Monday, June 20, 2011

Dear Netroots Nation

Why did your fabulous, hoity-toity blogger conference cost $335 to attend (NOT including travel and lodging costs) when you are supposedly allied with the LEFT?

Do you see the irony here?

Is there some reason it has to be so expensive? Exactly where does all this money GO TO? You aren't paying rich people to give speeches, are you? As leftists, why aren't you paying poor people to give speeches instead? (PS: Do you know any? Do you need a list?)

If the RightOnline conference is in the same venue, how come they could charge $49 for their conference? Why does the right wing understand that these are harsh economic times, but you don't?

Do you see the irony here?

And yes, I realize there are "scholarships"* for us unfortunate poor schlubs who can't afford your exclusive, cool-kids conference. (Do we have to officially certify our poverty, as when applying for welfare?) My question: Why can't you charge $49 so you won't need to peddle "scholarships" in the first place?

Do you understand there is a very serious problem, when LEFTISTS (who supposedly care about the poor) cannot afford to attend a leftist conference of elitists who have deliberately closed them out? Do you understand there is a very serious problem, when the RightOnline conference WANTS to include the poor people that you have deliberately excluded? What do you make of that?

What does it mean that I can afford the RightOnline conference and not Netroots Nation? It means they care about me and welcome me, and you don't.

Why don't you? And where do you get off calling yourselves progressive, when in reality, you are exclusionary, exclusive elitists?

THIS is why the Tea Party is winning. THIS. IS. WHY.

And when they say the Left does not care about regular Americans? When they say that you only care about identity politics and theory? What is your answer to them? Your answer is: The difference between $335 and $49, which to you probably doesn't amount to much, so you don't get it. Its the difference between Banana Republic and Walmart. Your conference attendees will wear the first brand, the RightOnline attendees will wear the second.

And you still think you are the compassionate ones.

~*~


(*) Who thought up this offensive terminology? "Scholarships" are for kids going to school. The juvenile term "scholarship" reduces the seeker of charity to being a child. Why don't you just call it a voucher and show poor folks a wee bit o' respect? (Of course, true respect would be to make it affordable and accessible to everyone, and I think we know you have no such intention.)

Yes, I've written about this before. (sigh)

18 comments:

JoJo said...

Very interesting points Daisy. When I worked in the Bay Area, my boss was one of the movers & shakers in Berkeley politics, having been the lead attorney for the FSM at Cal. He was wealthy and rubbed shoulders with other very wealthy leftists. Although I was very fond of my boss and his wife/law partner, I thought their friends were somewhat elitist.

April said...

Really good points, which I have thought of a lot (and have tried really hard to ignore, but it just isn't working). I didn't have to pay that much to go, because I was a student at the time I registered, which knocked $100 off the registration fee, and at the time I registered (back in February) the full cost without the discount was $299. But it's still true: it's way too fucking much, especially for a group that claims to care about the poor. I was luck y to have found out that it would be 15 miles away from me JUST after getting my tax return, after qualifying for the student discount, so I was really lucky.

And I had no idea that RightOnline was only $49. Seriously?! Although I'd bet that that has a hell of a lot to do with the obscene amounts of corporate sponsorships they were able to get, probably easily. Netroots didn't have many of those.

D. said...

Huh. That's, um, academic conference money. That's their "business" model. Ad I think that some of that (high academic conference fees) is paying for seminars that give Continuing Ed credit (medical professionals at least are supposed to amass a certain amount of continuing ed as a condition of their license. I think), but the last time I looked, one doesn't need CE credits to blog. *scratches head*

Yeah, it wouldn't surprise me if RightOnline is heavily subsidized.

I think the left needs to be saved from itself; part of that is going to be developing a 21st century conception of the basic principles, and part is going to be returning left politics to people who actually benefit from left politics, which may require wresting.

val said...

I feel your frustration. Elitists are the only ones who can afford to go into politics.

mik said...

