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Monday, Mar 10, 2003


"Dot-org politics represents the latest manifestation of a recurrent American faith that there is something inherently good in the vox populi. Democracy is at its purest and best when the largest number of voices are heard, and every institution that comes between the people and their government -- the press, the political pros, the fund-raisers -- taints the process. ''If money is what it takes to get attention, we'll do that,'' Pariser says. ''But we'll do it the grassroots way.''

Pariser says that he and other organizers are less political propagandists than ''facilitators'' who ''help people to do what they want to do.'' Even the structure of moveon.org -- more than a million members and only four paid staff members -- embodies the idea that a simple and direct line connects scattered individuals and the expression of their political will. With an interactive feature on the Web site called the Action Forum, members regularly make suggestions and respond to the staff's and one another's ideas. Automated reports are generated by the server every week, moveon.org's staff looks at the top-rated comments -- and somehow, out of this nonstop frenzy of digital activity, a decision gets made. And, in a sense, no one makes it. Dot-org politics confirms what Tocqueville noticed over a century and a half ago: that Americans, for all our vaunted individualism, tend to dissolve in a tide of mass opinion."