As I write this, they’ve got $54,000 and change pledged towards the statue with media buzz building and 38 more days of fundraising to go. They’re aiming for a seven-foot statue, but now that this semi-joke has gone national and the money’s rolling in, the sky’s literally the limit. The whole thing started as a goof on Twitter, until Detroit Mayor Dave Bing took it seriously enough to tweet a polite thanks-but-no-thanks, which naturally galvanized a movement. Hence the difference between Egypt and America, my friends: They use Twitter to overthrow a dictator, we use Twitter to build public shrines to campy movie cyborgs.

No lie: I find the whole endeavor oddly touching.

Jerry Paffendorf, who helped organize the campaign, acknowledges that RoboCop will not revive Detroit. But he hopes the project will not only create a tourist attraction, but also show that “crowd funding” can make a difference in a city where so much needs to be done. Additional money collected through March 26, when fund-raising is scheduled to end, could go toward other — perhaps more important — projects, he said.

“Sometimes it takes a RoboCop to show a different way to do things,” said Mr. Paffendorf, a 29-year-old Internet entrepreneur. “My hope is that it sets an example and puts this kind of funding on the map, so when people see big problems, they can think, ‘If crazy people raised $50,000 for a RoboCop statue, we can certainly raise more to take on something bigger.’”

The project’s merits have been debated on numerous local blogs and radio programs, and the effort has been criticized as wasting money and glorifying the fact that Detroit has long been Hollywood’s default example of urban decay. “This is what happens when irony runs amok,” read a headline on the Web site of Crain’s Detroit Business on Wednesday.

More from the AP, which quotes an organizer as saying, “I’m very positive that it’s gonna happen”:

Walley said he sees potential for the planned 7-foot sculpture in the city, hoping RoboCop would draw the curious and tourists, just as the Rocky Balboa likeness does in Philadelphia and the Fonzie statue known as “Bronze Fonz” does in Milwaukee.

Plus, it’s just a cool idea, said Walley, 35, who lives in the city.

“There’s definitely a pop icon, kitsch factor to it, for sure, but it’s definitely in the light-humorous end. It’s not funny in that it’s a joke on Detroit or anything like that,” he said, referencing fears the statue would play to the perception that Detroit is plagued by crime and violence.

I think it’s 99 percent kitschy joke and one percent earnest-jumpstart-for-urban-renewal, but a nationally famous Robocop statue would at least bring the number of reasons to visit Detroit up to, er, one. Besides, he’s the perfect spokesman for the city’s aspirations — a symbol of a return to order and hope for the future amid a dystopian landscape, with a little LOL tossed in. Here’s some musical accompaniment while you mull the idea; there’s a bit of profanity and graphic violence (natch), so please observe your official content warning. Exit question: Christie/Robocop 2012?

Tags: Egypt