How the Right-Wing Attacked the “Dirty, Unwashed Hippies” of #FloodWallStreet and #PeoplesClimate

Countless journalists and social theorists have postulated a link between Twitter and democracy, ever since Bouzazi sparked the flame which burned him to death while igniting a wave of protest which quickly engulfed the Middle East in early 2011. Revolutions obviously aren’t new, they have occured throughout the course of human history, but never has the contagion been as quick as 2011, with movements spreading across populations in months, sometimes even a couple of days. Theorists like Lotad, Boyd, and others explored the information flows of these short-form messages networked to the twitterverse via mentions and hashtags, and hyperlinked to a multitude of other locations on the world Wide Web. They examine who was tweeting with the #tunisia and #egypt hashtags as the revolution spread, and demonstrate how these messages and articles flowed throughout the world in minutes.

This spread of communication across long distances can certainly have a positive effect on democracy. individuals have the ability to seek a dizzying range of information quicker than ever before, as decentralized Web 2.0 technologies facilitate the bottom-up production of information with a much lower participation cost. A television studio, millions of dollars, and a contract with a cable network are no longer required for producing content which has the ability to go viral and spread through global networks. As Castells wrote in “Networks of Outrage and Hope”, virtual social networks facilitate spaces of autonomy which are “largely beyond the control of governments and corporations that had monopolized the channels of communication as the foundation of their power, throughout history.” The increased ability of marginalized populations to communicate instantly, with only an Internet connection can subvert governments, as state control of media discourse becomes much more difficult to maintain. Social movements which used to be suppressed by the state-controlled media now have participants chanting ‘the Whole World is Watching’. We live in a global village, and social networks such as Twitter cam be seen as facilitating a new global democracy, beyond the traditional structures of state and corporate media.

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Tweeting From the Barricades: The People’s Climate March and Twitter

When the C train slowed to a halt at Fulton Street station on last Sunday morning, I saw an assortment of anti-Tar Sands and anti-Keystone XL signs. As I boarded the train, I quickly realized that almost each passenger on the quick ride uptown with me were also heading to Central Park West, to protest against the climate inaction of the past twenty-five years. Seeing floods of protesters walking onto the train as we ventured uptown confirmed what I suspected, that the People’s Climate March would be larger than any protest I’ve been to in my whole life. When getting off at 72nd Street around thirty minutes later, the conductor said ‘have a good day at the march, make it count’ over the intercom. This wasn’t anything resembling a normal New York City demonstration. Concerned citizens from all over the United States were in Manhattan and it wasn’t for an over-hyped award show or fashion week. The people were here to save the climate.

At over 310,000 people, the People’s Climate March was the largest protest in the Big Apple since the Democratic National Convention in 2004. It was also touted as the largest climate protest in history, achieving the goal set by 350.org, Avaaz, and hundreds of other participating organizations. Even with established groups bankrolling the outreach for the event, including advertisements on ten percent of the subways in New York City in the weeks leading up to the march, the historic day came together from the ground up, via decentralized hubs which featured listservs, weekly conference calls, and frequent planning meetings. While thousands of people were lining up next to Central Park, thousands more were following the event on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

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#NMOS14 – How Ferguson Became a Nationwide Movement

The small city of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, has been all over the news ever since Darren Wilson fired six shots into Michael Brown, leaving the seventeen year old lying face down on the pavement in broad daylight. Residents gathered at the site of a the incident soon after, and the protests, riots, and looting have been playing out ever since, with protesters on the streets since August 9th. For the first couple of days, the news unfolded primarily on Twitter, through vines posted by St. Louis alderman, @antoniofrench  and others who live tweeted information, pictures, and video from the scene. The local media also covered the events early on, including Fox 2 Now (KTVI) who had a live feed as well as frequent Twitter updates.

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Twitter and the National Fight For 15 Convention

Last week, I posted an analysis of the media coverage of the Fight For 15 convention, which I compiled using the Google News aggregator. With the exception of the New York Times article by Steven Greenfield, all of the information and quotes of each article originated from two Associated Press articles,one previewing the event, and the other providing a recap. This was a sign that very few mainstream media outlets actually covered the event directly.

To supplement these findings, I have also analyzed the top tweets of the #FightFor15 hashtag which correspond to the events that took place in Elmhurst, Illinois on the weekend of July 26th and 27th.

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How Did the Mainstream Media Cover the Fight For $15 Convention?

Two weekends ago, over 1300 people convened in Chicago for the first ever Fight For $15 convention. While the low-wage worker strikes have been escalating over time, with an increasing number of workers and cities involved during each wave, and solidarity among the participants displayed on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, this was the first time that workers-turned-activists from different cities traveled to one location to discuss their experiences and plan for future actions. It could prove to be a major event which unifies the movement as they prepare for escalation in the form of civil disobedience and store occupations.

