Politics

Redditors Just Came Together For A Massive Flyer Campaign In Support Of Marriage Equality

One viral post turned into a coalition of thousands of campaigners.

Just shy of two weeks ago, a Reddit user called Emily posted a request for help.

It was early in the debate on the marriage equality postal survey, and she was frustrated after seeing so many flyers filled with misleading and harmful content from the No campaign. She worked at a small printing and design company, so she asked her boss if they could print 100 flyers directly countering the No campaign to hand out at the train station.

Her boss said yes and one-upped her — he’d foot the bill for 50,000 flyers. Emily took to Reddit for help distributing them, and things escalated very quickly from there.

Overnight, Emily was inundated with hundreds of responses ranging from keen graphic designers to random strangers willing to distribute flyers for a good cause. The post hit the front page of r/Australia and went viral, spurring a crowdfunding campaign and a huge outpouring of support.

Two weeks after the initial post, they’ve raised enough to print 250,000 flyers, and established Australians for Change, a coalition of thousands of people who’ve volunteered to help distribute them.

Meet Australians For Change

Jake Thomas runs Emroy Print and Design, the Sutherland printing business that initially offered to print the flyers. He told Junkee the Reddit response had been overwhelming but exciting, and that the whole business “has just kind of jumped in all hands on deck to help out”.

“None of us have ever really done something like this before,” he said. “We’re just muddling through.”

It’s not just a handful of people doing the muddling though. Shortly after the Reddit post took off, someone had the bright idea of creating a group chat to coordinate the flyer design and planning. Total strangers from Reddit gathered together to offer their skills — someone built a website, others pored over the graphic design and copy, and one guy collated a bunch of census data to create an interactive map pinpointing areas of Australia with demographics most inclined to vote no.

“It’s amazing,” Jake said of the map. “The guy who made it just said ‘leave it with me for a few hours’, and he got all excited and apparently stayed up until 3am making it.”

“Given that there are obviously so many million people in Australia, we obviously don’t have enough flyers to cover everybody. The map hopefully help us target No voters, the people who need persuading.”

The rapid growth of a campaign run by a bunch of punters from the internet is impressive, if a bit strange given that there’s already a very healthy Yes campaign running. When I asked Jake why they hadn’t just channeled their resources into that, he said he loved the Yes campaign, but that he felt the Australians for Change flyers offered something a little different.

“I love the existing Yes campaign, and we’ve supported it very much — we’ve given money, we’ve donated time, and I don’t want to say anything negative about it,” he told Junkee. “But we and a lot of people felt we wanted to directly counteract the No campaign’s lies, and we wanted to do it ourselves.”

Part of what the group agreed they wanted to do was not open with “a big yes”. Rather, they wanted to design something with the best chance of persuading No voters who had been exposed to inaccurate and misleading commentary on the marriage debate.

Accordingly, the final flyer text opens with the words “you’ve been asked by the government if the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. That’s all.” It then goes on to directly counter some of the No campaign’s misinformation, finishing up with a recommendation that people vote Yes.

“You know when people have an idea in their mind and they see something obviously from the opposing camp and switch off? That’s what we wanted to avoid,” Jake said.

When we spoke this afternoon, he and his business were in the process of printing and trimming hundreds of thousands of flyers, ready for distribution this week. Ballots for the postal survey began to be posted today, but Jake’s pretty confident that the flyers will be circulating “by tomorrow at the earliest, Friday at the latest”. Another Reddit user has developed a system of distributing them to hubs around the country where volunteers can pick up a few to distribute, and they’re pretty confident it will work.

In the meantime, the final flyer design is still sitting high on the Australian Reddit front page, with 30,000 upvotes in less than 24 hours. People are still signing up to help out at Australians for Change’s website. If you’re interested in helping out, or just want to see the interactive map, you can do so there.