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This place matters

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Armchair Revolution

In the wake of Ferguson, there's been a bunch of talk on social and other media about hash tag activism, which some would classify as slactivism
Many have dismissed hash tag activism as pointless; as a way to feel like you're doing something without actually doing anything. And while it's true that some hash tag campaigns have been pointless and utterly impotent (#BringBackOurGirls, in my opinion), I am not sure hash tags and other forms of social media "activism" are as sneer-quote worthy as they sometimes seem.

Back in May, Elliot Rodger posted a YouTube diatribe about how he couldn't get laid and then went out and killed six people. In the aftermath, women began to tell stories about sexual violence with the hash tag #yesallwomen

Critics called the campaign pointless - obviously, Rodger had problems that went way beyond getting laid and anyway, half the victims were dudes. And that's fair. But I think right then was as good a time as any to start a national conversation about just how many women have been harmed in some way by men who felt they were entitled to sex. Is it going to prevent future shooting sprees. Highly unlikely. But now a lot more men are aware what their moms, wives, sisters, and daughters face. And now a lot more women know they're not facing it alone. It's not gonna change the world, but for a time, it did change the national dialog.
Perhaps the stupidist social media campaign in the history of stupid is the ALS ice bucket challenge. This campaign, started in July of this year, has people posting YouTube videos of themselves dumping a bucket of ice on their head to raise money for ALS research. Because you were supposed to donate money OR dump a bucket of ice water on your head... only apparently rich people felt left out so they donated money AND dumped a bucket of ice water, so basically, half the country spent the summer being doused in ice water. Because the Internet. 
It's the dumbest thing like, ever. It doesn't even make sense. Why ice? Why ALS? Why do we care what celebrities dump on their heads?
Because money. According to the ALS, they've received over $100 million in the past year, compared to $2.8 million during the same period last year. Critics have blasted the vanity of it - Willard Foxton of the Daily Telegraph calls it "a middle-class wet t-shirt contest for armchair clictivists." 
But then, the last fund-raising event I went to featured videotaped horse races and auctioned off, among other things, an unholy purple chinchilla vest. Is that really less stupid than being doused in a bucket of ice water? I suspect the event raised a lot less than $100 million, and probably involved considerably more than the roughly $0 overhead cost of the Ice Bucket Challenge. 

... come to think of it, I really hate fancy benefits for Good Causes. I gotta put on girl clothes and make conversation with strangers and eat finger foods that definitely did not come from the freezer case at Costco. Can I ice-bucket challenge my way out of all fancy charity things? Because I'm in.
But I digress. There've been a couple other hash tag campaigns I thought were more meaningful than they got credit for. L
ike #IGottheTalk:
Now a bunch of white people who had no reason to know about "the talk" know about "the talk." And all it took was some typing and clicking. 
(Incidentally, my dad gave me "the talk" when I got my license. He is very cautious.) 

I am also impressed with #IfTheyGunnedMeDown
The media has been passively vilifying African Americans for ages, and they've been getting away with it because until now, the media decided for us what we were allowed to see. Every day people finally have the power to call them out on it.

I donate money to causes and volunteer at stuff and all of that, but honestly, I think where I do the most good is here at this keyboard. I can handle a soup ladle all right, but writing's what I do best. And because of the Internet, I don't have to beg publishers to give me a voice. I try to be more activist than slacktivist and usually succeed, but I suspect I do more good slacking than I do acting.

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