NN standard registration is less than $200 if you buy early and less than $100 if you are a student, and there are dozens of scholarships available. Many attendees room together at venue hotels and find alternate housing arrangements nearby (hostels, friends, etc). People travel however they can. Now is the time to suggest ways to be more inclusive - the organizers are soliciting feedback and ideas now at dailykos as they do every year immediately after NN. Go now and post your ideas at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/20/986946/-Netroots-Nation-2011:-We-Need-Your-Feedback?detail=hide!

NN is non-profit and funded through attendee registrations, sponsorships and donations. NN says that the cost per attendee is $800 before being offset by sponsors.

RO is also a non-profit, but is an appendage of Americans For Prosperity. RO attendance is heavily subsidized by the foundation which is, in turn, funded by well-known political and corporate entities. RO was literally giving registrations away during the conference.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Mik, thank you for your reply.

1) How could you "buy ahead" of time, if you don't know whether you will be given time off, or like 30% of the workforce (give or take a couple of percentage point) have two or more jobs? Have you ever tried to coordinate time off with two or more jobs? I have, and it is well nigh impossible.
People in construction, hospitality industry (this is tourist season!), retail, fast food, domestic services, child care, etc often can not plan ahead for these types of things, and can usually only plan ahead monthly, or even weekly.

You know that, right? If you do, you know that this penalizes people in these professions, the people who MOST REQUIRE discounts.

2) Please jettison the kiddie-word "scholarship"... VOUCHER is a better and more accurate word. Scholarship? Are we taking the SAT?

Some of us don't apply for charity unless our children are starving. I have applied for charity twice: 1) AFDC, for my child and 2) My old church paid for a root canal of mine. Period. Many poor people will not ask for special favors, since we were raised not to. If you aren't or have never been poor, you may not know that, or may not 'get' that. But this isn't only about me.

Even better than "voucher" would be "guest" -- and you know, everything is always nicer when you ask guests that can contribute interesting and diverse stuff to the proceedings. What's wrong with a guest list, like at the 70s punk rock shows?

Debbie Harry's first band was more generous than Netroots, and let me in for free.

3) Okay, how do they arrive at that magic $800 figure? HOW did the cost get so high--is my question. Paying rich people big money to give speeches and workshops? And why are they automatically considered the people who know more and who are worth listening to? If this is the ROOTS (haha, don't hardly think so), then people at the grassroots level are the ones who should be giving the workshops and speeches, and I bet they charge less than Al Franken and Amy Goodman.

There is simply no reason it should cost that much.

The Columbus Free Press, a bunch of hippies, once put on an alternative press convention (in 1980), for less than $100 and charged according to need. People came all the way from Europe. Someone on Facebook is going to a blogging conference soon that cost only $35 and assures me it CAN be done.

RO was literally giving registrations away during the conference.

Pretty populist and GREAT, in my opinion. Why doesn't NN do this and allow people to "audit" sessions, if nothing else?

What is the # of nonwhite, non-college educated people at NN, and why can't anyone answer that? Once again, the RO people CAN.

This is so depressing.

PS: Katrina Vandel Heuvel's family, alone, could pay for the whole conference. Have you thought of asking her?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Pardon typo: Katrina vanden Heuvel.

When I type the names of the super-rich, regardless of their politics, my fingers rebel. ;)

But really, why aren't rich speakers (like her) CONTRIBUTING to the cost, rather than getting paid?

Do you see the irony here?

Anonymous said...

In my experience, scholarships are for adults. They are often used to go to college. Many of the students I teach are returning to college, and are in their thirties or forties. They have scholarships. They are not children.

D. said...

I'd like to know the breakout of that $800 figure, too; some of that may be paying for the hotel charge for wi-fi and the function space, conference membership badges, prorated speaker fees, and goodie bag (if applicable), but that still sounds high. (This is where I would turn the floor over to those who run Worldcons, because they would have details.)

BlogHer organizers might also be a useful resource for information, although the focus there is different.

mik, thanks for the data. Worldcon also operates on the "earlier you register, the cheaper it is" model. A lot of people can't plan ahead quite that early, though, either from time or money constraints. There are options, but they depend on being connected, again, and are not available to the novice.

