By Tim Hardy
This is an interesting development.
By tweeting we are always visible and we make our networks of influence visible. Our meetings are in public, coordinated by hashtags that let people find us.
It wouldn’t take a degree in computer science to work out who are the most important people to influence or discredit in order to have the greatest impact on the movement.
However UK Uncut has no leaders, although it would be naive to suggest that some people do not have more influence than others. Perhaps such a movement is more robust to attacks, operating more like the internet itself and routing around damage if key nodes are taken down.
What is sure is that “threat detection” software that follows a few key twitter accounts and data mines them for certain hashtags will guarantee that we can no longer rely on surprise and that the few previously sympathetic journalists to take an interest will be joined by more hostile voices with a brief to discredit us and distort the truth.
What Might a PR Campaign Against UK Uncut Do?
One tactic might be to poison the well. They could flood social networks with false information, using fake twitter accounts. A thousand virtual Mark Stones will friend and follow then intentionally make fools of themselves to discredit us or retweet our words, twisting them to turn others against us.
Levels of abuse and noise will only rise during future twitter meetings.
Should we hide in noise?
In oppressive regimes, technologies like Haystack have failed to protect dissidents but we are operating in a different environment and the consequences of discovery are trivial in comparison. While there is comic potential and publicity to be found in deliberately generating false trails and hiding in noise, there is the danger that the movement hardens into a fixed group that knows what is real and what is a joke while others who wish to join in are as confused as the corporate spies paid to watch us.
Software takes time, algorithms need to be tweaked. We had the advantage of surprise and we still have time to outmanoeuvre them a little longer. If a PR guru wants an automatic wake up call when certain tags start trending, perhaps we could change their mind by getting a few fellow pranksters around the globe to coordinate brief “tag mobs” at times that will wake them around the clock.
Let’s Choose How We Frame the Debate
The conservative slogan activates the conservative view of taxes. But the progressive slogan, “No tax cuts for millionaires,” also activates the conservative view of taxes! The progressives are helping the conservatives.
Let’s try make our meeting tags hard to subvert so that the conservatives will help the progressives. Recently trending tag #adviceforgirls is easy to turn on its head: just tweet something intelligent as a countervoice to stereotypes of shopping and subservience or pair advice on make-up and heels with the tag #adviceforboys.
However, another recently popular tag #ihatefemaleswho is too toxic to repeat ironically.
Let’s learn from this invite to a carnival of hate.
While right wingers may be quite happy to type anything if it gives them the chance to troll, an army of corporate shills can’t flood a discussion with #VodafoneSteal without strengthening our message and angering their clients.
What Is Their Goal? How Does it Coincide with Ours?
They’re trying to protect “the brand” so they’ll try to turn people’s love for familiar high street stores against us. But you know what, they’re right! We don’t hate Boots. We love Boots! We’re angry with private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts who bought it and moved its headquarters to Switzerland so the tax it pays dropped from 33% to 3%, saving £150m a year.
It’s these kinds of legal tax avoidance we want to highlight, not the hardworking, friendly staff on the shop floor and behind the counters or the customers who rely on the stores.
How Can the PRs Help Us?
We are involved because we care. We are motivated by love not hate. We love the NHS, we love the education system, we love our forests. We love living in a society that cares for those who through no fault of their own at times are unable to pay for shelter, for food, for clothing, for transport, for medication. We were all young. Many of us will grow old. Any one of us can become disabled through illness or injury at any moment. All of us benefit from a society that values education.
We are protesting because a small clique of rich men in the cabinet have shown through their actions that they do not care.
We are protesting because small groups of rich men who value only profit are happy to buy and run businesses that operate in the UK, benefit from the infrastructure of education, transport, policing, accident and emergency subsidized by and exclusively paid for by the taxes we pay – yet will go out of their way to escape paying their fair share.
The broadest shoulders are not carrying their share of the burden and the public are supportive of us.
Nobody likes paying taxes but we all recognise the benefits.
Knowing that the masters of corporate propaganda are watching, ready to smear us and misrepresent us, can keep us sharp and remind us why we are doing this so that we keep reminding them.
And when they finally realise that we are in fact speaking for most of the customers of the brands they represent they will go back to their employers and suggest that, ultimately, paying their taxes will be cheaper than engaging in a long struggle they will never win.