Jack Z. Bratich: The Fog Machine
We can start with a telling anecdote. State Department advisor Jared Cohen earlier this week emailed the co-founder of Twitter, requesting that they postpone a scheduled maintenance downtime. The reason? It was a critical moment for the demonstrators, and service needed to go uninterrupted. Twitter complied. The fact that a US government official is able have such pull, while not surprising, tends to get lost in a green wave of reports about social media belonging to “people power”. Who gets to place these calls and get results?
Cohen’s access should be even less surprising, given his role in State Department efforts to harness the power of social media. To wit, his role as press contact for the Alliance of Youth Movements. Launched in late 2008 with a Summit in NYC, the AYM gathered together an ensemble of media corporations, Obama consultants, social network entrepreneurs, and youth organizations, under the auspices of the State Department. Representatives came from Media Old (MTV, NBC, CNN) and New (Google and especially Facebook). The AYM produced a Field Manual and a series of How-to videos (How to Create a Grassroots Movement Using Social-Networking Sites, How to Smart Mob, How to Circumvent an Internet Proxy). The goal was to have youth leaders from around the world learn, share & discuss how to build powerful grassroots movements.
A few months ago, I wrote about this Alliance, calling it a “Genetically Modified Grassroots Organization” (GMGO). Neither wholly emerging from below (grassroots) nor purely invented by external forces (the Astroturfing done by public relations groups), these emergent groups are seeded (and their genetic code altered) to control the direction of the movement.
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