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Rage Against the X Factor and AT&T: The rise of one-click protest

As US iPhone users rally to bring down the AT&T data network and UK music lovers rage against the X Factor, we take a look at chartbombing, polljacking and the rise of 'one-click protest'

A US blog has issued a call to arms for iPhone owners to unite in a co-ordinated protest against AT&T to overwhelm the network this Friday. In the same week UK music fans are 'chartbombing' the Christmas number 1 in objection to the X Factor, in the latest examples of what we're calling 'one-click protest'.

Satirical blogger Fake Steve Jobs -- in reality Newsweek writer Daniel Lyons -- proposes Operation Chokehold to protest against connection issues. He wants US users to switch off Wi-Fi and fire up data-intensive apps on their iPhones for a solid hour at noon on Friday 18 December, or 8pm in the UK. Whether the action will knacker the network is unclear, but voice and emergency calls are unlikely to be affected.

AT&T is playing down the protest angle, telling Cult of Mac that the plan is merely "an irresponsible and pointless scheme to draw attention to a blog".

The action itself may be a damp squib -- a Facebook group only has 1,000 members at the time of writing -- but it's certainly got people talking in the meantime. Some US users seem to be at the end of their tether after nearly three years of AT&T rule. At least we now have the choice between Tesco or Orange as well as O2, with Vodafone piling in next year.

There are more important things to protest though, like all those wars you see on telly if you switch on the news by mistake, and that climate change thingy, and X Factor. For those of you who've been on another planet, ITV's annual karaoke contest and extended pantomime for morons ended this week. In keeping with yuletide tradition, whichever no-mark won has been parachuted into whichever three minutes of bilge Simon Cowell and his cronies selected months ago to be the Christmas number 1. It's called The Climb, by the way, and it's a cover version, for heck's sake, of a song by made-up pop star Hannah blinkin' Montana. These people aren't even trying!

Plucky music fans have decided to refuse the festive fait accompli by rallying X Factor haters to buy Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name. The decidedly unsuitable-for-delicate-ears protest-metal anthem is currently topping the iTunes chart, but despite 800,000 fans on Facebook it's unlikely to compete with the weekend's real-world sales of the X Factor's CD single when it hits Tesco for your little sister and your nan to buy.

Whether it's X Factor puppet Joe McElderry or RATM at number 1 come Sunday, and whether or not AT&T is brought to its knees on Friday, both actions are part of an interesting new trend. In cases like these and scandals such as Jan Moir's homophobic Daily Mail article, social media such as Twitter and Facebook are allowing protesters to unite in an undergroundswell of spontaneous reaction.

Abstention -- don't read the Daily Mail -- becomes action: sabotage the Mail's polls, comment on objectionable articles, add your name to the Prime Minister's Number 10 petitions. It follows on from the last decade's discovery of charity for cheap people: 'awareness'. Wearing coloured wristbands, signing petitions and buying songs may not change the world, but it registers that a huge number of people feel strongly enough about something to, you know, agree in principle. And one-click protest can transfer into the real world, with movements such as Anonymous Project Chanology taking on Scientology, or social media used to inform protesters about real-world events such as this week's Cop15 climate summit in Copenhagen.

As we enter the new decade, armchair protest becomes one-click protest. Many argue that these chartbombings and polljackings are pointless actions protesting the trivial, but we reckon the tools of Web 2.0 make it so simple to make your voice heard that the silent majority no longer has any excuse to keep schtum, and robust debate on any subject has to be a good thing. It also familiarises the young generation with the tools of dissent for when something really important comes up.

Besides, we like a good wind-up.

Stick your neck out in the comments: are you an X Factor fan, will you be buying Killing in the Name, or do you have better things to do with your time? Is one-click protest the future of mass dissent or a waste of a click?