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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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.

What’s In a Tweet?

What is in a tweet? Certainly, we see twitter elements featured on ads in subways and bus shelters, linking our digital and material worlds as if the hashtag symbol itself were a QR code. These hashtags and handles are symbols referencing meanings associated with the digital environment of twitter, whose content is itself comprised of references to the events of our physical world. This interconnectivity between different environments is only increasing as we move into a generation of smart electronics and Google Glass. As we witness this process of singularity occurring before our eyes, we must ask ourselves the question: What is the impact of these technologies on our social world? What I want to explore in particular is how these social networks impact the mobilization and radicalization processes of social movements, and how they can use these tools to build the political power needed to work toward either moderate reform or substantial systemic change in American politics.

As this exploration into the new social movements of the digital age begins, one method for ascertaining the role of social media would be to study current movements against the backdrop of similar mobilizations working toward comparable change in the pre-digital era. How do the protests, rallies, and sit-ins of today differ from past struggles for productive change? What portion of this difference can be attributed to communication via social media? For example, what distinguishes the current fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage from past movements of poor, disenfranchised workers in the United States?

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