WV: "fratism"

D. said...

Daisy: No kidding. How many paid speakers did they have? Shouldn't rank and file attendees with knowledge get a crack at the mikes?

Anonymous said...

PREACH IT, DAISY!

although it's all kind of fitting, in a grim way. the vast majority of working people and poor people don't have the four spare hours a day it takes to be a part of this community in the first place.

the bit about the costs reminds me of the way people talk about medical costs. like, WHY does it cost $4,000 to put a cast on a broken arm? the number is treated like the natural result of some organic process, when the reality is that someone has figured out the maximum amount they can get away with charging!

last time i piped up here, another commenter called me a conservative white male (while agreeing with my point), and that's why i love it here. delusions are not flattered, and context never ignored. please keep up the terrific work daisy. your voice is needed.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Anon, well, you make my point for me: Admittedly, I don't know from college. (Why is it necessary to know about the doings of colleges to be leftist or progressive?) When I saw the scholastic buzzword "scholarship"--I assumed it was intended for , you know, SCHOLARS (root word of scholarship) and I am not one. Why use this exclusionary word if it is basically inaccurate, then?

Most working class people will assume a scholarship is intended for A STUDENT (scholar) and since they are not students, are excluded and the 'scholarship' does not apply to them. And BTW, this is what I first thought myself.

WHY is this the standard language of Netroots Nation? Because they are out of touch with the mainstream, and/or don't give a shit.

I did an impromptu survey and asked 25 random Facebook people on my list (all ages and races and regions represented, including one in the UK and two in Canada) what they thought "scholarship" meant, and every single person agreed with me, that it was a free registration FOR SCHOLARS and/or STUDENTS.

Of course, it is notable and interesting that I chose all working class people, though.

mik said...

:: Mik, thank you for your reply.
Sure. FWIW, I don't have anything to do with NN other than attending, but I don't think your criticisms are entirely fair. It IS tough to include everone in events like this, for the very reasons you state, but I think you do a disservice both to NN (who are trying) and to all the people who managed to attend in spite of challenges.

:: 1) How could you "buy ahead" of time, if you don't know whether you will be given time off, or like 30% of the workforce (give or take a couple of percentage point) have two or more jobs?
fair enough, though the point is that NN offers very substantial discounts to those who are able to plan ahead and they encourage registration transfers, unlike many conferences. The fact of the matter is that early registrations cost the conference less than late ones, and they pass that savings along to people who can take advantage of it.

:: 2) Please jettison the kiddie-word "scholarship"... VOUCHER is a better and more accurate word. Scholarship? Are we taking the SAT?
I stand by the word - NN Scholarships are emphatically not charity or vouchers in any way. Scholarships are stipends for Scholars - that is, people who have applied with something valuable to say to the NN community who do not otherwise have the means to attend. Scholarship winners have to justify themselves and may have to work in some way at the conference (e.g. be a speaker, put in some number of hours of volunteer work, act as reporters, etc). The ones I know are activist bloggers, but there may be certainly be others depending on sponsoring organization. Sc

:: Even better than "voucher" would be "guest" -- and you know, everything is always nicer when you ask guests that can contribute interesting and diverse stuff to the proceedings. What's wrong with a guest list, like at the 70s punk rock shows?
IIRC, panelists and other speakers still get free registrations (no travel stipend, though) - anyone can propose panels and sessions. Go for it (really!).

:: Debbie Harry's first band was more generous than Netroots, and let me in for free.
To be blunt, Debbie Harry's first band was a for-profit entity that didn't have to take money out of another fan's pocket to let you in for free.

(darn - ran out of space... )

mik said...

(sorry, continued)

:: 3) Okay, how do they arrive at that magic $800 figure? HOW did the cost get so high--is my question. Paying rich people big money to give speeches and workshops? And why are they automatically considered the people who know more and who are worth listening to? If this is the ROOTS (haha, don't hardly think so), then people at the grassroots level are the ones who should be giving the workshops and speeches, and I bet they charge less than Al Franken and Amy Goodman.

