In many great children's books, there's a heroine who proves that adults are, for the most part, kind of stupid by rallying the rest of the school behind her cause. In the real world, however, it doesn't always work out.
Take, for example, the case of 15-year-old Tess Chapin, who was profiled in the New York Times yesterday for creating a Facebook group to protest the fact that she'd been grounded for five weeks by her parents after she broke her curfew and was caught drinking at a party. Desperate to get out of her punishment, Tess created a "advocacy" group on Facebook called "1000 to get tess ungrounded," a goal, the Times notes, that she reached soon after the Grey Lady picked up her cause.
"This is teenage rebellion, electronic style - peaceful, organized and, apparently, contagious," writes Susan Dominus of the Times. Bad news for Tess, though: it's also highly ineffective, apparently, as her parents don't seem to care how many people have signed on to support their daughter's "un-grounding." As her mother says, "That's not going to do it, sweetheart."
The irritating thing, naturally, is that Tess should be grounded. It's not even a question! It's not even up for debate! To quote the great Ugg Lee of Camp Anawanna, "Get it right or pay the price." If you're breaking your curfew and drinking, you're going to have to deal with the consequences. This isn't really "teenage rebellion" (that would be the drinking and curfew breaking) as much as a weird notion that ANY cause is justifiable as long as you can get the entire internet to back you up. The notion that internet numbers alone are enough also works both ways: fans have seen television shows, like Chuck, saved by internet-based campaigns, though it appears that all of the Team Conan hullaballoo around the internet didn't seem to do much to stop the seemingly inevitable Jay Leno Tonight Show takeover. Tess may have had the numbers on her side, but her parents, Jeff Zucker style, aren't going to budge.
The instant advocacy of the internet has its definite pluses and minuses: for every legitimate organization being tweeted about in the wake of Haiti's devastating earthquake, providing people with links and information as to where to make a safe and proper donation, there were people, as always, taking advantage of the situation, like Tila Tequila, who decided to let everyone know that she was an angel sent from God and that she had messages to send us all regarding God's actions on earth or something. You could read all about it, she pointed out, on her blog.
The trick, I suppose, is knowing how to pick your battles, and finding a way to wade through all of the hype and the nonsense (see also: bra color status updates) in order to get to the root of the issue. At it's best, internet advocacy is a quick and amazing way to spread the word and help a cause. At it's worst, it's a self-serving mess. And in Tess Chapin's case, it's all just unnecessary: maybe she should start another Facebook group called "Thanks Mom," as her mother forced her father to compromise on a grounding period—he wanted to ground her for three months.