The progressive crowdsourcing campaign organisation 38 Degrees, which was neutral during the EU referendum, has been carrying out a consultation on to devise the terms of a ‘people-powered Brexit’ (or ‘DIY Brexit’). In a debate on openDemocracy with 38 Degrees’ David Babbs, I have criticised the group’s original neutrality, its quick switch to an embrace of Brexit, and its choice to exclude the most progressive option for Brexit (maintaining freedom of movement in Europe for British citizens and workers as well as for EU citizens in the UK) from the scope of its consultation.
David Babbs of 38 Degrees has replied admitting some failings, and I have come back both to acknowledge his engagement with my criticisms and to suggest that the flaws have deeper roots in the way 38 Degrees and crowdsourced politics in general works.
In my reply I welcomed the fact that 38 Degrees had sent out additional questions on its DIY Brexit plan, including about freedom of movement, partly in response to my criticisms. I now note that these are not included in the preliminary results of the consultation, suggesting that not enough members backed them – although the detailed voting results are not given.
UPDATE 4.11.16 – HOWEVER, 38 Degrees still do not include freedom of movement/membership of the Single Market in their DIY Brexit, and are now urging members to canvass their MPs for a flawed plan which excludes the most progressive options.
Meanwhile, I’ve come across this academic verdict which expands my analysis of how 38 Degrees’ core team leads: ‘The 38 Degrees central staff perform important filtering and gatekeeping roles, and their influence over the design of actions enables them to exercise significant power. … The central team uses its power to provide structure to the inchoate, individualised and often affective responses of the members to matters of public concern. Given the diversity of campaigns.’ (Andrew Chadwick and James Dennis, ‘Social Media, Professional Media and Mobilisation in Contemporary Britain: Explaining the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Citizens’ Movement 38 Degrees’, Political Studies 2016, 1-19. DOI: 10.1177/0032321716631350)
Chadwick and Dennis quote Paolo Gerbaudo: ‘the essence of digitally mediated activism is “choreographical leadership”, which he says relies on “scene-setting” and “scripting” by “influential Facebook admins and activist tweeps”. They conclude: ’38 Degrees’ central staff might be seen as ‘choreographers’ who set the scene by organising and struc- turing action while trying to minimise their influence on the wills of individual members.’