Workshop/Panel speakers aren't paid. IIRC, Plenary speakers aren't either, though I assume the few entertainment acts are (e.g. Jill Sobule and Outernational... maybe Elon James). You'd have to ask the organizers for the details there (see the link to the dailykos in my previous post).

:: The Columbus Free Press, a bunch of hippies, once put on an alternative press convention (in 1980), for less than $100 and charged according to need.

lol! well, using my handy-dandy internet inflation calculator, I see that $100 1980 dollars are worth... $261.11 in 2010 dollars! $261 doesn't get you an outlet strip in a conference center for 4 days. An a la carte conference probably doesn't cut it today, but who knows... I'm certainly willing to believe that a conference can be run for less (a LOT less) money. NN is a getting to be a large, tech-driven conference. Smaller was cheaper and there are more options, but also have downsides. See Adam B's other diaries for some of the background information. Hosting at a university, maybe? cutting out food? heck, cutting out internet access would be a big cost savings, but that wouldn't make much sense for a bloggers conference (free internet at NN10 cost the conference around $75000). NN is intended to serve as much of the community of people who participate in the related blogs and online media as possible: seriously if you have ideas, post 'em. If NN can't (or wont) take the suggestions, do it yourself and prove 'em wrong.

:: :: RO was literally giving registrations away during the conference.
:: Pretty populist and GREAT, in my opinion. Why doesn't NN do this and allow people to "audit" sessions, if nothing else?

No matter what the righties imagine, NN doesn't have insanely rich sugardaddies underwriting the conference (as opposed to RO). NN streams most of the conference live and for free to the internet (and keeps it available afterward) - many of the sessions including the plenaries took questions by twitter so you could even interact remotely. If all you want is to audit sessions, there isn't any need to pay a cent (well, the video people are paid for by those who bought registrations - still no free money)

:: What is the # of nonwhite, non-college educated people at NN, and why can't anyone answer that? Once again, the RO people CAN.

not a clue - have you asked anyone in a position to answer? At least for "non-white" you can probably get a sense for percentage from the thousands of photos posted. My sense was somewhere around 20% non-white, but I could certainly be off. No idea what RO is claiming - personally, I saw maybe five non-white people at RO (counting Ms Malkin and Mr Cain), but I'm basing that on official photographs and walking through their conference a few times a day. Both conferences looked relatively gender balanced. NN looked to have a wider and more uniform age distribution and many more disabled persons than RO. I'd be interested in reported demographics of both.

:: PS: Katrina Vandel Heuvel's family, alone, could pay for the whole conference. Have you thought of asking her?

wait a sec... seriously? I mean, didn't you think being elitist and selling out was a bad thing?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Mik, I had to repost your comments myself and hope you don't mind. I found em in my spam filter but they did not initially show up here. :( feh!

Your comments are good, they speak for themselves... we shall agree to disagree. I stand by my issue w/the word "scholarship" for the reasons enumerated in my last post here on the subject in this thread. I didn't know "scholarship" was for non-students until I was specifically informed of it AFTER I made my criticisms.

Other:

lol! well, using my handy-dandy internet inflation calculator, I see that $100 1980 dollars are worth... $261.11 in 2010 dollars! $261 doesn't get you an outlet strip in a conference center for 4 days.

That was the cost of THE WHOLE THING. Lets see Netroots do it for $261 !

BTW, this conference was in a community center (an old elementary school), not a conference center. Why does it have to be a chi-chi conference center? (Answer: So the affluent will feel comfortable; they won't leave "good" neighborhoods, etc) Churches (there are liberal ones) can be great meeting places too, as AA people can tell you. Lots of venues are free/cheap... maybe they should come down south? ;)

About my Katrina vanden Heuvel crack: wait a sec... seriously?

Yes, seriously.

