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Safire explains "netroots"

It seems like we all use "netroots" these days, especially in this business of politics and technology. So, where did it come from? Cue the word maven himself, William Safire, who found one reference in a 1993 usenet discussion - but notes that the word was re-coined and popularized by our pal Jerome Armstrong:

Popularizer of the term — unaware of the obscure, earlier citation when he used it — was the aforementioned (great old word) Armstrong on his blog, MyDD, on Dec. 18, 2002, as he went to work on the presidential campaign of Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont. The political activist, whose master’s thesis was titled “Applied Linguistics and Conflict Resolution,” headlined his entry “Netroots for Dean in 2004” and told Internet readers where to get the first inkling of a groundswell: “O.K., so Dean is still polling 1 to 4 percent nationally, so what. Look at the netroots.”

Given that conservatives have started talking about something they're calling the "rightroots", Safire wonders if "netroots" leans left, and whether it'll stay that way:

He insists that the word he helped make famous, and which will soon be in most new dictionaries, does not have a slant: “The term netroots is ideologically and politically neutral.” I differ with him on that, but the political meaning of the preceding grass roots, which is now neutral, also had an early political coloration. In July 1912, as former President Theodore Roosevelt broke with the Republican Party to start an independent campaign, McClure’s Magazine wrote: “From the Roosevelt standpoint, it was a campaign from the ‘grass roots up.’ The voter was the thing.” At the August 1912 “Bull Moose” convention that nominated Roosevelt, Senator Albert Beveridge orated: “This party comes from the grass roots. It has grown from the soil of the people’s hard necessities.”

Ah, the word maven.

Posted on November 22, 2006 in
news media.