The crowing began as the first marchers stepped onto the west lawn of the Capitol. “They said you wouldn’t come!” screamed a voice at the microphone. “This march is a passing of the torch to a new generation, a new way of doing things,” said another to a press scrum backstage.
Indeed, the young organizers of the National Equality March have a right to be proud. Proud for pulling us off our duffs, 200,000 strong. Proud of doing it for a fraction of the cost of prior marches. Proud of creating a more serious event -- less of a pride parade “celebration” and more of a focused, political affair. And proud of doing it largely on their own.
While the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation lent offices and other resources -- as did other groups -- to these organizers, without a doubt this “new generation” gets full credit for higher-than-expected turnout, and in a more lasting sense, for demonstrating that the rules of our movement are changing.
In the coming weeks, we will undoubtedly hear much more about this emergence of “Gay 2.0”: leaner, meaner, and more ready for the equality fight in 2009, some will argue, than organizations with more resources and longer institutional histories. Indeed, their use of today’s advocacy tools would seem to validate that claim. Almost the entire effort was put together on a shoestring by young activists online.
To the Gay 1.0 crowd, “online” often gets interpreted as sending out e-mails to Listserv or Facebook groups about actions we direct them to take. The same old “vertical” (that is, top-down) style of politics, but online.
To Gay 2.0, online means savvy uses of social media that engage “grasstop” thought leaders. These leaders aren’t elected by boards, but self-selected and eager to use their personal networks (when asked) to promote activism. As it did this week, the horizontal style of such organizing succeeds in pushing up attendance dramatically for less effort and cost than more traditional efforts.

Tags: Commentary