The World’s First Reddit Party (The New Yorker.com)
Last summer, Erik Martin, the general manager of the link-sharing site Reddit, whose job requires him to oversee online conversations about everything from My Little Pony to Islamic State propaganda, noticed something strange. A Spanish political party that he’d never heard of was using the Web site to organize. “We’ve never seen anyone use Reddit as an organizing tool, not like this,” he said. The party, called Podemos (We Can), was only a few months old at the time, but it had created a subreddit—in effect, a party home page hosted by Reddit—with more than two thousand subscribers and significant traffic. About two hundred people were visiting the page at any given time, and there were a million page views in the month of July alone. “This was all in a market”—in southern Europe—”where Reddit is not even that popular,” Martin said. On the party’s page, an array of filters directs users to caches of videos, proposals, debate topics, and news. There are “digital assemblies” (a sort of virtual plebiscite), “Ask Podemos” (question-and-answer sessions with party leaders), and “Podemos Plaza” (a freewheeling discussion via message board). The other day, one user linked to a grim news item meant to spawn a local protest initiative: the municipal government of Madrid had dedicated a plaza to Margaret Thatcher.
When Martin and I spoke over the summer, he admitted that he didn’t know much about Podemos: Was it a serious party with serious prospects or was it a group of idealistic interlopers? That question has been on the lips of Spaniards for months.