Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Slacktivism" -- idle, impotent and irrelevant

Malala's doing it. Hellery Clinton's doing it. Michelle Obama's doing it.

Everybody's doing it. Except Walt. [And Ed. Ed.]

What's "it"? Why tweeting #BringBackOurGirls of course! The reference is to the dastardly kidnapping of close to 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by the Boko Haram.

These guys are Islamic extremists by the way. Walt points that out because the PC media, politicians and pundits seem incapable of saying the words "Islamists" or "Muslims" in referring to these terrorists. Even the CBC's Rex Murphy -- usually a straight shooter -- got through his 5-minute piece on The National on Thursday without once alluding to the religion which Boko Haram claim inspires them.

But I digress. Most of the girls are still "missing", with the Nigerian authorities professing to have no idea where to look for them. Nigeria's head nagger, Goodluck Jonathan, has appeared on TV begging for technology, weapons and, errr, money to help his army rescue the girls. He said nothing about returning the weapons, jeeps or whatever once the girls are found.

Meanwhile, all right-thinking people agree that, yes, Boko Haram are a bad lot, and shouldn't sell the girls into slavery, prostitution and/or marriage. Hence the hashtag. It has become fashionable, in the last couple of days, to scrawl the hashtag on a piece of cardboard, take a picture of yourself holding it, and post it in the social media, which Walt thinks ought to be called the "anti-social media".

Twittering, tweeting, retweeting... whatever you call taking the "action" just described is, you see, Doing Something. Posting a picture of yourself displaying #BringBackOurGirls shows support for them, you see. One cam imagine them seeing all the tweets on their iPhones, somewhere in the middle of the African bush, and being encouraged.

And who knows? Maybe the thugs who call themselves Boko Haram will see that 1000s of people have the courage to put these pictures online, and be motivated by compassion or fear to do what the hashtag commands. But Walt doubts it. For one thing, these Muslim terrorists -- don't forget it! -- don't look very literate. If they can read Hausa, which is written in Arabic script. Seeing signs in English -- the language of "boko" (= "book", = western/Christian education and culture) probably provokes them to fits of anger and/or laughter.

Tweeting #BringBackOurGirls or anything other expression of your "thoughts" on this or any other subject is a weak and futile gesture. It's like adding a few flowers -- possibly accompanied by a teddy bear -- to one of those "memorials" that spring up at the site of an accident or a crime.

You may think you're Doing Something when you tweet or twitter or throw more garbage on the heap, but really you're guilty of "slacktivism" -- making a small, meaningless gesture to show that you "care" and ease your guilty conscience. Why you or Michelle Obama should feel guilty about something which you had nothing to do with, and which has nothing to do with you, is another matter. But if you really want to help, find a better way.

"Like what?", I hear you ask. That's a toughie, but perhaps a donation to an organization like Amnesty International, or a reputable NGO working to educate girls in the third world, would do some good. Meanwhile, please spare us the vapid and ultimately useless tweets.

Further reading on WWW: "The kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls and the Mirror Image Fallacy"

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