Each year I am amazed by Blue Monday’s formidable penetration of the public conversation. Of course, it is total PR bollocks- Everyone who knows that all bathroom products are made of the same elixir, M&S food is food like any other regardless of the dulcet tones of Matthew Mcfadden and Jim Morrison isn’t really dead knows that. Yet at the same time, year on year, it trends on twitter (0.06% at its peak yesterday) and is splashed all over online and traditional outlets.
Even Blue Monday’s creator, pseudoscience wizard Cliff Arnall (who concocted the theory on behalf of Sky Travel), admits that it’s rubbish, but he also raises a good point. Blue Monday succeeds in getting British people to talk about their feelings far more successfully than any number of peer-reviewed journals. This, combined with the fact that practically every charity and a fair number of consumer PRs recycle the concept every year for their own campaigns, mean Blue Monday is here to stay, bullshit or no.
Somewhat more doubtful is the longevity of Jimmy Wales’s much trumpeted Wikipedia Shutdown. For those who’ve not heard, today bad journalists, students and bullshitters of all stripes will be without the iconic information resource until 5am tomorrow. In place of the site’s usual homepage will be a number for US congress.
The whole thing was devised as a protest against SOPA- the intention being to flood congress complaints lines with calls and generally take online direct action for maximum disruption. Of course, in the face of White House opposition it’s unfortunately looking less and less likely that SOPA will pass. A cynic might accuse Wales of trying to grab a bit of the spotlight and ride along with the zeitgeist a little way. Acting out against SOPA seems ludicrous to me anyway- as a lover and supporter of creative ideas and content, I like to see those responsible receive financial remuneration.
Whatever his motivation, Wales is making a big mistake. By preparing all parties prior to his act of disruption, he’ll fail to fully to capitalise on what could have been a great publicity stunt. If those affected by the blackout had no idea what was happening, they’d be totally hooked the next day by posthumous explanations. They’d tweet about it, and others would debate those tweets. As it is, the party was over before it began.
A potentially major conversation starter- the removal of the English speaking world’s primary go-to resource is alarming enough to generate real buzz- may go off half-cocked. By being afraid to genuinely worry people, Wales will stop short of genuinely exciting them too. As far as this might make life easier for supporters of SOPA, I’m happy, but I’m never pleased to see a great media happening go to waste.