In the era of Social Media, social media can be an average citizen’s great equalizer with corporate and government power. The ruling hegemony no longer has total control over the mass media as it did in the past. Average citizens and grassroots activist groups can easily and cheaply produce their own visual propaganda and get a worldwide audience.
A case in point is a YouTube video by Canadian musician Dave Carroll, who saw baggage handlers damage his $3,500 guitar, which had been checked in baggage. He filed a damage claim with United Airlines, but the company said he was ineligible for compensation because he filed his claim incorrectly. After nine months of fruitless haggling, he decided to produce a protest music video and post it on YouTube.com in 2009. It amassed more that 150,000 views within one day, prompting a quick promise from United to pay up.
Within four days of the video being posted online, United Airlines’ stock price fell 10 percent, costing stockholders about $180 millions in value. The German news service Tagesschau cited “United Breaks Guitars” as an example of a new kind of threat corporations face in the Internet age. By now, the video (http://youtu.be/5YGc4zOqozo) has been viewed more than 13 million times, and Carroll has published a book about his experiences and created a consulting business on customer relations.
Russell Cook, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication
Loyola University Maryland