Ellen DeGeneres, J.C. Penney and the Social Protester

Going viral is no longer reserved for cute kittens and babies biting fingers. The Internet – and its playground – aren’t just for techies anymore.

The recent uproar by Ellen DeGeneres and Gay Rights advocates to keep the talk show host as J.C. Penney’s spokeswoman has been acknowledged by many as a victory for the exhilarating influence of the Internet. The Stand Up for Ellen campaign, sponsored by GLAAD,  has attracted some 39,000 signatures and gained several more supporters who have voiced their opinion elsewhere online. The flood of virtual support has, no doubt played a huge role in reassuring the retailer to stand by their decision.

The boycott against J.C. Penney, staged by hate family group OneMillionMoms.com, comes on the heels of other Internet-driven successes, such as the Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood reversal last week, Bank of America’s $5 debit card fee turnaround late last year and the prevention of the overcritical Stop Online Privacy Act in January.  Hell, even Bill O’Reilly (he – the man who claimed Jennifer Aniston was ‘destructive to our society‘) is uncharacteristically leaning to the left in support of Ellen by likening the campaign to McCarthyism. Go, Bill.

While some may contend that the  power of social media isn’t the most significant element at play, I have to disagree. I understand that it’s ultimately the people who believe in the cause that spark the voices and actions. However, social media intensifies and accelerates the issues and the voices against the change. Everyday Joe’s are now able to use the power of the Internet as their outlet to procure a voice in mainstream media. How are decision makers, politicians and established power players taking this? Well, just ask Karen Handel. I think shocked might be an understatement.

Yes, some of these causes may have transpired into real-life protests in the past, but that’s not a style that suits everyone.  I would rather send a tweet or sign an Internet petition than take a day off work to shout on a sidewalk. And even though some may choose to take the “virtual route”, their opinions are still as important. Social media provides a vehicle for the social protester.

Make your haters, your motivators” – Ellen DeGeneres

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