THE DECENTRALIZED SOCIAL MOVEMENT: HOW THE TEA PARTY GAINED RELEVANCY IN THE NEW MEDIA ERA
Willey, John Scott
Owen, Diana M.
This research explores how a decentralized social movement evolved into an effective political apparatus. A central claim of this research is that the Tea Party movement has been politically influential because of its decentralization. This research suggests that the Tea Party's decentralized structure made it necessary to operate within decentralized online echo chambers. The original research includes a content analysis of a Tea Party candidate's Twitter account, a content analysis of 300 e-mails sent by a leading Tea Party group, and a content analysis of the September 2011 Republican primary debates, including one that was dubbed the CNN-Tea Party Republican Debate. The findings suggest that the Tea Party movement in December 2011 is fundamentally different than the movement that first emerged in January of 2009. In order to stay politically influential, the decentralized Tea Party movement became more centralized. These findings suggest that the Tea Party movement's future political relevance is relative and depends entirely on how the movement continues to evolve.
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