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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Social Media and Social Protest

Social media have played a key role in the spread of the Occupy and tea party movements.

At the San Francisco Examiner, Amy Crawford writes that the movement originally suffered from disorganization.

But in the past several days in San Francisco, a small group of occupiers, several of whom have experience in advertising, media or information technology, have tried to take charge of the movement’s message, producing videos and running an increasingly sophisticated public relations campaign.

“It went from really chaotic and disorganized to people saying, ‘OK, these are the people that talk to the media,’” said Miran Istina, 18, one of about a dozen members of Occupy San Francisco’s media and communications team. “I try to direct media to people they really should be talking to, rather than just doing random interviews.”

Some Occupy members were unhappy with initial coverage in newspapers and on TV, they said. So despite their progressive politics, they took a page from the playbooks of corporations and campaigns, assembling a small media-relations team that is in charge of trying to make sure Occupy stays on message.

“I think it’s unfair to say we’re really unhappy with the coverage and we’re going to entirely blame the media, even though we haven’t released a single press release,” said communications team member Morgan Marquis-Boire, 32, who has also worked on the group’s website.

Occupy SF initially relied on Facebook and Twitter to get its message out, said Marquis-Boire, who has a day job at a tech company, but they soon realized they had to work with newspapers, radio and TV as well. “Social media’s great,” he said, “but when it comes to traditional media, you need to have a team that’s focused on actually dealing with the media.”

The Sand Springs Leader reports:

Kyera Coghill, 19, of Sand Springs joined Occupy Tulsa after she saw police corral and pepper spray protestors in New York City, she said. More broadly, she was tired of seeing corporations use money to get their way in politics, she said.

"I'm really sick of what corporations are doing," Coghill said. "It troubles me that they can buy politicians."

Coghill watched the movement in New York City from afar, monitoring it using social media. What finally spurred her to action in Tulsa was the depiction of protestors being corralled and maced in New York.

"When I saw that, I got really mad, so I started researching it and began following it," she said. "I'm pretty sure I've liked almost every Occupy page on Facebook."

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports on a gathering of tea party activists:

Probably the most popular session of the day was a panel discussion on "inside the left's tactics." Chad Biddinger, founder of a Texas-based grassroots group called LibertyLinked, warned of a Democratic political machine that might seem unrecognizable in Florida, where Republicans in the Legislature currently enjoy their first veto-proof majority since Reconstruction.

"They organize everywhere," Biddinger told the audience of nearly 50 people. "The biggest thing Democrats do is they court every vote. ... They're very committed.

"I'm not being critical of the left," he added. "The left outflanks us. ... They have a cohesive strategy."

Real estate blogger Alice Linahan, founder of the website, spoke to the group about "driving the narrative" to make sure their message got out through the use of social media sites and strategies.

"We (voters) are the biggest threat to the political establishment," she said. "We don't have a lot of money. What we have is the truth and a lot of voters."

Linahan's message might have played just as well at a progressive event -- "Our goal is to make elected officials beholden not to the dollar but to voters," she said at one point -- but she made it clear her politics are rooted in conservative ideas.