just add humour

download this tactic card (pdf 672kb)

Egyptian Poster Campaign image

Plan your action

  • Even when using humour, it is best to match your campaign's tactics to the strengths of the people you want to mobilise. The Egyptian poster campaign took advantage of young people’s knowledge of how to edit images together and their desire to spread funny images on the internet.
  • With the LuNet actions, no one person or campaign was in charge. This led to many more people being able to participate in making and sharing parody images and websites, and decentralised the image-making so that no one person bore all the risk of satirising a powerful figure.
  • The kinds of messages you can communicate in an informal setting – like a karaoke bar or pub – can be very powerful in reducing people’s fear and getting them to feel included in the issue. The same is true for basing your action in places where people socialise online.
  • Having a good time and getting social recognition can be an effective motivator. As part of remixing President Mubarak into movie posters or creating President Lukashenko’s internet, people left comments for each other on their social network site profiles, blogs, and video and photo sharing websites with positive feedback on each new image they posted. This informal reward for being part of a campaign can keep people invested in even a very challenging or serious issue.

Do it yourselfAsk

  • Will you be asking people to make things – images, videos, cartoons – as part of your campaign? How will you share them online and what do you need to do protect people’s anonymity?
  • It can be difficult to keep track of all the images and videos people make as part of a humour or parody campaign. How will you archive people's contributions?
  • How will you balance respect for the people involved in the issues with the satirical content? How much can you joke and still be trustworthy to people?
  • Are there serious consequences in the regions you are working in for those who criticise the government and others in positions of power?
  • Will you directly approach the media to publicise your actions and your campaign?
  • What relationship does your spontaneous or parody campaign have with rights organisations doing more 'traditional' campaigning? Should you try to connect with those organisations in any way?
  • How will you bridge the gap between people's online posts with offline actions?

Different ways you can do this

  1. If you can’t use Twitter or another service to send messages to a group to coordinate an action quickly, or you need to keep communication more private, send text messages directly to your supporters’ mobile phones. Sex workers have done this to create a flash mob of open red umbrellas – their campaign symbol – in front of public administration buildings with just a few hours notice.
  2. You can spread messages using mobile phone ringtones. After the 2004 election in the Philippines, a ringtone was made which used a recorded phone conversation with the President that appeared to provide evidence of vote-rigging, and this was re-mixed with music. It became one of the world’s most downloaded ringtones. One organisation provided the supposed original phone recording and invited people to create their own ringtone remixes.
  3. Use remixed or parody images that have been posted to blogs and social network sites for your campaign by adapting them to create street art, posters, and handbills.
  4. In addition to creating parody websites like LuNet, you can make parody news websites that critique the censored media, and also give practical information and facts in a clever or surprising way.