Friday, March 30, 2012

Social Media Activism is Powerful.

Like tornadoes in Oklahoma, the social media storms keep blowing in and blowing out, one after another. 

There was the Susan G. Komen attempted cutoff of funds for Planned Parenthood. 

There was the Rush Limbaugh smear of Sandra Fluke.

There was the outcry over the mandated transvaginal ultrasounds requirement for abortion.

There is the case of shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Many others, as well.

It can seem flighty and trivial, but it is not.

Social Media activism is an exercise of considerable social power and it changes things. 

It changes the public discourse; it drives new agendas. Social Media activism can make something that was hidden and quiet and obscure to be the lead story on the nightly news, and above the fold in the major newspapers. 

Each of the four cases above (Susan G. Komen, Rush Limbaugh, ultrasounds and Trayvon Martin) were not intended to be big news.

Susan G. Komen intended to cut off Planned Parenthood quietly.  The only people who would notice would be the anti-choice activists.  They were the target audience.

Rush Limbaugh thinks that he is talking only to the people who already agree with him.  Calling Sandra Fluke a slut was an dismissive joke among like-minded people. 

The GOP legislatures hoped to pass these ultrasound requirements as sops to the organized anti-choice groups.  When implemented, it would be affecting doctors and patients in medical offices, one at a time.

And the death of a young black man who was suspected to be up to no good -- well, that's the kind of story that everyone expects to be ignored.

But social media made all of this public national big news events.  Once they 'go viral' information about these outrages explode across the national consciousness.  They travel as petitions, as posters, as jokes, as serious articles, as cartoons, as calls to action.  They cannot be stopped. There are many sources, many versions of the same message, many information pathways.  And they are fast and cheap.

And they get results; embarrassed walkbacks, apologies, both sincere and half-hearted, boycotts, closer scrutiny, re-shaped public discourse.  The Right was on a campaign to neutralize health reform by allowing any employer to refuse to provide a health policy that covered health procedures against the moral code of the employer.  That subject got changed.  What was supposed to be a couple funny lines from Rush Limbaugh derailed the whole push.  Not because the lines were so outrageous for Rush, but because progressives unleashed a firestorm in response.  By the time, we had moved on, the movement had hurt Rush financially.  And the story had shifted from the Obama administrations "war on religion" to the GOP "war on women."  

We did that with our powertools of the struggle:  "Like", "shares" and "Comments."  And don't forget "retweets." 

We are practicing social mobilization for the causes we believe in.  We are building networks of people who communicate with each other and spread the message.  We are getting better and the line between what we do online and what we do offline is breaking down.  Wearing a hoodie in the real world is a step beyond putting on a hoodie for new profile picture.

Keep up the fight.

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