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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