The 19th and 20th centuries were dominated by mass movements. Much of modernity’s memeplex is therefore dominated by the spectacle of the mass movement. Lucky for us, mass movements will become less and less relevant as time rolls on. The mass movement is an archaic artifact of a certain time period when the contemporary level of technology was prone to creating powerful mass movements.
In the late 1700’s, the Industrial Revolution was beginning. In Europe and North America there was generally a high level of literacy and the things being read were mostly distributed locally. Some books and works gained wide appeal, but most written communication was in the form of personal letters and also broadsheets published locally by various organizations within the local city. The mass production of paper, ink, books, and newspapers soon lead to large numbers of people reading mass communication distributed by a small number of centrally thinking organizations. Some governments resisted fiercely the new technology, but most succumbed to revolutions begat by mass movements. The American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Spring of Nations in 1848, and the Russian Revolution were all sparked and controlled by the new media. Over time, the newspapers and pamphlets were augmented by radio, film, and television that were – once again – controlled by a small number of people and consumed by millions.
The internet has begun to change the media game, and will continue to alter it even more drastically as time goes on. Small numbers of people are now able to talk to small numbers of other people on massive scale. This destroys the potential mass movement. Witness the Occupy Movement – in a different time it might have been able to pull off some its aims (whatever those were) but in the age of the internet it was rightly seen as more of a farce than a serious revolutionary movement.
The future belongs to small and highly coordinated groups, not lumbering mass movements. Crafting our message to appeal to millions? That is so twentieth century…