Nothing says more about citizens' loss of faith in government than a website in Santa Rosa, CA called "StoptheGusher", where ordinary citizens have gathered to share ideas, offer suggestions, and rack their brains about what to do about the Gulf Oil Spill.
Almost three months into this crisis, both BP and the White House appear paralyzed. But on StoptheGusher, people spend hours composing long, intricate plans and copying their Congresspeople, proposing concrete underwater containment barriers, and suggesting organic products such as Kenaf, an oil-soaking plant grown in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas that is ground down, refined and marketed as SupremeSorb.
What does this mean? It means people are ready to take matters in their own hands, and that they know social media makes this possible. Social media is a force for good, or potentially a force for trouble. It is more powerful than Republicans, Democrats, and Tea Parties, as we saw after the Iran elections. It has the power to call citizens into the streets.
The founder of Democrasoft,
the company that put up the site, believes the leak is not just some news item that has been through its peak cycle, but is an ongoing global catastrophe that is getting worse by the hour and needs every bit of public attention available. He thinks social networking has a purpose.
Most social media sites originated from the same purposeful desire to change the status quo for the better. Even Mark Zuckerberg, the oft-demonized Facebook founder, has been quoted in David Kirkpatrick's "The Facebook Effect" as saying he would rather change the world than make money.
It's apparent that even if the media moves on to other stories, the people will not forget about the oil spill, and that it makes them more unhappy by the day. Add that to the unhappiness about declining standards of living, massive unemployment, the ballooning of the debt, and the collapse of our education system, and you have a recipe for disaster if the government does not enlist those who want to help in more effective ways. It's not enough to create government web sites like Healthcare.gov that give information. It's time for the government to create sites that respect some of the intelligent and thoughtful suggestions being aggregated on StoptheGusher and put them to work.
How about creating jobs by stopping the gusher?