Fighting the Power: Some Strategies Better Than “Don’t Tase Me, Bro!”
Community activism has always been about using information as kung fu, but from charity Taser t-shirts to Burmese bloggers, around the world people are campaigning for social justice perhaps more effectively than ever, using and reusing information in some very unconventional ways…
When The Meme Becomes a Message
While your constitutional first amendment rights are no longer guaranteed as a citizen of the United States, when you are tasered for asking a public servant a perfectly reasonable question, you can guarantee the whole episode will be turned into an MC Hammer remix on Youtube, and whatever you happen to cry out in pain while electricity is coursing through your veins will be on the front of an even more painfully ironic skinny-fit T-shirt in less than 24 hours, available for $17.80. But kudos to the shirtmaker – proceeds made from the sale of the T-shirts is going to help the Jena 6.
D.I.Y. Media Networks vs. Government Censorship
As we speak, more than 10,000 saffron-robed monks in Burma are protesting the oppressive military regime, and some, maybe as many as ten, have died for their cause this morning alone. A similar uprising was brutally crushed in Burma 20 years ago, and thanks to the regime’s veil of secrecy, the Western media was kept in the dark until afterwards.
But this kind of censorship is no longer possible. Burmese citizens are feeding stories to ex-pat bloggers around the world, relaying stories directly from the streets of Rangoon, Mandalay and Pakokku. A Burmese-born blogger Ko Htike, now living in London, publishes pictures, video and information sent to him by a network of underground contacts within the country. “I have about 10 people inside, in different locations. They send me their material from internet cafes, via free hosting pages or sometimes by e-mail,” he told the BBC News website. “All my people are among the Buddhists, they are walking along with the march and as soon as they get any images or news they pop into internet cafes and send it to me.” Using information from sources such as Ko Htike, the Democratic Voice of Burma radio station is able to broadcast news back into Burma from its base in Oslo, Norway, and has been doing so since 1992, giving the people of Burma a voice and hope for the future.
Keeping Them Honest With Tech Mash-ups
People worry about Big Brother, but often forget the awesome combined-power of Little Brother: The Voltron-esque might of millions of connected citizens now able to keep the powers-that-be in check. The President of Tunisia, for example, probably didn’t fear Google Earth, digital cameras or YouTube until a video surfaced about who was using the Tunisian presidential airplane. Although the President has been only out of the country officially three times in the last few years, his plane was been mysteriously seen all over Europe, like a UFO with diplomatic plates. People took photos and uploaded them to the net, and before you could say Candid Camera, Tunisians began asking questions about whether the taxpayer-funded plane is being used for vacations or shopping trips on the hush hush. It was a bit like getting caught using your dad’s car without asking. Except your dad is an entire nation, the car is a plane, and you’re not a teenager, but a president with some explaining to do…