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Comparing the Americans Elect and Jill Stein Twitter Networks: What Grassroots Looks Like

A few days ago, when I graphed the network of Twitter posts mentioning Americans Elect, one of the immediately apparent features of that network was the central role in tweets issued by representatives of the mainstream news media, in varying degrees of connection to the communications of Americans Elect itself. Click on this image for full detail, including the names and roles of central players (almost all of them reporters for mainstream media news networks):

Stamping this finding with a big label of “obvious” was visitor thehipi, who wrote:

“Wow! You mean to say that larger, more mainstream outlets get more attention and retweets than regular joes? That’s clear proof that Americans Elect is a vast and awful conspiracy!”

You don’t have to imagine that the network is evidence of “a vast and awful conspiracy!” to find it of interest, and it’s not true that mainstream media outlets will necessarily have greater involvement in a twitter network of mentions and retweets. As Brandy Aven of Carnegie Mellon University concluded in a study of collusion at Enron, the structure of online connection can be highly variable and indicate varying degrees of cooperation by participants in discussion.

As an example of this kind of variation in political networks, let’s take a look at the set of people making Twitter posts mentioning Jill Stein over the past week (from December 22-29, 2011). As with the Americans Elect network, dots indicate individual posters and ties represent mentions of other Twitter users or retweets of other posts about Jill Stein.

Twitter Posts mentioning Jill Stein, 12-22-11 to 12-29-11 (ties are retweets or mentions), created using NodeXL software.

The most central communicators in the Twitter network having to do with Jill Stein are not mainstream media reporters; the central contributor coming closest to a mainstream news outfit is the AlterPolitics Blog; all others are individual activists not associated with professional journalism. Of all 122 Twitter accounts making posts about Jill Stein in the last week, one and only one was made by a traditional news outlet. That was the Winnebago County News, which posted on December 28: “Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein: America Deserves More Than A Choice Between Two Wall Street Candidates.”

When people talk about movements spreading by the grassroots, Jill Stein’s candidacy fits the bill. Americans Elect’s movement, spreading from the top downward through prominent media mention, is not what “grassroots” means.

2 thoughts on “Comparing the Americans Elect and Jill Stein Twitter Networks: What Grassroots Looks Like”

  1. Tom says:
    Against Americans Elect
    “A lot of people seem to favor the Americans Elect approach. I’m wary. Very wary.
    Even if the group’s ticket doesn’t win, its impact will force Democrats and Republicans in the nation’s capital to start bridging their cavernous ideological divide.
    Are they nuts? Obama has accommodated the Republicans to a ludicrous degree. Whenever Obama meets a Republican, his first response is to turn around, drop his shorts, point to his butt and shout: “Here! Here! Stick it in here!”

    Any movement based on the ludicrous notion that Obama is some sort of radical — any movement that plays into the “There are extremists on both sides” narrative — is bad news. Bad news.

    Check out the power players behind Americans Elect…
    Its leadership includes former New Jersey GOP Gov. Christine Todd Whitman; former Clinton administration strategist Doug Schoen; former National Intelligence Director Adm. Dennis Blair; former FBI and CIA Director William Webster; and former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills, among others.
    Webster? Jeez, it’s almost as if the planners said to themselves: “Hey, we need the conspiracy theorist subculture to give us some free publicity. Y’think we could get someone like Webster or Woolsey on board?”

    Let’s not forget that Webster pushed the Obama administration to quash a probe into CIA torture. Webster was one of the behind-the-scenes movers-and-shakers who made sure that the criminal Dubya gang got off scot free. Nearly everyone has forgotten that Webster refused to testify before Congress about the allegations of CIA involvement in the S&L scandal. (Pete Brewton’s book, which you probably haven’t read, documents that involvement beyond the point of rational debate.)

    Blair, who oversaw the entire intelligence community (until recently), may be even more questionable. It’s true that he belatedly came out against the drone war in Pakistan — but only after he had let that self-defeating approach “drone” on and on for years. Blair is a big defender of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program.

    Incidentally, Blair’s dismissal appears to have had something to do with a reciprocal spying agreement with the French — an agreement that Blair liked and Obama didn’t. The details are sketchy, but the sketch does look troubling. The deal concerned French access to a “secure intelligence data and retrieval exchange system.” Although Wikipedia’s summary does not name the system, the link wittily goes to this article on the Global Trade Exchange, or GTX. That’s a project developed by Homeland Security for the purposes of spying on business.”

    there’s more

  2. Robert David Steele says:, NO LABELS, and Americans elect are/were the trifecta that was going to elect Michael Bloomberg as President. He broke faith with when he manipulated a third term, and a large number of us laughed NO LABELS out of existence (now its back, more money). Americans Elect is a brilliant idea very corruptly managed. It’s web site stinks, it is not really interested in grass roots anything, and its corrupt leaders have offered John Huntsman a “gimme” nomination five times, each time in direct violation of their charter and their signed agreements.

    Having said all that, I firmly believe, as one of the candidate for the Reform Party nomination, and as the founder of We the People Reform Coalition with four planks: electoral reform, coalition cabinet and balanced budget (both crowd-sourced and finalized by 4 July 2012), and true-cost economics henceforth, that no one party can win 2012, not even the Republican Party under Ron Paul. It is time we respected Occupy, the Independents, the six EXCLUDED national parties (Constitution, Green, Libertarian, Natural Law, Reform, Socialist), and came together to demand of Congress a law they have laughed at six times: mandating that all national parties be on all state ballots for all federal elections; that Electoral College votes be apportioned among those parties, not winner take all; and that all national parties be represented in all debates where any single candidate is receiving federal matching funds. The two party tyranny is vulnerable this year, and we have Occupy to thank for that. We the People need to make November 2012 the tipping point election, the one where we refused to accept corruption as the national standard. If we are to do this, we must begin to come together NOW. Learn more at

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