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Social Advocacy & Politics: The Epic Twitter Arrest of @PeoriaMayor

social media politics twitter campaign and activismThe Mayor of Peoria can’t take a joke.

In April, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis ordered a police raid to shut down the expletive-laden Twitter parody account @PeoriaMayor. 29-year old Jim Daniels created the account (now renamed @NotPeoriaMayor for clarity sake) as a joke. He tweeted in the first person about “the mayor’s” drug-laden sexual escapades. The Mayor did not think it was funny. He had Daniels arrested for impersonating a public official (as if anyone would seriously believe he was the real mayor). Now Daniels, represented by the ACLU, is suing the Mayor for violation of his 1st and 4th Amendment rights.

Apparently, Mayor Ardis is oblivious to that groundbreaking @MayorEmanuel Twitter account created by Chicagoland writing professor Dan Sinker. Dan Sinker's bookSinker chronicles his own parody account of Rahm Emanuel in his book The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel. As for Emanuel, instead of trying to arrest Sinker, he offered $5,000 to him if he would out himself (Sinker remained anonymous until after the election was over, instead).

I find Mayor Ardis’s reaction to @PeoriaMayor a wasted opportunity. Instead of learning something from the parody account, he reacted in anger. When I learned of @MayorEmanuel, not only was I pleased that Rahm had taken such a positive view of it, but it spawned an epiphany for me.

I realized Twitter could be used to create theater for advocacy. Unlike Facebook, you are allowed to create Twitter accounts for fictional characters. In fact, that is part of the charm of Twitter. And if you can create fictional characters performing theater on Twitter, you can use them to tell a story that moves people to support your cause.

I once suggested to Medea Benjamin that she promote her drone book by creating two Twitter accounts, @DronePilot and @Drone, fresh out of flight school and off the assembly line, respectively. Each would tweet full of vim and vigor, excited to embrace their new mission. Occasionally @DronePilot would tweet coordinates to @Drone. Soon after @Drone would tweet back its mission report. Over time @DronePilot would become more cavalier, less sensitive to his growing kill count. With each mission report @Drone becomes noticeably more depressed. I think that would convey a core problem with drone warfare and sell some books.

In a different vein, I’ve recently embarked on a #DIYmetafiction project with Omar Shabka, an independent author whose new dotcom thriller novel, Exit Strategy, comes with a serialized version of the book via Twitter and an audience participation community on Facebook. The Facebook community features discussions with the author about the book and discussions about real world news of things happening in the book (corporate espionage, digital surveillance, etc.) with the author AND with the characters from the book. Yes… the book’s characters step out of its pages and become part of the GET Exit Strategy community. As readers and characters interact on Facebook, the plot from the novel evolves, turning the audience into the makers of the next plotline. And that is #DIYmetafiction.

That is what @MayorEmanuel inspired in me. So when I read that Mayor Ardis sent in a police raid in response to @PeoriaMayor instead of seeing the light of it, I laugh sadly at his wasted opportunity for enlightenment.

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