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Ben Zolno

Ben Zolno

Posted: May 18, 2010 09:00 AM

$30 vs. $30 Million -- How Social Media Will Bring a Corporate Giant to its Knees

What's Your Reaction:

I'll bet $30 that you and I can easily bring down a $30 million propaganda campaign led by one of the largest corporations in California.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) -- California's largest private energy supplier with a long history of illegal behavior, clean-energy requirement dodging, black outs, taxpayer bailouts and financial disasters -- has spent well over $30 million of their customers' money on a traditional one-way deceit campaign to tell voters they must vote on June 8 for Proposition 16, (the "New Two-Thirds Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers Act" constitutional amendment). If Prop 16 passes, it would require a special election with a two-thirds super-majority vote, before a community could create an electricity provider that would compete with the corporate giant.

Prop 16 unfair and would make it impossible for California communities like San Francisco, Fresno, Bakersfield, Sonoma County and Marin County to exercise their legal right to create a less expensive, greener energy alternative to a corporate energy supplier. In an era of massive pollution, water depletion and dwindling fossil fuel resources, Prop 16 is also a dangerous precedent to set for a state considered a leader in clean energy policy.

Realizing Prop 16 would be bad for basically everyone but PG&E, a number of like-minded individuals got together and dug deep into our pockets, but none of us could find a thirty-million-dollar bill. As Permaculture teaches, though, "The problem is the solution." We decided to take one millionth the budget of PG&E's expensive, drab, one-way mass-media distortion campaign, and create a cheap, hopefully humorous, person-to-person social media conversation, offering a real-person discussion that no corporation can fake.

To kick it off, we borrowed a video camera, rented a microphone for $5 and headed to the streets to film, joke, fight and cry with people from all walks of life about their values, and how Prop 16 would affect what matters to them.

At first, when they heard PG&E's marketing name for the proposition, the "Taxpayer's Right to Vote Act", many people told us, "Yeah, I'll vote for that, sure." But when they found out Prop 16's real effect on taxpayers--eliminating the right of taxpayers to save money by chaining them to a monopoly, reducing community revenue and thus causing taxes to eventually go up -- they all came to the same conclusion: No On Prop 16.

Conservatives hate Prop 16, because it uses the government to kill free-market competition in the energy sector. Progressives hate Prop 16, because it stops communities from offering the option for greener, cheaper power. Independents hate Prop 16, because it decimates small businesses and incentives for alternative energy development.

No one is happy that Prop 16 comes at a time when PG&E is already receiving taxpayer bailout money by adding a surcharge on their monthly bill, already forcing faulty "smart meters" on customers and still engaging in brazen illegal activity.

The response was so one sided, and the interest to keep the conversation going was so great, we decided to start "One Million Strong Against Prop 16 with One Millionth the Budget of PG&E".

One Million Strong Against Prop 16 with One Millionth the Budget of PG&E launches today with a very short mash-up film of all the interviews. Nine individual two-minute interviews will be released over the next few weeks, until the June 8 election.

Here's where you come in. Keep the conversation going; watch the films, share, forward and participate in the discussion with the filmmakers or other people who have comments and questions at our site, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.

If this campaign sparks a far-reaching, honest discussion, it will easily overshadow PG&E's multi-million-dollar propaganda campaign and defeat Prop 16. I'll bet you $30.

 

Follow Ben Zolno on Twitter: www.twitter.com/benzolno