Due to the importance of this event, I decided to study how the mainstream media covered the gathering, if they even provided coverage. Using Google News, I searched for the term “Fast Food Convention”, which provided over 300 articles, all between July 25th and 28th. After analyzing the first 20 articles, I noticed an emerging pattern: A large majority of these articles were correlated from two Associated Press articles, one which previewed the event [example], and another which provided a recap. [example]

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An Urgent Letter to the SIlent Majority

I am writing this letter to you.

Not those who already take the streets chanting ‘What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? NOW!’. This post isn’t directed at the brave activists who are blocking the Keystone XL and Enbridge pipelines with their bodies. Nor is this addressed to those rebuilding the lives of residents in the Rockaways, Staten Island, the Jersey Shore, and other areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy. I am not trying to reach those who block the water shutoff tanks in Detroit to prevent poor residents from being denied their basic human right to running water.

No, these people already understand the urgency that we face as the global temperatures rise and extreme weather patterns intensify. The activist networks that comprise the climate movement already realize what is at stake, and truly understand that protests and direct action are the most effective forms of resistance to these threats.

In the late 1960s, Nixon campaigned and won the presidency, in part due to appealing to what he called the ‘silent majority’, those who weren’t active in the anti-war and civil rights movements, and took a much more moderate stance. Today, I am writing for a different ‘silent majority’: the two-thirds of US residents who believe that the effects of global warming will occur during their lifetimes. Those who are aware of the issues of climate change, and believe that it needs to be solved, but don’t fully understand the crisis unfolding in front of us.

You might read articles in the Climate section of ThinkProgress and sign petitions on MoveOn, urging our politicians in the United States and throughout the world to act on climate issues. When Election Day approaches, you scan campaign websites, researching the environmental positions of each candidate. You might feel like you are doing your part, participating in the democratic process. Maybe you even recycle, or bring reusable bags when you shop, or donate money to organizations that are fighting for climate action. But we are at a point where this alone is truly not enough.

While you are looking at scientists and politicians for the answers, contributing donations, votes, and petition signatures, they are gazing back hoping that you raise your voices. The truth is, we don’t have as much time as you might think. We already see pictures of the polar ice caps liquidating, buildings being destroyed by the strongest storms we’ve seen in centuries, and reports of temperatures rising all over the world.

The National Climate Assessment released in May by the White House, states that we need to take action now, as the climate has already changed significantly, with strong storms like Hurricane Sandy and serious droughts like what we are witnessing in California signaling the beginning of the end. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also released a report last September that we only have 30 years left before our “carbon budget” is spend. A third report, from the Canadian group Our Horizon, states that we only have 16 years before greenhouse gases lead us to a tipping point that will be impossible to recover from. Whether or not we agree on exactly how long we have left, there is consensus that this process is intensifying and will not be stopping anytime soon, which will be devastating for our entire planet.

Despite what you might think, there is no opposition. The only groups and scientists releasing reports that counter these claims are funded by the Koch brothers and big oil interests like ExxonMobil, whose economic interests are directly threatened by the fight against climate change. In fact, a study released in January 2014, found that only .01% of peer-review authors reject that global warming is man-made, and a significant threat to our way of life.

Does this scare you? Good. You need to be alerted of the urgency of this issue because if you continue to simply contribute from a distance then our time on this planet is over.

I want you to close your eyes. Now think deeply about what you are thankful for. What do you care about more than anything else? Why do you wake up in the morning? What keeps you going, even through the tough days?

Still thinking? Is it your friends? Your family? Your career? The trees and air around you? The Internet? No matter what you cherish, it is all being threatened and if you don’t act, you will lose it all. We will lose EVERYTHING.

What can you do? Speak up and get active in the climate movement, because mass resistance is the only way that we can defeat the millions of dollars spent by the most powerful lobbyists in the world.

As you may have heard, there will be a huge UN summit of world leaders meeting on September 24th in New York City. Three days before this meeting, Avaaz, 350.org, and hundreds of organizations, including unions, faith groups, students, environmentalists, and many others are planning the People’s Climate March, the largest in US history. We will march through Manhattan with thousands of people, sending the message that we need climate action. Not in a decade. Not five years from now. RIGHT NOW.

As the promo video states, “To change everything, It takes everyone.” Silence is no longer an option.

Join us in New York City on September 21st. Bring all of your friends! Volunteer to help spread the word. Share the message on social media as often as you can and spread it to every person you know.

It’s up to you. It’s up to all of us.

We can’t afford to lose.

Documenting Resistance: Striving for a Living Biography of the Climate Movement

 I think that when organizing successful movements, especially for an issue as urgent as climate change, there is one golden question which is the key to mobilizing large segments of the population:

How do you spread your message to people who aren’t currently engaged in your movement?

How do you reach the segments of the population who didn’t sign the Keystone XL petition, the passive public who are waiting for Obama and other world leaders to make the decisions that will prevent this crisis of our human species? How do you shift the paradigm so that instead of people asking ‘What are the environmental groups and government organizations doing?’ they will be asking ‘What can I do to contribute?’

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