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Flash: Twitter, Nine Inch Nails Raise $446,020 for Eric (Updated)

(Note: This post has been updated and corrected. The NiN performance I incorrectly identified as happening last night at the Shoreline Amphitheater is in fact occurring tonight, even as I key in these words. My apology. My conclusions about its likely impact, however, including the role played by Google employees, remain in place.)
Can Rock and Roll plus social media save a dying young man's life?

This drama is playing out in real-time on Twitter, as we've been following over the past week. This morning, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails emailed me with the news that as of midnight last night another $200,000 plus had been raised through the group's offers to grant back-stage access to those donors who contribute to the Eric De La Cruz heart transplant cause during their current national reunion tour with Jane's Addiction.)

Tonight's performance, BTW, is at the Shoreline Amphitheater, just down the street from Google's world headquarters. It's a good bet many Googlers will be in attendance, and no doubt, among the donors.

The De La Cruz crisis has developed into a potentially defining moment in the evolution of Twitter as not only the breaking news channel of choice, but a network where people can raise awareness and unleash action on behalf of various worthy causes.

Eric's sister, CNN Internet Correspondent Veronica De La Cruz, turned to Twitter last week in a last-ditch effort to bring pressure upon Congress to help cut through the red tape preventing him from being evaluated for a heart transplant. The 27-year-old, who is living in Nevada, is dying from a rare heart condition, and his prospects just last Friday seemed dire indeed.

But led by Twitterati including The Expert, news of De La Cruz's battle ignited one of the biggest Tweet Storms in the young company's history.

As one reader, "TH," commented on my post from last evening, Veronica's political campaign has had an effect: "I believe Veronica received a favorable ruling from a federal judge in Nevada regarding Eric's ability to be covered under federal Medicare, allowing him to be moved out of state and evaluated by a transplant center...Veronica was able to accelerate having his case appealed and heard (it was originally scheduled for a year from now) largely due to the efforts she started on Twitter. Local news coverage, initiated by bombardment from Twitter, and an onslaught of letters, emails and calls to the offices of state representatives eventually expedited the case greatly."
These developments, along with the money NIN is raising, appear to be a game-changer in Eric De La Cruz's case. Whether he is able to receive a heart transplant in time or not, his sister and all of those supporting her family have to know that they everything they could to save his life. In addition, the tone of this campaign feels less like a one-off than the potential beginnings of a new movement.

If I were an evangelist for that new movement, I'd put it something like this: "Alone, we feel alienated and powerless against the oppressiveness of an uncaring health care system. Together, we can generate the kinds of pressure and resources that forces that cold system to respond to our demands."
It will be fascinating to see whether Eric's case unleashes a Twitter-based movement for comprehensive health care reform. This is precisely what President Barack Obama has been urging his supporters to do via weekly emails and radio addresses for some time now.

The Obama team is no doubt keenly aware of the De La Cruz case, and wondering how to can harness its energy to help break down the formidable political opposition that is intent on resisting any serious health care reform. This larger question hangs over the entire De la Cruz drama, so the stakes here truly are enormous.

As Twitter continues its ascent up its hockey-stick growth curve to scale, will it prove to be more than a successful social media company? Will it morph into a force for progressive social change?

Stay tuned.

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