Olympics opposition groups have big social media presence
Jonathan Cohn woke up around 5:30 Monday morning and started tweeting about the Olympics.
He fired off tweet after tweet, rapid-fire retweeting news stories and hashtags and memes critical of the plan to bring the Games to Boston.
By 11 a.m., he’d sent well over 100 tweets and retweets.
But Cohn, cofounder of the opposition group No Boston 2024, was just getting started.
“I can multitask well,” said Cohn, a 26-year-old online journal editor who lives in Fenway and works in Back Bay.
Online and off, Cohn is one of several indefatigable — and very vocal — critics of the effort to bring the Olympics here. And while the more polished opposition group is aiming to extinguish the Olympic flame from inside the arena, this loosely aligned coalition of activists and individuals wields a bucket of water.
They attend public information meetings all over the region, confronting presenters with pointed questions. They organize protests, like one that took to the street outside Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s home at 4 a.m. Monday. And more than anything, they fire off tweets in flurries worthy of a gold medal table tennis match.
“Twitter is a great equalizer,” said Robin Jacks, cofounder of No Boston 2024 who created the #PullTheBid hashtag in March. “It’s tough for Boston 2024 and city officials to ignore dissent when we plebes make it the top trending topic on Twitter.”
#PullTheBid was trending in Boston on Monday in the hours after Boston 2024 presented its revised bid — the second time it appeared on the list of most watched topics since March. For the Twitter-wing of the coalition aligned against the Boston bid, it was a high water mark.
“They can’t ignore Twitter trending topics. It trended then, and it’s trending again today,” Jacks said in a Twitter message.
“Some people tweet about their cats,” said Chip Goines, a 38-year-old Somerville resident who created the hashtag #NOOOOO. “I tweet about my indignation about the Olympics.”
Goines made up his mind after attending public meetings and coming away feeling “personally misled” by bid organizers, and took his outrage to Twitter. Of his 10,000 total tweets, he tweeted that 8,000 were about his opposition to the Olympics in Boston.
At last count, he had 418 Twitter followers, one NOOOOO T-shirt (picture the Os interlocking like the Olympic rings), three NOOOOO pens, a NOOOOO bumper sticker and a few dozen smaller stickers to pass around.
“You can’t be a total Debbie Downer about it,” Goines said of his generally amiable tweets and NOOOOO campaign. “I do try to make them funny.”
Asked about the opposition groups on Monday, Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca said he has met with as many of the opponents as he can.
“A lot of them are very thoughtful. There are some that are not as thoughtful. But we’re taking it all in,” Pagliuca said.
Those loosely aligned against bringing the Games here describe their varying tactics and approaches as complementary. While some opt for incessant, withering sarcasm on Twitter, No Boston Olympics, an opposition group led by three young professionals, takes a more polished approach.
So while No Boston Olympics devotes hours to reviewing white papers, No Boston 2024 posts a photo of Walsh holding a white piece of paper — and asks users to Photoshop slogans onto the sign.
Others pitch in how they can. Joel Fleming, a lawyer, devotes a few hours a week to anti-2024 efforts by drafting public records requests. Opponents, Fleming said, are “a small army of Davids who are holding our own or better” against the Olympic Goliath.
While some are well known for their activism in the past — Jacks was an organizer of Occupy Boston — others, like Fleming, arrived by a different path.
“It wasn’t on my radar at all to be honest,” said Fleming, 28. He went to meetings and asked questions, he said, and didn’t like the answers. Before long, he was part of the Twitter tidal wave that greets every Olympic announcement now.
Cohn said he wasn’t very engaged in the Olympic debate when he moved to Boston in 2013. But he now devotes untold hours to the cause.
But he said he doesn’t worry that his thousands and thousands of tweets, nearly all about a single topic — he mixed in a rumination about “Orange is the New Black” before bed last night — might irritate onlookers on the fence.
“People can mute me,” Cohn said.