Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Carrots, Sticks and New Consciousness

(irrelevant to this post, but cute 'carrot song' video from Korean TV)

Anyway so
1. Facebook is on the slide - that's the rumour - and it tallies with official figures
2. panic buying of perishable food isn't ostensibly that responsible in an age when 1/3 of food bought in the UK isn't consumed according to lovefoodhatewaste.com/

However there is something irresistibly random about the "On May 15th 2008, everybody needs to go out and panic buy CARROTS" group, irresistible at least to its 189,000 members and counting (& I do like their use of that irrelevant pic of a bloke holding a lobster, hopefully it's a picture from the profile page of someone they don't even know?)
Facebook group link
Homepage for the "campaign" http://www.panicbuyers.co.nr/

Just to give it a little stick... it's obviously completely daft, decadent and mildly opportunist (the £3000 Asda prize offer which links to IPT, a company which uses internet prize draws to get people to opt into direct marketing lists). It's a Hollyoaks age idea. The apparent ethos behind this stunt is well captured by a San Diego study of the current generation of students which found widespread agreement to statements like ""If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person," "I can live my life any way I want to," and "I like to be the center of attention." - (source: The Narcisstic Generation by Campbell and Twenge). Here's what the girls behind the carrot panic buy idea explain what it's about:

"Basically, a few nights ago, when I was very very drunk, I came up with the idea that everybody should go out and panic buy a certain product on a specific day. I'm not quite sure what the reason behind this is is, other than the fact that a global shortage of carrots would be quite a laugh."

The more interesting possibility behind this - perhaps - is that through such tools people are becoming aware of their power to sway media and dictate to markets.

I knew some activists years ago whose plan could be summarised as "let's all buy Burger King rather than McDonalds for the next month, click on McD's share price and watch it fall" (they were angry at that time about the McLibel thing). Then it seemed a bit far-fetched, but today that would be a pretty straightforward Facebook action.

I went to a think tank meeting last year where one idea proposed in a brainstorming (to demonstrate the potential political significance of social networks) was; "Let's 200,000 of us join the Labour party today, it's only £35, and with those numbers we'd have a majority and could dictate policy" - eg a much bolder sustainability agenda. It was rejected as an idea as implausible, impractical (the party process for tabling motions & voting by attending national conferences is arcane) and anti-democratic (shades of militant tendency) - but again its an interesting thought experiment about what's possible.

Just think what could be achieved by such tools in the hands of a genuine politically revolutionary idea?
(ie as original and compelling an idea as the Ghandhi non-violent resistance/homespun movements)

The prospect might be that we could simply change things, overnight. If we wanted to.

The only depressing question being, can 'we' actually be bothered (if it's not 'Just for a Laugh')?


John Grant said...

postscript: I just discovered that rather gratifyingly the group called "I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who dislike George Bush!" has 1,000,021 members

John Grant said...

in fact it's a rather historic moment, it only passed the one million mark 25 minutes ago apparently