UC Berkeley Students Educate California: Don’t Get Meg’d
October 4, 2010 1 Comment
Jesse-Justin Cuevas, Editor in Chief
In early September, Klein Lieu, Nik Dixit and their team of six other UC Berkeley undergraduates came together to launch Don’t Get Meg’d, a grassroots effort to educate voters about Meg Whitman’s campaign for Governor of California. The activist organization is multi-dimensional and iGenerational; Don’t Get Meg’d utilizes social media to its maximum potential, featuring a website, a YouTube channel, a Twitter account and a Facebook page to educate followers.
Don’t Get Meg’d’s goal is to inform young voters of the dangers of electing Meg Whitman, the former Chief Executive Officer and President of eBay. But more importantly, the message is a democratic one: the American Government is not for sale.
Today, less than one month until November 2nd, the Midterm Elections are on everybody’s mind. But this year’s Midterms are particularly significant, in light of January’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. On January 21st, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held that corporate funding during elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment.
Lieu and Dixit feel that Don’t Get Meg’d is especially pertinent now, given the timing of Citizens United and the 2010 Midterms.
“Here’s a woman who didn’t vote until very recently, and now all of a sudden…[she] woke up and decided she wanted to be governor,” Dixit said with conviction. But isn’t that what American democracy is all about—being able to wake up one morning and run for office if you are so inspired? Didn’t Kennedy get criticized for his lack of experience? Didn’t Obama?
While the people behind Don’t Get Meg’d absolutely oppose Whitman’s political platform, Lieu made a distinction between Don’t Get Meg’d’s concern for Whitman’s political experience, her politics on their own and the message her election would send.
“The sole fact is,” Lieu clarified, “she’s put 114 million dollars [into her campaign]. If Whitman wins, what does that mean for California and the nation? That anybody who has money can win the election. This isn’t eBay, she can’t just ‘Buy it Now.’”
Young people themselves, the team of eight is targeting Generation Y in hopes of keeping voter turnout high after the 2008 Presidential Election. Don’t Get Meg’d followers and subscribers receive updates about Whitman’s political process and her position on youth issues—the economy, education, the environment, marriage equality and immigration—on a near-daily basis. While the grassroots team hasn’t set up daily emails just yet, Don’t Get Meg’d is innovative in differentiating its cause from other advocacy groups and keeping people amped through social media.
“Our generation is very different from the generation of the 1960s. In the 60s, there were a few hardcore activists cashing in. Today, the Internet allows us to reach out to ordinary folks. Pamphleting was popular in the 60s. ‘Suggesting to friends’ is like passing out literature,” Dixit told me.
But for better or for worse, the Internet is noninvasive. While the politically inclined person may be swamped with Facebook/Twitter/Reddit tags and posts directing them to articles and pages he actually will explore, the less politically inclined social media user may take note of a headline but never click the link. Lieu and Dixit recognize that there are both advantages and disadvantages to using the web as an organizing tool.
“[The Internet] is the starting point for action; it’s not the end,” they said, “We can talk as much as we want, but at the end of the day we have to go out there and vote.”
And how exactly does Don’t Get Meg’d take their activism beyond the computer? Well, for starters, the team works hard to make sure that its daily updates stand out. “We make sure we’re not repeating somebody else’s talking points and that we’re speaking to young people in a language they understand,” Lieu said. Don’t Get Meg’d takes note of the Millenials’ particularly short attention spans and taps into Gen Y’s sense of humor to send a message. The team consists of videographers and graphic artists to create diverse ads and “cartoons that capture the essence of [Don’t Get Meg’d’s] campaign in 500 pixels.”
Though Lieu and Dixit are confident in the transition from virtual activism to physical participation, Don’t Get Meg’d is taking further steps to enhance interaction between the organization’s campaign and its supporters. In line with his group’s generational attunement, Lieu sardonically posted some items on eBay. Up for auction include the Governorship of California, the California Public Education System and the state’s environment. The idea behind the eBay prank is to drive home the fact that Whitman plans to buy her election and that as a democracy, the people of California cannot let her. The team also recently launched a video contest that begs not only for political action but for political research and education as well (the submission deadline is October 20th, so get in your videos soon!).
“Students all across California mobilize like wildfire, and it is a mistake for people in the media to write us off,” Dixit said. Lieu added, “Young people can be a force.”
Judging by the work of Don’t Get Meg’d, we certainly are.