Such DIY media are efforts to engage an American public fed up with high-gloss spin campaigns. But political power also requires people to unify, which is where the house party comes in.
In many ways, the house party phenom is a progressive flip to the way the Christian right used church socials and coffee klatches during the late 80s to mobilize "true believers" to pack school boards and other local offices with a bottom-up strategy that skewed the Republican party to the right. Now Bush's policiesand the lackluster scrutiny of those policies by major media outletsare propelling progressives to mobilize with similar fervor. While the notion of having a house party to screen a political documentary might have drawn snores a few years ago, these days it's the basis for a movement.
"It's a resurgence of the idea of the political salon on a mass level," says Leigh Smith, an Australian "dot.com refugee" who helped host the Avenue C gathering with his partner, Jill, a video editor who asked that her last name not be used because the media company she works for is squeamish about its employees engaging publicly in partisan activities. "The suffragette movement started out with high-society home gatherings," Leigh observes.
Leigh calls today's Net-powered salons "distributed agitation and home projects to break through media control." And he thinks the movement is gaining momentum: "The idea of going to a political rock concert was hip in the '80s, but this is a really interesting new kind of forum. It plays into the whole flashmob phenomena, which is something that people want to feel part of."