Mailing lists and SNS networks serve as substitutes for formal membership
In some groups, the electronic or residential address of one of the main members becomes the group’s address. Although none of the groups have an official representative, the main activists serve as spokespeople. These groups generally create a homepage and start uploading information. They might post information about relief activities in the disaster zone or about nuclear policy issues, for example. They might also organize their own demonstrations or rallies and apply for police permission to hold them in a park or in the street. After announcing the date of the event on their homepage or via SNS, they prepare banners and speakers and recruit a number of event ong their peripheral members. On the day of the event, they go to the rallying point in a park or other public place without knowing how many people will turn up.
These groups do not usually maintain a membership list or even a formal membership system. They are best described not as organizations but as affinity groups. They do not have a fixed group of people whom they can mobilize for a rally. The number who turn out for their rallies can grow into the tens of thousands or shrink to the hundreds. This is similar to the way the number of hits on a website can increases dramatically and die away just as quickly.
MCAN’s main activists have thousands and even tens of thousands of followers on SNS
Participants decide for themselves which group’s rally they will attend. A woman in her 30s, whom I surveyed as part of my study of 53 protest participants, attended rallies every week but was not affiliated with any group. When surveyed, she was working as a librarian, but she had previously worked as a comic book artist and in the planning division of installment loans GA a major corporation. She knew exactly which group’s rallies would be the liveliest at any given time. She knew many participants in the rallies and would attend after exchanging messages via SNS. When asked, she would sometimes act as an event ple shows that the line separating core members, peripheral members and regular participants is fluid. This is why I used the term “main actors” in section 2 rather than “activists”. Many of these people do not refer to themselves as “activists” because in Japan, the word “activist” tends to be used to describe people who are members of a formal organization that maintains a physical office.
MCAN, which was formed by bringing together several such groups, had essentially the same characteristics. It has a spokesperson but no delegated representative. MCAN organizes protests outside the prime minister’s residence every Friday, but its style of activism is basically like that of smaller groups. The only difference is that it has a larger number of participants and main actors. MCAN members were interviewed by the mass media, negotiated with political parties and labor unions, and invited university faculty and artists to speak at their events. But their basic operations did not differ significantly from those of smaller groups.
The fluid nature of MCAN means that the number of people in the group is unclear. In , around 20 marshals were still getting together each week to prepare for the Friday protests. For the larger protests, which take place every few months, 50-100 people serve as marshals. 20 MCAN does not have a physical office space. The group rents a room in a building in the government district where it stores the megaphones and portable stages for the weekly Friday protests. Ironically, the space they rent is right next door to the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party. Their main source of income is donations that are collected at the weekly Friday protests and at the larger protests they organize every few months. One member keeps the accounts and they manage their finances carefully. They borrow a PA system for speeches during the protests from a live music venue where one of the core members works.