Earlier this week 50 or so Plane Stupid activists managed to breach Stansted Airport‘s perimeter security fence. Idiots. If someone really wanted to shutdown an airport and cause over a week of disruption, all they would have to do is get enough people to sit down.

Last month anti-government protesters in Thailand where able to close the country’s major international airport for over a week. Hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of flights were disrupted and rerouted where possible. The world’s attention was focused on the protest, shining a light onto the political problems in the country. Most amazing was the peaceful passing off of the protests. I doubt that within a few days the mass sit-in will fade, becoming just a surreal memory. This protest was a success, internally and internationally.

The Beeb asks a few questions, some of which are pertinent to the Plane Stupid protesters:

  • How could a country as advanced and as dependent on exports and tourism as Thailand allow such a vital transport hub to be stormed by a mob that never numbered more than a few thousand?
  • What is the PAD, and what gives the movement the confidence to commit its dramatic acts of economic sabotage without fearing any legal sanction?

No more than a few thousand people halted a major international airport for over a week. This large group took action with impunity; Thai police could not or perhaps would not use force against these protesters.

Now, how does all this relate to the old-school black-ops methods of Plane Stupid this last week? To my mind the protest which closed Stansted was a flash in the pan, a stunt. The airport authorities and police responded with force, treating this militaristic assault on key infrastructure as a terrorist attack. Rightly so! What if these were not Plane Stupid protesters but rather stupid hi-jackers?

Environmental protesters like Plane Stupid should take notice of Flash-mobbing, silent raves and other network-powered interventions in the public space. Organise a flash-mob of an airport, all the airports! Just get a lot of people to head to their nearest airport and just sit down….

Here are a few steps to taking over every airport in the country on one day…

  1. Pick a day, any day and a time… just make sure its far enough in the future to allow your network of activists to…
  2. …Buy up tickets on the cheap flights (this is the important part) on that day all around the same time.
  3. On the scheduled day, set off with a packed bag, a passport and a ticket to local airport – this is the black-ops part, when the radical environmentalists disguise themselves as people going off for the weekend on a cheap flight.
  4. Wait for the agreed time and sit down.

If Plane Stupid or another similar group were to co-ordinate such an action this would be a flashmob of epic proportions causing much more serious and significant disruption to air travel infrastructure.

Yet the real beauty of this networked direct action is that the Plane Stupid protesters would most likely be able to close every airport in the country even without having to turn up on the day. The very threat of this direct action and very fact that of it being discussed openly, perhaps via Facebook or a custom social network site hosted on Ning, would probably be sufficient for the authorities to seriously reconsider opening airports on the appointed day.

Some may call this weeks action by Plane Stupid terrorism, others may call it civil disobedience. What I’m proposing here combines direct action and electronic civil disobedience backed up with the threat of real people turning up and paralysing infrastructure in a very public way. For the cost of a place ticket on, say, the 1st April 2009 (which is cheap if booked now) Plane Stupid could close every airport in the country…..

Just a thought.