Yesterday was the final day of the New Yorker Festival, and a Sunday miracle occurred. The creator and cast of Arrested Development appeared on stage together to announce that the cult-favorite was returning to television and the big screen. After years of fan site maintenance, letter writing, high DVD-sales, and questions awkwardly deflected by Michael Cera, the powers that be finally realized there was “money in the banana stand.”
While one public demand finally became satisfied in New York, a new set of demands were being made on the other end of Manhattan. The protests of Occupy Wall Street are still going on and struggling to gain steam.
Our revolutionary instincts might tell us that standing outside a big building holding colorful signs is the sure fire way to create change, but as recent years have suggested, quiet digital revolutions might be more effective. They are easier to coordinate, fast, cheap or free, and the medium inherently lends itself to conversation and spread.
It’s evident that the protestors over in the financial district are mad, but they’re message is unclear (aswe’veheard). The protestors have several gripes. Amongst their qualms are the issues with lobbying, the home foreclosure crisis, the use of capital punishment, and sustainable energy to name a few. While all of those issues are certainly worth rousing the rabble, in one list they’re disorganized at best.
By contrast the people that have long wanted to bring Arrested Development back on the air haven’t set up any shantytowns set up outside of the Fox Networks, and no police officer has found a reason to pepper spray someone chanting “Save Our Bluths!” They have one clear goal: getting their show back on the air.
Arrested Development’s return is certainly not the first example of this modus operandi. When Family Guy was taken off the air, fans were sent in to a similar email and letter writing fervor. And this method isn’t limited to television. People lost their minds when McDonald’s got rid of their two cheeseburger value meal, but that returned to the menu as well after a large Facebook group demanded that it should. TLC’s third album FanMail was brought about only because thousands of fans agreed that the trio needed to keep making music and sent the group a deluge of notes, digital and analog, that inspired the album’s creation and it’s title. If the will of the people can drive the song “No Scrubs” onto the airwaves, then the will of the people can accomplish most anything provided the goal is clear.
Arguably, it may be easier for the public to get what it wants from a corporation than from the government. Corporations are chasing after people and a clamoring mob of fans is a self identified demand pool that is begging for a product. On the other hand, a government is supposed to BE the will of the people. For massive change to happen, you need more than a list of hand raisers or a demonstration, you need a ton of people driving towards a specific goal. That's why it's called a movement.
There is one possible saving grace for Occupy Wall Street, and it’s the populist movement known as “We are the 99%.” Everyday people are taking webcam photos of themselves holding up a note that documents their real, everyday struggles. The message is clear: we are working hard to make ends meet, so why are we getting screwed? It’s a group of people joining together and realizing they aren’t alone in their struggle. Essentially, it’s the beginnings of a sort of digital democracy, and what better way to bring about that ever elusive change? Ask Egypt or Tunisia, they’ll tell you.
It appears were on the cusp of finding a way of getting our demands met without violence and upheaval. Like Gil Scott-Heron said before, the revolution will not be televised. But might it be tweeted? Tumbled? We’ve learned that we can be effective when dealing with corporations by establishing a clear single minded demand and a way to achieve it. Can we learn to make this translate to modern government? Or does the digital age still require an analog revolution?