Occupy Cyberspace

Today, I saw a message on Twitter about the police shutting down Occupy Hartford. Interestingly enough, the first source on Twitter I saw talking about this was a traditional local news organization that has started using Twitter. I immediately sent a message to a Hartford City Counselor whom I know on Twitter and who has been supportive on the Occupy movement. He provided additional details to the story.

As far as I know, the encampment was shutdown without any major incidents. As I drove home from work, I listened to a story about the Occupy movement and how active it has been on Twitter. Occupy Hartford never seemed all that active on Twitter, and perhaps that is a contributing factor to the end of the encampment.

Twitter is changing a lot of the political discourse. As a whole, the occupy movement seems to have made good use of social media, even if Occupy Hartford didn’t. Issues that resonate, that are likely to be repeated, have the ability to emerge when others are trying to control the message, and that is, perhaps the real power of the occupy movement and the importance of occupying cyberspace.

A recent kerfuffle is illustrating this quite nicely. Chick-Fil-A has sent a cease and desist order to the guy who created the Eat More Kale T-shirts. They have trademarked ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ and are apparently concerned that people might confuse kale and chicken. The story is starting to get legs and the New York Times and NPR have both covered it. There is a YouTube video of Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin suggesting people from Chick-fil-a that don’t understand the difference between kale and chicken come up to Vermont where it will be explained to them.

Chick-fil-a has a press release out talking about the importance of defending the brand and the trademark. Unless someone backs down or a compromise is reached, the trademark will have to be defended in court, and Chick-fil-a’s ability to defend its trademark from kale eating artists in Vermont is questionable.

What is not questionable, is that Chick-fil-a doesn’t get the importance of occupying cyberspace. Yes, they are on Twitter with over 100,000 followers. @EatMorChikin is also on Twitter with around 7,500 followers. Yet when you look at the buzz, #teamkale seems to be out performing @chickfila today. They whether or not they successfully defend the ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ trademark against ‘Eat More Kale’, their current efforts are not successfully defending the brand.

Especially in this time of the occupy movement where the richest 1% and large corporations are vilified, it seems particularly a bad idea for a large fast food corporation to go after a small artist encouraging people to eat more healthy food. It just isn’t a winning narrative. Add to this, Chick-fil-a claiming to exist ‘to glorify God’, and they even more wide open to attacks. Is trying to shut down a small artist glorifying God? I don’t think so.

I have to wonder what is going on internally at Chick-fil-a. Is there someone in the organization who is pointing out that this has the potential to grow into an even larger public relations fiasco? Is there someone trying to reconcile this fiasco with glorifying God? Or, are they just going along with their lawyers and already in so deep that they just don’t see that it is well past time to stop digging?

Occupying cyberspace is about allowing people powered messages to emerge, messages that have a compelling narrative that people will repeat. Organizations need to think seriously about what this does to their business models.

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