22 Nov

#Cacerolazo: a national song that invaded social networks

By means of an analysis on contagion and social networks, Linterna Verde has covered this milestone in the painful history of social protests in Colombia

Por Carlos Cortés and Pablo Espinosa

Updated 28 de January, 2020 at 3:57 pm

When vandalism threatened to eclipse the peaceful marches on Thursday, the day ended unexpectedly: the first casserole protest (cacerolazo) in the history of the country. A spontaneous act of citizenship demanding the return of message of the marches and rejecting violence.

The casserole protest was also the strongest symbol – maybe the beginning – of a movement that occurred weeks before the national strike. The demands of organized sectors (students, labor unionists and indigenous people, among others) joined the expressions of rejection against president Iván Duke and his party, which faced the imminence of mobilization with the wrong strategy. Thus, the march also became a protest against the official response to the march itself.

Tweet: When you think you’ve seen everything after decades covering news in such a complex country, a casserole protest arises without me noticing it. Violence and vandalism are serious, but the sound of pots is a tremendous response from citizens.

Tweet 2: The #Cacerolazo is crushing vandals, sounding louder than them and claiming our right to protest and to do it peacefully: the government must listen to this huge nonconformism…

Linterna Verde analyzed 600 thousand tweets between Thursday morning and Friday noon. By crossing these data with other information, we found out that the mass calling for the casserole protest gained strength on Twitter and quickly expanded to other platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook.

In Bogotá, some people said they talked about the idea during the march. It is not surprising: as an expression of citizenship with references in the region, the casserole protest was in the minds of many. However, one thing is several people have an idea, and another different, more complicated thing is to achieve a contagion effect.

#Cacerolazo: the tip of the iceberg

As the graph shows, the call to start a casserole protest was unexpected, and quickly disseminated on Twitter yesterday, after 6:00 p.m. This was also a time of peak during an event of general interest: the conditions that make Twitter a TV to which all users cling.

Dissemination of the call to the casserole protest on Twitter, on the night of November 21 (words and hashtags). Source: Sysomos

In a record time of five hours (6:00 PM to 11:00 PM), #Cacerolazo appeared in 316 thousand publications on Twitter, ranking first in the global trends before midnight.

Global trends on Twitter on the night of November 21 Source: Get Day Trends

Apparently, the idea to protest at home began in Cali, as a rejection of the announcement of a curfew. Because of the riots and looting in the city, Maurice Armitage’s management imposed a curfew at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday (disinformation about the events in Cali deserves a separate analysis).

Tweet 3: In response to the curfew, the society of Cali must respond with a casserole protest at home tonight at 8:00 p.m.

Answer: #ÚltimaHora The mayor of Cali, Maurice Armitage, has just imposed a curfew in the city at 7:00 PM. “No citizen of Cali can be on the streets from that moment on, because they will be arrested,” he said.

Source: Twitter / @elSostenible

Photo 1:
Messages 1 and 2: Do you want to protest without violence?? We invite you to pick your pot or pan and hit it by the window of your house today at 8:00 p.m. for 15 minutes. Against the #toquedequeda (“curfew”) in Cali Against #represion (“repression”) in Bogotá Against the inefficiency of the government #cacerolazonacional (“national casserole protest”)

Messages 3 and 4: In response to the curfew, the society of Cali must respond with a casserole protest at home tonight at 8:00 p.m. #…;#ÚltimaHora The mayor of Cali, Maurice Armitage, has just imposed a curfew in the city at 7:00 p.m. “No citizen of Cali can be on the streets from that moment on, because they will be arrested,” he said.

That is how the call to protest at home spread. Source: Sysomos

Some people stated that several friends from Cali sent them an invitation via WhatsApp:

Tweet 4: A friend from Cali sent it to me by whats app

Source: Twitter / @Ana_Cathe

The voice also began to spread through WhatsApp groups of people who were on the march in Bogotá. In parallel, it was on Twitter and soon reached Facebook and Instagram. Some people received invitations to protest at 7:00 p.m. and others at 8:00 p.m..

Folder calling for the casserole protest that circulated via WhatsApp

When the casserole protest started, many people felt called both by messages on the networks and by the sound of protests in their neighborhoods. The protest grew as people watched dozens of videos on social media in different parts of the country. At the same time, the noise of pots and pans was the call from the streets.

Top 10 most retweeted tweets with hashtags related to the casserole protest. Source: Sysomos

New hashtags joined #Cacerolazo, such as #cacerolazonacional and #cacerolazo21n (“casserole protest on November 21”). Many artists and public figures, such as Aterciopelados, Monsieur Periné, and Manolo Cardona joined the movement organically.

Tweet 5: Starting today, something has changed in Colombia, we reached the critical board, we are creating a new country together, without politicians, without vandals. with conscience!!

Tweet 6: The first casserole protest in Colombia’s history! This is what we are talking about, man!

Tweet 7: Chicó

Several voices in a decentralized way composed an extemporaneous song, which remained active in the networks until midnight – and included additional calling notes for the next days. The casserole protest was not only a “PS;” it became news. In El Espectador, for example, the casserole protest was a cover story.

What we saw Thursday night was an amplification that became contagious. As the researcher Damon Centola explains, it is very rare that a meme becomes viral and that a message broadly disseminated becomes a concrete political action.

Tweet 8: What came to me via WA (WhatsApp) were videos from other neighborhoods. More than a call, I felt it was a contagious effect.

In view of the weariness of the day, the disappointment to vandalism, and even the fear in the city, the casserole protest allowed a simple but energetic expression, which connected people in their windows and took them back to the streets, particularly in Bogotá.

It is possible that people who did not know about the march neither were they interested in it have participated in this collective noise. Similarly, the collective action of hitting a pot is not particularly complex. It is important to bear in mind all these elements, as well as those connecting this episode to earlier hours. However, the song created by the casserole protest was a milestone in the painful history of social protests in Colombia. And social networks have played a crucial role in this composition.

* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Chequeado, Linterna Verde and Ojo Público. It’s goal is to monitor and analyze the digital conversations regarding the electoral context.

The analysis is available the website of Chequeado here.