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Getting The RightOnline

Americans for Prosperity hosts a conference to boost the Right’s digital presence. RightOnline hits Washington DC this weekend.


The Left is known for being many things: progressive, sympathetic, and—in the digital world—pioneers. Since 2008, Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) has hosted a technology conference, RightOnline, hoping to change that. This year, it’s smack dab in the middle of Washington DC, the nation’s hub of political activity, just in time to gear up for another election season.

Through speakers, roundtables, and workshops, the conference intends to demonstrate “how to learn the strategies for winning the debate in the digital space,” according to AFPF, and will focus on showcasing emerging media tools and strategies. Their goal is to prepare conservative activists to harness new media, technology, digital advocacy, and integrated messaging. Since the first conference, RightOnline has expanded into a broader initiative that includes state-based and local grassroots training seminars aimed at promoting and increasing citizen participation in public policy through online tools.

In years past, the conference has hosted some of the original powerhouses of conservative blogger stardom: The late Andrew Breitbart and Michelle Malkin, to name a couple. The self-proclaimed answer to the left-wing’s Netroot Nation, this year’s RightOnline boasts internationally-known gurus in the fields of media and technology who will speak to a sold-out audience.

Some, like David Rowan, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine’s UK edition, and Dan’l Lewin, the vice president of Microsoft, will speak as industry professionals. Others, like Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai, will speak on policy. Sheryl Attkinson, an award-winning, former CBS journalist, is another featured speaker, not to mention David Koch, of billionaire Koch-brothers fame, who also sits on the board of its host, Americans for Prosperity, should the conference need a little last-minute extra dough.

Big Names in the Tech Field

Appros enough, Twitter is buzzing about the conference, too.

Ninja skills notwithstanding, the conference will showcase local technological gurus from the area, including Adam Thierer from George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. One of the Saturday workshops entitled “What Would Breitbart do?” features James O’ Keefe and Brandon Darby, among others. Tweeting pictures of excited radio hosts, @RightOnline declares: “There’s nothing more fun than countering the mainstream narrative.”

AFPF is also changing the format this year, according to a statement, and will “feature a new brand of keynote that puts top tech-sector experts in a fireside chat-style dialogue.” The session, which happens Friday, will feature Google’s Ali-Jae Asselstine, Facebook’s Annie Lewis, and Microsoft’s Jon Sampson.

Using Technology Right

Levi Russell, AFPF’s public relations director, describes the role of technology in center-right politics as both evolving and important.

“Take something like Twitter, which started out as this odd clunky communications tool, and as it became adopted it became a standard among the press. Live tweeting became a thing. That started working its way into the narrative.”

Now that Twitter is a ubiquitous presence in cultural and political discourse, activists working with cutting-edge technology are imperative. “Back when no one knew what Twitter or a hashtag was, it was hard to see how it was going to have an impact on policy. What we’re doing this weekend is discussing those emerging technologies, and how we can leverage them in the political process.”

The narrative has also shifted when it comes to blogging. Once thought of as a hobby that incoherent, irrelevant whack jobs pursue, venting via a Typepad address, bloggers now can enhance the news cycle and shift political debate. Russell says, “We’re offering workshops that show people how some of the better blogs, in order to grow in influence and readership, can develop sponsors and resources, and even become as influential as the local readership.”

Can the center-right win an election with the right candidate and the right Twitter handle? RightOnline seems to think so. Hopefully their tips prove useful and persuasive: There’s an election—and always a country’s liberty—at stake.