot of time. A lot were retired, right? And so that partially helps explain why their online engagement was so high. But also helps explain that if people are interested in really building a political movement that has a strong online component, that it takes expertise.

It takes understanding the latest Facebook algorithm or how Twitter is also now engaging with more algorithmic feeds that people see the same for Instagram, and other social media sites. That if we really want to present a political issue that's important to us, we really need to understand how people are actually going to see it. Because it isn't the case simply if we build it, they will come. That online engagement, just like organizing offline, takes a tremendous amount of work.

And also, it's not just a question of how to make the Facebook algorithm work for you. It's also a question of what types of people do we want to hear our messages? And if we just rely on who tends to have time and resources to be online, we may be missing out on folks who are a little more marginalized, who aren't maybe on the platform that we're on. And that if we want our message, whatever that may be, to get out to a wide audience, we really have to understand these dynamics.

  • Groups with more resources, more organizational infrastructure, and more conservatives leanings tend to use the internet for political activism more so than their working class, left-leaning counterparts.
  • Building a political movement with a strong online component takes a tremendous amount of work and expertise, such as understanding how to leverage algorithms on social media to better propagate a message.
  • When it comes to sending out a message online to as wide an audience as possible, be mindful to develop ways to not just reach those who have the time and resources to be constantly online.

The Revolution That Wasn't: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives


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It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

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  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
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Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
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  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

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