Last Friday, Republican Members of Congress launched a firestorm over high gas prices, and they haven’t looked back since.
To fuel the fire, my good friend Eric Odom and I quickly saw the brouhaha brewing on Twitter — mostly under the vigilance of Katie Harbath, Media Lizzy, and others — and started using the hashtag “#dontgo” as a way to label posts about the conversation. Others quickly joined in, and before long we had the makings of a movement. Within an hour I had fired up WordPress and launched a new site, http://dontgo.us. By adding an RSS aggregator on the homepage and a petition post on an inside page, we were able to provide a platform for the conversation, even for people who aren’t active on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Congressman John Culberson demonstrated the reach of new media when he began broadcasting the House post-session session via his Qik channel. For those of you unfamiliar with the technology, Qik lets users broadcast live streaming video via their cell phone. Despite the Congressional blackout, Culberson was able to broadcast every word to a hungry online audience.
We still need your help
The #dontgo movement has really started to grow. Rep. Eric Cantor has launched a petition site at www.callbackcongress.com that now has over 5,000 signatures. Although responsibilities here at Flat Creek have pulled me back to work, Eric has faithfully kept http://dontgo.us updated with breaking news and links to relevant sites and is on the verge of launching a massively cool site at http://dontgomovement.com.
This really is a case study in how like-minded people who don’t even know they’re working on the same thing can converge to create something bigger than themselves. It really speaks to the nature of viral communications. There was no strategic plan, no unifying message grid, and no conference call to coordinate the whole endeavor. But people with the same passion, who had the tools at their disposal, were able to move into action quickly. Will the House reconvene? It’s not likely, but thanks to new media, more people are aware of the need for energy independence.
So if you haven’t yet, go sign the petitions at http://dontgo.us and at www.callbackcongress.com. And stay tuned. One exciting thing about viral events is their unpredictability. No one knows where this will go next, we can only hope to continue to bring attention to an important issue and make more people aware of the power of new media.