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The upheaval in Madison, pizza, and the Internet's long reach

Posted by Jesse Singal  February 21, 2011 01:25 PM

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pizza.GIFOne interesting storyline coming out of the labor fight in Madison has to do with pizza. As of yesterday, Ian's, a Madison pizza institution, "had fielded calls from concerned citizens of 12 countries, and 38 out of 50 states looking to donate money to provide free pizza to the Wisconsinites who have congregated here," according to Politico. Ian's has used Facebook to helped spread the message — and bring in more donations.

On the one hand, the "How the Internet makes it easier for protesters to ______" story is a well-trod one, especially given the recent events in the Middle East. Practically speaking, though, think about what a powerful tool this is for the organizers, and how much easier it makes it for them to keep the protest running — both from a morale standpoint and because, well, people need to eat.

This is sort of a second-order example of Internet activism. On the one hand, everyone knows that protesters use the Internet to organize, to hammer down the logistics of who will show up when, etcetera. But this is different — in this case, the web is being used to bring in material support from folks who are sympathetic, but who are otherwise completely disconnected from the situation. It's one thing to read about what's going on in Madison in the paper and nod in sympathy. It's another to see a Facebook message making it clear that all you have to do is dial a phone number and you can pledge $20 to help keep the protesters fed.

UPDATE: Commenter Konk says I missed an obvious local angle:

Leave it to the anti-UMass Boston Globe to fail to point out that Ian of Ian's Pizza is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a former employee of a little Amherst institution called Antonio's. He took the Antonio's idea to Madison, with the Amherst business's blessing, and he now has Ian's Pizza shops in Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Despite the wild imaginations of prejudiced Boston Globe reporters, UMass graduates are highly successful, socially-conscious people. You really missed a good Massachusetts angle here.

I'd attribute the omission to the fact that I simply wasn't aware of the connection, rather than to any negative feelings toward UMass, but thanks for pointing it out. Go Minutemen!

Flickr photo of Madison protesters eating pizza from user transportworkers.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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