Become a Root Striker

April 15, 2011 | By | 8 Replies More

Last week, I watched as Lawrence Lessig presented this video at the National Conference for Media Reform (I commented on it here). I’d like to feature the video alone at this post:


Category: Campaign Finance Reform, populism

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (8)

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  1. dave says:

    I've been a fan of Mr Lessig ever since he fought the good fight in getting legal recognition for FOSS and the Creative Commons license that so many of us now enjoy. I even went so far as to give my email to his PAC "Change Congress" that decried the power of money in politics.

    Here's my concern, however: his organization "Change Congress" just managed to spam me about once a month with some hyperbole about how money corrupts, and then promptly asked me to do my part by– yeap, you guessed it– donating some money to them. 🙁

    This presentation, while very entertaining with its dynamic type and CC-licensed imagery, is kinda short on specific things to do (besides buy Keds shoes). Lawrence is smart, but he's ultimately going to be relatively ineffective, I fear.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Dave: Good and fair point. I'm expecting specifics too, and it would seem that at least some specifics should precede the request for donations.

  2. dave says:

    I thought about this while driving on some errands this afternoon, and I think I've uncovered a rhetorical flaw: the idea of being a "root striker" conveys passionate and a sense of self-granted "truth-seeking", but it also (for me, at least) also importunes a certain level of smugness or self-righteousness, i.e., "everyone else is wasting their time on the branches, but we're going to go for the root." That would also line up with the lack of specifics actions to take. Specific actions would be "attacking one of the branches" in Thoreau's metaphor. (On a separate note, I love reading good ol' Henry David, but ultimately, he doesn't say much either beyond "think for yourself").

    Mr Lessig could demand that all public meetings and records get published in the open, or that all congressmen divulge all donations, but we already mostly have that kind of transparency. The masses are more concerned about the price of gasoline, clipping coupons for frozen chicken, and watching baseball (not a bad thing, in the larger scheme of the universe, perhaps).

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Or perhaps the lack of specifics, in the context of all that has been attempted, suggests that the solution might no longer exist within the current system. That thought does haunt me, given Citizens United and corporate control of the popular media. The powers that be pre-ordain who the "serious" candidates are. The current system might be too damned full of rot to expect to go the polls and get anything meaningful done. And it goes without saying that the birth of this country was based on the right to engage in revolution when the People are functionally divested of control of their own destiny. Sorry, Lawrence, but that's what came to mind when I heard the term "root striker."

      I'm not saying (yet) that revolution is the only option. Only that it will take something almost unimaginable to clean house within the current highly-monied political structure.

  3. Sally G says:

    I also heard Mr. Lessig in Boston, and found this because I was doing a search for &ldquo ;”. I guess it hasn’t been set up, as I thought it had—disappointing, becuase there was a lot of energy last weekend and I really hope that it can lead to lots of coalition-building among liberal/progressive activists and organizations. Let’s go!

  4. dave says:


    I'm not so sure that Mr Lessig's politics nor the purpose of his organization is "liberal/progressive" in the same sense that most people define those terms. Change Congress centers on trying to end the influence of Big Money into congressional decision-making. We know that Big Money has both a Right Face and a Left Face. When I hear the term 'liberal/progressive' I usually get an image of progressive tax rates and a larger role for government, no? Setting aside the idea of redistributing income, I think that the Change Congress organization is much more concerned about transparency and special-interest funding. In some cases, this leads directly to larger government.

    Please note: I'm not knocking liberal/progressive politics, I'm just voicing that my opinion that just because Mr Lessig is "Fighting The Man", that doesn't make him a liberal– it makes him a populist. I could argue that the agenda for Change Congress could just as easily apply to Barry Goldwater back in the day or (heh) Rand/Ron Paul.

  5. Ian says:


    I think Sally was informed of Rootstriker via a Progressive event. Transparencey is big with Liberal/Progressives and fundamental Conservatives/Libertarians. Both have populist views at this time considering the corporate/oligarchical loyalties our country's politicians have. The middle class is getting involved in politics because its starting to matter to them. Its special interests and corruption causing our system to break down, not the incompatibility of the two philosophies.

    I believe it will become more of a progressive stance considering the recent Citizen's United Supreme Court decision that greatly increased campaign contriubutions and the lack of need to disclose the source. With a conservative leaning Supreme Court courted by the Koch brothers saw their chance to declare Corporations as citizens, determining campaign contributions as free speech, and landslide victories changing control of the house(2010), Democrats and Progressives are on the defense.

    Unless Conservatives and Republicans get to their core values and hold their party officials accountable to philosophy, there will continue to be room for corruption as we progressives realize with Obama. Its the upper 5% and the rest of us, their employees of corporate America.

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