Mt. Vernon Register-News

Community News Network

May 9, 2014

Is hashtag activism better than doing nothing? Or about the same?

More than 1 million people — including first lady Michelle Obama — have tweeted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. But whether they're helping the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria or hopping on some kind of first-world digital bandwagon depends, frankly, on whom you ask.

We've heard this debate before — first over "slacktivism" in the '90s, then over "clicktivism" in the aughts. "Hashtag activism," a term apparently coined around Occupy Wall Street, is just the latest iteration of a long-standing debate between people who think "awareness" is its own kind of protest and people who, for various reasons, do not.

The case of the Nigerian schoolgirls, abducted by a militant Islamist group in northeastern Nigeria three weeks ago, is perhaps particularly instructive. The girls — who militants have said will be sold into slavery — earned little attention outside of the country or from the Nigerian government until supporters took to Twitter to demand their safe return.

That seems like a pretty uncontroversial demand — who doesn't want the Nigerian schoolgirls brought back home? — but it hasn't sat well with everyone. The Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole went on a sort of Twitter rant against #BringBackOurGirls, arguing that the recent spate of Internet interest has not only oversimplified and sentimentalized the country's issues, but failed to achieve anything. "For four years, Nigerians have tried to understand these homicidal monsters. Your new interest (thanks) simplifies nothing, solves nothing," he said as part of his statement.

Of course, critics of lazy or "slacker" activism love to blame its existence on the Internet — as if signing petitions or sending postcards to Congress wasn't equally passive (and, in many cases, equally pointless). It's difficult to pin down exactly when the preferred form of slacktivism switched from analog to digital, but the change appears to have happened in the past three years. In 2007, Twitter users began unofficially organizing groups and conversations around hashtags; in 2009, just in time for the election protests in Iran, the network had adopted them officially. By 2011, references to "hashtag activism" — most of them negative — began popping up in the media, always in connection to Occupy Wall Street.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.12.33 PM.png Gunshots narrowly miss TV reporter

    A reporter for a West Virginia television station narrowly escaped injury or worse Monday while covering a fatal weekend shooting in Beckley.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 25 hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    Yankovic's 14th album was released this week, and it warms my heart containers that he's kept up his geeky brand of humor for so long. While he has written so many incredible songs, none have spoken to my love of proper grammar.
    Until "Word Crimes."

    July 16, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks