Monday, August 15, 2005

A Site I've Been Watching...

It seems like part of the unofficial tradition of Blogs is to tell people about other sites we read, so here is one that I have read with interest this summer: the "Revava" website.

I am NOT a member of their organization or movement - it doesn't really affect me at all, although I sympathize with their current plight and their religious ideals. Mostly it is interesting because a handful of radicals have managed to use their blog (in conjunction with other activities, of course) to make significant waves, as evidenced by the fact that the local government raided their office and confiscated lots of their materials. It is also interesting because it offers some news (or at least a perspective on the news) that you can't get from the mainstream media. It is therefore different than reading, say, Al-Jazeera for this purpose, because Al-Jazeera is a simple mix of propaganda and mainstream-media-wannabe-ism (in other words, almost-well-done yet obscenely slanted news reporting). Revava is not trying to be the next CNN at all; instead, their site gives a glimpse into the inner workings of an effective political action movement - a textured blend of personality cult & self-promotion (by the leaders), pure patriotism, puerile self-pity, genuine sacrifice (they all seem to be in jail frequently), bloody-shirt-waving, clever publicity stunts, astute networking and recruiting, very selective discussion topics, and consistently good writing (a law professor's favorite part). I also find some of their sidebar links interesting - they only have a few, all similarly radical, unlike most blogs that have tedious lists, sometimes even hundreds of links.

Particularly clever is the Revava Board Game (also click here for the jpeg of the game board itelf), which apparently has been so inflammatory that the police confiscated every copy of it they could find in the Revava offices. The game board itself is a little lesson in how to run a radical activist group effectively (that is, to grow it from a handful of founders to thousands of zealots in a few months). It poses interesting questions for armchair public-choice theory (the kind of public-choice theorizing I mostly do), and makes one wonder why more grassroots organizations don't do fun things like this. Clever law students here could create versions for their own favorite causes, no?

Of course, Revava has a cause that many people have considered worth dying for, and there aren't many causes around like that. And most of the people entangled in causes worth dying for lose their sense of humor, which the Revava guys haven't. That is part of the reason I keep going back to their site. The other reason, I suppose, is suspense: the whole thing could have a very tragic ending at any time, and Revava would suddenly disappear (for example, the ringleaders were arrested again last night, this time by the army, and there is no news yet about their whereabouts). I click on their link in my "favorites" menu late at night partly to see if they're still there...

How Media Reporting Distorts the Public's View of the Legal System

Click on the post title to link to an interesting article in today's Los Angeles Times. I think this is a significant issue, something economists talk about frequently - that perceptions get distorted when people get impressive news about an otherwise rare or random event.