Jennifer Nix, who works for Working Assets Publishing, has a very cogent new article in The Nation this week entitled "How to Create a Liberal Bestseller." Her thesis is simple: the recent rise of progressive books from new media writers "illustrates a new model for creating chartable vehicles to package progressive ideas." Using the success of Glenn Greenwald's terrific new book How Would a Patriot Act? to highlight her points, Nix says we've reached "a tipping point for the blogosphere" and "a lesson for progressives" in using our own books -- fueled by progressive readers -- to thrust our wealth of mainstream ideas into a corrupted political discourse that seeks to shut us out.
Nix's article echoes what I noted yesterday: namely, that the support progressive readers have provided to the recent spate of progressive bestselling books is a critical way for us to amplify our movement's voice. She writes:
"At a time when the right is insisting that the left has no ideas and mainstream media seem unwilling or unable to cover progressive ideas intelligently, we must create our own vehicles to carry our ideas to the American public. And we must build upon what we know is possible when the blogs work together. Progressive membership groups should join in, and help to lift up new voices and ideas. It's not about just selling books. It's about making our ideas successful in the marketplace, so that more Americans can hear about them. Successful ideas spread, as we've seen with the collaborative promotion of documentaries from Robert Greenwald (no relation to Glenn) and Al Gore. There are plenty of other important books progressives should get behind, like Eric Boehlert's Lapdogs, David Sirota's Hostile Takeover and J.R. Norton's Saving General Washington With the savvy leveraging of our assets in the blogosphere and the success of Glenn Greenwald's book, perhaps the time has come for progressive ideas to get fair hearing in the national debate."
In my post yesterday thanking readers for their support after learning Hostile Takeover hit the New York Times Bestseller List, I pointed out how sad it was that there is still some bitter, self-defeating anger on the left at progressive writers who are succeeding. Glenn Greenwald agrees, and notes the very serious problem with this:
"Many on the Left seem to have some sort of instinctive aversion to promoting products which are for sale or ventures which generate profit, as though such activities are impure or even wrong. The Right long ago realized that the economic success of its political products translates into all sorts of critical benefits -- from creating the perception that its ideas are popular and credible to ensuring its advocates widespread media access. That's why they expend so much effort to ensure the success of their books -- even going so far as to have organizations purchase them in large bulk and then sell them at a huge loss -- and it's also why it is so important to them to disparage the economic viability of liberal media projects. For better or worse, the impact which a political product can have is a function of its economic viability. In addition to my book, there have been several books that have enjoyed surprising commercial success -- including David Sirota's Hostile Takeover and Eric Boehlert's Lapdogs -- which critics of the administration ought to be excited to promote and push into the mainstream media. The more the ideas and arguments advanced by those books are heard, the better. Books develop ideas and have the power to persuade and shape political debates in a way few other things can. And yet organizations and even magazines which ought to be devoted to the promotion of those ideas have all but ignored them and -- with rare exception (cited in Jennifer's article) -- refused to pay any attention to them. The books have succeeded despite what appears to be an odd resistance by the very media outlets and organizations which one would think would naturally support them."
In my time working in the progressive movement, I have focused on building infrastructure that amplifies our movement, and promotes the work of others (for example, The Progress Report and the Progressive States Network -- both of which I founded). I focused on these projects because I realize the better my allies do, the better our side does as a whole. There are tons of ways to get involved in fighting the good fight (the last chapter of Hostile Takeover is all about this very topic).
The bottom line, though, is clear: supporting, promoting and amplifying progressive voices and helping them become commercially viable in a competitive market is critical to taking our movement to the next level. Those committed citizens who support these voices by buying and reading their books, spreading the word about their documentaries, informing neighbors about the issues being pushed -- they are helping build a long-term movement for the future, and that is absolutely critical to the vast majority of Americans who want their government back.