The People Who Run The World

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article in The New Yorker in 1999 called “Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg.” In it, he tangentially explains how it’s been mathematically proven that Kevin Bacon is NOT the most connected actor, that distinction goes to Burgess Meredith (Rocky’s trainer).

Why? For value, the 70 year length of Meredith’s career was overshadowed by the extraordinary range of productions Meredith acted in — from Oscar winners to B-movie shlock, to commercials, to theatre, to character work on TV, he’s worked with them all.

What Meredith was to movies, Lois Weisberg is to Chicago. Gladwell dubs her a ‘connector’ – she knows everybody (including Meredith), she introduced Arthur C. Clarke to Isaac Asimov, just by chance, you know, whatevs.

Because she serves the world as the connective tissue that holds the mess together, people like her “might actually run the world” Gladwell states.

in a very down-to-earth, day-to-day way, they make the world work. They spread ideas and information. They connect varied and isolated parts of society.

On the internets, the connective tissues among circles of friends tend to be the Lois Weisberg type; not necessarily extraverted or overly charismatic, these people’s strength is that they exist simultaneously in several worlds. Weisberg was known by the far-flung friends of, and was comfortable hanging out with Chicago’s actors, writers, doctors, lawyers, park lovers, politicians, the hospitality-industry, the railroad buffs, the flea-market aficionados, musicians, visual artists and architects.

I blog about politics and 1970s cinema. My friend Roboppy blogs expertly about food, health policy, and hipster music. I would argue that she is more valuable to a politician than I.

When you take the recent studies about how cynical Americans are becoming about broadcast media, and how much Americans are turning to word-of-mouth to inform decisions, someone like Roboppy is the key to a movement’s growth. Gladwell talks about how when enough Weisbergs and Roboppys are talking about X, there will come a Tipping Point for X.

A campaign should find the connectors in the district, the connectors between the neighborhood’s lifestyle blogospheres. To do so takes work, it takes the protean skills of an improv actor, the tenacity of a true believer and the technical know-how of someone who helped build the very technology at play. This is what it takes to win.