web wars

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Mon Nov 19 18:42:01 CST 2001


[ed:  Steve is responding to the Nov. 15 strategy on using parody 
web sites as an organizing tactic.]

From: Steve Wilke-Shapiro <commdevelopr at yahoo.com>

When I read the "web wars" message, I was not quite sure whether 
to
laugh or get angry.  I finally ended up somewhere inbetween.  It 
seems
like this is yet another example of how valid messages of protest
against organizations (or individuals) can get coopted and distorted 
by
groups that seem more focused on self promotion than social 
justice.

While this seems to happen consistently with groups protesting the
actions of the WTO, it also occurs in the everyday politics of
neighborhoods and cities.

Parody in my mind is not an effective means of growing a group of
spreading an idea.
  1.  The reader must already have an understanding of the 
organization
or individual being parodied in order to understand the parody.
  2.  A parody itself does not move one towards coordinated action.
  3.  A parody that is not recognizable as a parody has the potential
to misinform the viewer.
  4.  A parody that is not recognizable as a parody has a strong
likelyhood of alianating the viewer.

Take the web site stealing program discussed in the "web wars" 
message.
 Let's say I end up at the "Micro$oft" parody site while searching for
a Windows update file.  The people who create the site and get me 
to
load the page are effectively telling me that their "message" is 
more
important than whatever I am doing - not an effective way of 
converting
the masses.  

As a consumer, I already know that Microsoft is a giant 
multinational
corporation that does things I am not happy about.  The act of 
changing
the "s" in Microsoft to a "$" does less to educate me than to mislead
me as a viewer.

That said, I do believe that parody has a place in organizing - but a
small place.  Parody is an effective means of energizing a group of
people that is already committed to a cause, not convincing others 
to
join.  Have someone dress up as "Bill Gates" and give a speech 
before
boarding the bus to protest at the Microsoft antiturst trial.  There is
a gray line between parody and an "attention grabbing" gimmick 
that
gets your organization on the nightly news.  Where a parody is the
message itself (subject to misinterpretation), an effective attention
grabbing device focuses attention on a group so that it can get its
message out.

Steve Wilke-Shapiro




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