Weatherford Democrat

Online Only

May 10, 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
Online Only
  • 20140727-AMX-GUNS271.jpg Beretta, other gun makers heading to friendlier states

    In moving south and taking 160 jobs with it, Beretta joins several other prominent gunmakers abandoning liberal states that passed tough gun laws after the Newtown shooting.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brother sues W.Va. senator over business loan

    U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's brother claims he's owed $1.7 million that he loaned to keep a family carpet out of bankruptcy in the 1980s.

    July 28, 2014

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 28, 2014

  • HallofFameBraves.jpg Hall of Fame adds businesslike Braves, Frank Thomas, managers La Russa and Torre

    Atlanta Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and their manager, Bobby Cox, dominated much of baseball during the 1990s. This weekend they went into the Hall of Fame together.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 26, 2014