Tactic 5 - Just add humour

This tactic is good for reaching out to diverse audiences and for encouraging people to spread your messages. This tactics card includes:

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Tactic 5 - Provoke a smile from Tactical Technology Collective on Vimeo.

Examples from this video:


In a response to the contested Presidential elections in Belarus in 2006, advocates used the internet to organise gatherings to oppose President Lukashenko’s administration. The gatherings they organised were ‘flash mobs’ – brief, sudden actions performed by a large group of people who assemble in a public place before quickly dispersing. These flash mobs were mostly organised a day or two before they happened through websites, blogs, SMS, and online chat programmes. They had special significance in Belarus because unauthorised group public actions are prohibited by the government. At one flash mob, 40 to 50 people entered a public square eating ice creams, humourously drawing attention to the restrictions on the right to public gatherings. While the young people involved had done nothing except eat ice cream together, several were arrested. Others took photographs of the arrests and these circulated widely on LiveJournal and other websites. The flash mob received significant media attention. Zhenya Mantsevich, a journalist and blogger in Belarus, says, “The result of the flash mobs was that many people saw how cruel and stupid our authorities can be, if they detain even people eating ice cream. People saw that something is wrong in our society.”

Tools used: Both personal and community pages on LiveJournal. ICQ (chat programme). Text messages on mobile phones.

Reach: 12 flash mobs as a reaction to the 2006 elections, with 100-200 people at the most well-attended flash mobs. Most participants were from Minsk.

Cost: Free, with small individual cost of sending text messages via SMS Resources: Internet access and mobile phone access for the people who gathered.

Time: Anywhere from a few hours to a few days to coordinate enough people for the flash mob, but not more than that, as word could reach authorities if too much time is taken to announce the gathering.

Level of difficulty: 1 out of 5.

Links to learn more:



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.



Mix your own ringtone and raise awareness using humour: If you want to draw attention to comments made by a politician or public figure, you can edit these from a radio or television broadcast and re-mix this with music to make your own ringtone. Audacity is a free and open source software that will help you to do this. It is easy to use and it allows you to make new and mix multiple recordings together. For detailed instructions on how to make your own ringtone see the Audacity Wiki. You can share your ringtone on your website and on popular ringtone sharing sites like Phonezoo to help them spread further.




“In Egypt we have had a dictatorial regime for 25 years. If I get a joke about my President and forward it to 10 of my friends and each of them forwards it their friends, the joke might get modified on the way, but it is spreading virally and very quickly.”


“The flash mobs in Belarus weren’t very popular in all regions, because they depended on the active online community, and internet penetration wasn’t that strong outside of the capital back then. But they were important because they showed fresh and creative thinking, and brought together a lot of the young people who likely never before participated in any political or civic actions.”


“Humour is the first step to break taboos and to fears. Making people laugh about dangerous stuff like dictatorship, repression, censorship is a first weapon against those fears…without beating fear you can not make any change. So humour is very effective.”

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