What do KISS, IKEA & Muslim women have in common? Unfortunately there’s no snappy punchline, it’s just an excuse to weave a nerd narrative through a bunch of interesting news stories.
I’m sure by now you’ve got your Oshawa B&B resos, relieved to hear the city’s glam-rocker residents’ KISS ARMY allegiance wasn’t in vain. The band ran a straightforward prove-how-much-you-love-us online contest, which was styled like a petition, requiring city residents to submit email addresses, & promised a concert for the winning city (regrettably it was a KISS concert). After the band announced the winning city, they published a tour schedule that did not include Oshawa. Now, it doesn’t take Columbo to examine a tour schedule & discover a gap that is geographically & schedule-wise able to accommodate a ‘secret’ show or ‘by popular demand’ second night in a venue (Hello Wilco, Welcome to Massey Hall x2!). Nonetheless, the interwebs’ hyper hypos have an irrepressible impulse to stretch their harnesses. The city was up in arms, thousands joined Facebook protest groups, locals became ‘representatives’ on news outlets, fansites heaved & a PR maelstrom ensued. Can’t completely blame unnerved fans for their reaction, but it proves that an online ‘petition’ campaign banking on engaging region-specific communities must reach all stakeholders clearly, consistently & concurrently – online & in ‘public’/mainstream media messaging – or face the wrath of multiple red-dye-tongue-waggings.
From KISS to kisses, The Times’ Freakonomics blogger Steven Dubner references gay rights kissing protests in Salt Lake City (or ‘IRL’ – in real life) in a fantastic quorum post called ‘How Much Do Protests Really Matter?’. It’s a great long piece that highlights some of the most effective protests throughout history – & puts the KISS KRAP, ridiculous IKEA font fiasco & the ultimate online overreaction of #AmazonFail (of which Shirkey’s blushing reflection is the best) – into perspective. Kent State, this ain’t. Aside from totally dismissing the online flareups, what can be gleaned from recent issues that’ve made their way into the mainstream?
One positive example of addressing consumer concerns straight-on is the triage-style response from Tim Horton’s to their comp’ed coffee clusterfritter. After being accused of supporting anti-gay groups, HQ calmly, widely, publicly stated otherwise, while explaining the franchisee relationship & corporate values in a balanced manner. Though they’ll go down in Twitter history as being ‘too slow’, realistically a major multi-national addressing an online issue centered on a (not ideal ideologically…) backwoods charity BBQ in less than 48 hours (counting weekend days…sadly the downside of our email era is expectation to check 24/7) is approaching impressive.
Finally, last Sunday’s NYTimes magazine on women’s issues had a special ‘The Medium’ column on Feminist Hawks by Virginia Herrernan. It illustrates how ‘motherhood’ issues (for lack of a better word…) can be repackaged, re-purposed & emailed for protest campaigns under new auspices. In this case an anti-Afghan outlook was wrapped in women’s rights. Herrernan tracked a popular email petition propelled by pundits such as David Horowitz that sought signatures supporting persecuted Muslim women, but stated military aggression was the solution to women’s liberation. “This material is expected to help seal Horowitz’s general case for the war on terror, though he has not yet changed the name of his cause to, say, the war on misogyny.”
It might be hard to assign a #fail to online protests writ large, but the summer months brought a new level of inane chatter that could be called out & calmed down as the temperature drops & leaves begin to fall. Creating online communities, sharing fact-checked/substantiated information & organizing IRL events is one of the strengths of the internet. Our creative communities’ ongoing successes in subverting negative legislative/funding changes & presenting a strong case for supporting the arts is my favourite example of combining social networks, multimedia & the power of assembly to affect legislative change & public discourse. Maybe revisiting the history of protests & learning from past well-informed, organized, thoughtful participants, will remind us of this. You’ve been assigned Whingeing History for first period, first semester – enjoy the final days of summer, kids