I am old school, and I'm all for making the rich lefties pay the poor lefties' way. That's how we used to do it! Along the way, that concept seems to have been forgotten. Also, the middle-level affluent do not consider themselves truly "rich" and have no real organizing experience in the left (other than online) so don't even realize some of us expect them to do this. We should pull out some handy-dandy calculator, as you provided above:

If you make over $250,000 a year, you can afford to pay for 5 more people. You cannot attend unless you do, so get busy finding some poor bloggers. Women and minorities preferred.

If you make over $100,000 a year, you can afford to pay for 2 more bloggers, so... (etc)


I think this might actually solve the problem. Socialism IS a good idea.

I am not registered at DailyKos and have a terrible time following their threads, so this will have to do. Please link me over there, if you've a mind to.

And BTW, on that general topic, the digital divide (and why some things in Blogdonia make me particularly nervous; I have never figured out how to post on tumblr, for instance) is a whole nother issue. Ageism is rampant, which I think goes without saying. Some of us did not own a computer until we were over 40, and that makes a difference too. I don't think NN addresses that the way RO does, in that RO teaches people the nuts and bolts of Twitter and tumblr and so on. NN's people are much more technologically advanced that RO's people, which signals to me that the RO people have less money.

I doubt NN found it necessary to teach Twittering.

April said...

My experience in retail has always been the opposite of what you describe. Typically they required at least 2 weeks for time off, and the further in advance you requested, the more likely you are to get time off. Of course things aren't the same all across retail-type jobs, so yeah.

I personally think "scholarship" is a perfectly accurate term to describe having the funds required for a person to attend to be provided by someone else. Netroots is a conference which holds trainings and other panels which are intended to teach, so I don't see why it would be inappropriate here.

Like I said, I don't disagree with your criticisms, but I would rather the current situation that have it be funded by giant, disgusting corporations and businessmen like the Kochs (who are behind Americans For Prosperity) funding the thing.

sheila said...

Probably better off at home watching a movie and eating your own Jiffy Pop. Plus, there's a bathroom close by.

La Lubu said...

PREACH!

I'm with Daisy in that my automatic assumption of the word "scholarship" means to apply to current students only---people who are actually enrolled in school full-time. That as a nonstudent, I would be automatically ineligible for the "scholarship."

My assumption would also be that financial assistance would only be offered to people eligible for TANF or food stamps---that if you aren't poor enough to qualify for those, you're not poor enough for a lower rate.

I think that's a common reaction among working class people.

Daisy is correct about the "professional left" alienating working class folks. And it's not just the new incarnation of what used to be called the "New Left" either---it's labor unions too. I remember the first district conference I went to for my Local---it was at some swank hotel that was way, way out of my league. The kind of place that had bellboys and people that would come to the door and ask if you wanted your bed turned down.

And I freaked out. I mean, like "this is a thing, a real thing in the world? rich people can't turn bed sheets over?! WTF?!!" I had no previous exposure to that sort of thing---I literally had never heard of it (unlike say, bellboys or the concierge, which I learned about through movies). I was floored. I just stammered and said "no" through the door---I was still thinking, "wow---not in Illinois anymore, are ya?!" Even the swank hotels in Chicago aren't that pretentious. :)

I think a part of why they hosted that conference there was that it was a union hotel, and had been recently sold to new owners and was in a somewhat precarious financial situation---that my union (and other unions) made it a point to stage conferences in that hotel to help keep it a union hotel.

But damn. If I could wave my magic wand and make a suggestion that outfits like Netroots Nation would actually take, it would be this: have a conference in some no-name, no-place, backwater mid-size town. Some place that would love to have any kind of income for their civic center (which could hold the actual event). People would stay in the surrounding downscale motels or fleabag dives. Make it far enough away from a major city so participants would have to rent a car and drive through the economic devastation of the past 30 years (long may Reagan burn in hell). You know, there's other places to find poverty porn than Detroit.

That, and have at least 50 slots for any local people who wanted to show up---cost free.

I understand that the Right is heavily subsidized by those with deep pockets, but still---that price difference sends a message, and not a very flattering one. $335 is a lot of money in the eyes of most people. The first thing I thought of when I saw that figure in the post was John Edwards' haircut---wasn't that over $300? And for fucking what?