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Anti-stimulus tea parties light up Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and social media

February 27, 2009 |  5:08 pm
Stimulishartford
Protesters rally against the stimulus plan in Hartford, Conn. Credit: Bob Child / Associated Press

In the latest example of how user-produced media can capture so-called "massively-shared" events in a way mainstream media can't, a wave of images, blog posts and videos from a nationwide protest has been washing across the Web. The protests, dubbed "tea parties" by participants, were held Friday in several U.S. cities including Portland and Washington, D.C. as a response to what demonstrators see as unfettered spending and encroaching government as represented by President Obama's economic recovery plans.

The tea parties were catalyzed by the widely seen screed by CNBC personality Rick Santelli, in which he jokingly suggested he'd organize a Chicago tea party to protest what he saw as the president's plan to "subsidize the losers' mortgages." 

The idea is a reference to the Boston Tea Party, the famous revolutionary-era event in which American colonists dumped British tea into the Boston Harbor to protest oppressive taxation policies by the British government. 

Though even a year ago it would've been a slow and difficult process to chronicle a widely scattered protest such as this, the online community is now mastering the art of high-speed media sharing, a trend that can unite geographically disparate communities via the Web. Much of the sharing is now facilitated by the fast-growing messaging site Twitter, where today the keyword "teaparty" was one of the most frequently used terms. Users sent out a flurry of updates about attendance, links to photos on Flickr and Photobucket, and videos on YouTube and other sites. 

The protests appeared to be rather small and did not attract much coverage in the mainstream media. But interested observers had a remote window into the activities taking place in cities such as Tulsa, Okla., Austin, Texas, Nashville, Chicago, Lansing, Mich., Houston, Hartford, Conn., and Los Angeles, where a group gathered this morning on the Santa Monica pier. (This blog reports that, as a part of that action, former "Saturday Night Live" actor Victoria Jackson read the definition of "socialism").

If social media is a good barometer, it looks like the spending bill is stimulating the citizenry already.

-- David Sarno

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