Twitter has long been a catalytic platform for social justice and protest. It actively rejects the filtered feed in favor of a democratic system where no tweet outranks another. Minor hierarchies exist in the form of promoted posts that wouldn’t otherwise appear in your feed, but like all other tweets, even sponsored impressions are doomed to bury their own grave. Ultimately, the most important messages and powerful ideas stay alive through the act of retweeting. Leaders of the feed are crowd-elected by way of ballot checks in the form of retweets and favorites.
Nowhere is this more evident than in cases like the one documented on Storify on Sept. 18, 2014. Just before 7 a.m. PST, Twitter user @ShaunKing began to detail and condemn the blatant corruption within the #Ferguson Police Department. The exposé played out over a series of almost 40 tweets in which King expertly condensed important information into digestible and retweet-able portions. By the time I began reading, 4 hours had already passed since the first tweet and some tweets had already been retweeted more than 800 times.
The experience of reading each tweet and noting how many times some had been retweeted immediately reminded me of the Human Microphone technique used at large protests and rallies. The Human Microphone, otherwise known as a Mic Check, is a people-powered process of amplifying messages when access to electronic means like a microphone or megaphone is limited or restricted. Messages are broadcast via mass repetition, sometimes as a group and sometimes via designated disseminators scattered throughout the crowd.
Mic Checks were most recently popularized and utilized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, as demonstrated in this confrontation with President Obama.
Scrolling through King’s string of tweets, I hear, almost audibly, the voices of hundreds of people relaying his thoughts across the Twitterverse. The effect is intoxicating.
"This was a DELIBERATE lie."
"––A DELIBERATE LIE"
"Mike Brown was ONE HUNDRED feet away."
"––ONE HUNDRED FEET AWAY"
"This is a grave injustice."
"––A GRAVE INJUSTICE"
The same power of unison and repetition is active in “Not Now, Not Ever!”, a choral piece by the Australian Voices national choir. Composer Rob Davidson said of the piece,
"When I heard Julia Gillard’s parliamentary speech addressing misogyny, it struck me that behind the politics there was a lot of personal feeling being communicated. I wanted to put a frame around this slice of time, to heighten my perception of what was being said behind the words, in the intonation of the voice, and in the dynamics of what was being said in interjections and reactions.”
Like the resolute defiance of an unwavering Greek Chorus, consensus is authority. Redistribution of power is inevitable.