Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day Becomes Protest Day
Today American taxpayers in more than 300 locations in all 50 states will hold rallies -- dubbed 'tea parties' -- to protest higher taxes and out-of-control government spending. There is no political party behind these rallies, no grand right-wing conspiracy, not even a 501(c) group like

So who's behind the Tax Day tea parties? Ordinary folks who are using the power of the Internet to organize. For a number of years, techno-geeks have been organizing "flash crowds" -- groups of people, coordinated by text or cellphone, who converge on a particular location and then do something silly, like the pillow fights that popped up in 50 cities earlier this month. This is part of a general phenomenon dubbed "Smart Mobs" by Howard Rheingold, author of a book by the same title, in which modern communications and social-networking technologies allow quick coordination among large numbers of people who don't know each other.

In the old days, organizing large groups of people required, well, an organization: a political party, a labor union, a church or some other sort of structure. Now people can coordinate themselves.

This tea party movement is a completely organic grass roots uprising. That fact is critical. It simply isn't that noteworthy to get the professional protesters on the left to show up for the latest cause celebre, but for real people who've never protested anything in their lives - working people, moms and dads, run of the mill citizens - to show up and make their voices heard about the state and direction of our country is quite newsworthy and momentous and historic.