The Evolution of Online Advocacy

In the surreal world of social media, advocacy has evolved in many different ways. But has the evolution of online advocacy actually increased the capability of individuals to bring about change?

Some people view online activism as a useless endeavor. They think that sharing a meme, hitting the like button, or using a trending hashtag isn’t actually doing anything substantial.

There has even been a word added to the ever expanding lexicon of the online community for certain types of advocacy which take place on the internet, and it clearly has a negative connotation; Slacktivism.

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Unicef has even criticized slacktivist behavior with the following advertisements.

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However, not all activism which takes place online should be described as slacktivism.

There are well organized and active advocacy groups which use social media sites to spread awareness and to carry out fundraising campaigns.

Is there anyone who didn’t hear about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? It was perhaps the most successful social media campaign ever devised.

Not only did it inspire normal people, athletes, celebrities, business leaders, and even the former President of the United States to upload videos of themselves having ice water dumped on their heads, but according to the ALS Association’s website, it also raised a lot of money, over TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS worldwide!

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And is there anyone who doesn’t remember the half hour documentary film and youtube sensation KONY2012? It was perhaps the most viral video of all time. It had over ONE HUNDRED MILLION views within six days of being posted online and raised over NINETEEN MILLION DOLLARS!

In April, 2014, the top trending hashtag on twitter was #BringBackOurGirls. It was started in Nigeria after the terrorist group Boko Haram attacked a secondary school and kidnapped almost THREE HUNDRED girls between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. The hashtag was used over ONE MILLION times in the first three weeks and over THREE MILLION times to date.

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However, more than TWO HUNDRED of those girls are still missing. Joseph Kony is still waging war in Uganda and forcing children to become soldiers in the LRA. And while ALS research has received a lot of funding, there is still no cure.

So has online advocacy actually increased the capability of individuals to bring about change?

There are websites such as Change.org whose sole purpose is to provide a platform for online petitions. The United States government even provides an online forum for directly petitioning the President through the Whitehouse.gov website.

Almost all of the petitions on these sites show a deeply held desire to bring about beneficial change in society. But some of them seem to stretch the idea of what constitutes a beneficial change.

A petition on Change.org called for Jay-Z and Beyonce to comb their daughters hair. It gathered over FIVE THOUSAND signatures.

A petition on Whitehouse.gov called for the deportation of Justin Bieber. It gained over TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND signatures.

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Concerning the petition to deport Justin Beiber, the White House website responded with, “Sorry to disappoint, but we won’t be commenting on this one.”

And Beyonce seemed to be responding to the petition to comb her daughter’s hair in the lyrics of Formation, her most recent song, “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros.”

So has online advocacy actually increased the capability of individuals to bring about change?

There may be a lot of people who are advocating for the wrong things, or are half-heartedly advocating for the right things. But that doesn’t diminish the beneficial effects of certain types of online advocacy.

It makes a difference, even if it only increases awareness. Because being aware of an issue is the fist step in solving it.

And being aware that there are other people like you, of the fact that you are not alone in the world, can be the difference between life and death.

In 2011, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that FOURTY ONE PERCENT of transgender and gender nonconforming Americans had attempted suicide.

I wonder how many of them felt like they were all alone, like there was no one else who could understand what they were going through.

Online advocacy can reach anyone who has internet access regardless of how isolated they may be in the physical world. It can help prevent tragedies from happening.

But it can also cause controversy.

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Hacktivism is the practice of gaining unauthorized access to a computer system and carrying out various disruptive actions as a means of achieving political or social goals, according to its Dictionary.com definition.

The Anonymous hacking collective is perhaps the most infamous group of online hacktivists. They have targeted the KKK, ISIS, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Church of Scientology, security contractors, local police departments, the CIA, and various other governmental agencies in the US, Israel, Tunisia, and Uganda.

There have been numerous arrests of individuals involved in cyber attacks on behalf of Anonymous. But since it is a non-centralized international organization, it is almost unstoppable.

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For better or worse, society now has access to an extremely diverse set of opinions online. There are all sorts of online advocacy with all sorts of different intentions and tactics.

There are blogs on almost everything under the sun, and even blogs on things which only exist in the shadows.

A lot of bloggers are trying to bring about beneficial change to society. But there are others which exist in the dark corners of the internet and advocate for horrible things like anorexia, rape, white supremacy, and even mass murder.

If you don’t believe me just do a google search for Praying to Ana, Roosh V, Stormfront, or the social media presence of ISIS. Although, actually viewing a blog ran by ISIS might put you on an FBI watch list so be careful with that.

I think that this surreal world of ours is a complicated place. Social media has made us more interconnected than ever before, but it has also made some of us feel alienated.

So is online advocacy actually beneficial? If you think that it is or isn’t, comment on this blog or create one of your own.

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Feminists Fumble and Foul Clinton’s Campaign 

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has accused Bernie Sanders of being sexist. However, as political columnist Brent Budowsky pointed out in The Observer “The sad and strange thing about the bogus attack by Ms. Clinton against Mr. Sanders when she suggested he is sexist is that it was both wholly false and wholly unnecessary.”

The truth of the matter is that Bernie Sanders’ campaign has been gaining popularity and now has the overwhelming support of voters in the 18-24 demographic, including women. In an effort to persuade these women to vote for her, the Clinton campaign has resorted to misrepresenting statements Sanders has made in an attempt to portray him as having sexist views.600.jpg

When Bernie Sanders made the broad statement that, “people need to stop shouting about gun control” in order to encourage more civil discourse concerning this divisive issue, Hillary Clinton saw it as an opportunity.

At the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, Clinton gave a scripted response to Sanders statement as if it had been a personal attack on her and her gender by saying, “I’ve been told to stop shouting about gun violence. Well I’m not shouting. It’s just when women talk, people think we’re shouting.”

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has even had some feminist icons try to convince more young women to support her. However, their statements may have done more harm than good.

On Feb. 5th, Gloria Steinmen was interviewed on Real Time with Bill Maher and when asked why there are more young women supporting Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton she said, “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’”

Maher instantly recognized the inherent sexism of her remark and replied, “Oh. Now if I said that, ‘They’re for Bernie because that’s where the boys are,’ you’d swat me.”

Two days later, on Feb. 7th, Madeline Albright introduced Clinton at a political rally by saying, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” To which Ms. Clinton laughed, clapped, and thanked her twice for the introduction.

Hillary seems far too willing to use her gender as a reason why women should vote for her. Her twitter account describes her as a “Wife, mom, grandma, women+kids advocate, FLOTUS, Senator, SecState, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate” and while this description seems slightly tongue-in-cheek, it’s worth pointing out that the list begins by using terms which are in direct reference to her gender and not her political experience or actual accomplishments.

Everything Hillary Clinton does seems calculated for political expediency, but this raises the question as to how could such a carefully crafted campaign make such a foolish mistake as to falsely accuse her opponent of sexism and then truthfully open themselves up for the same accusation to be leveled against them.

Social media was ablaze with women who were upset with what these feminist icons had said, many considered their comments to be sexist and demeaning.

Nina Turner, who is a former Ohio state senator, a women of color, and a democrat, seemed upset beyond words.

Meghan McCain, who is a columnist, television and radio personality, and daughter of Republican Senator John McCain, had some harsh words for the two feminists.

But it was Katherine Timpf, who is a reporter for the National Review as well as a comedian, who turned Madeline Albright’s statement about women going to hell for not supporting one another into an all out attack on Hillary Clinton’s credibility.

Full Disclosure: I’m not a women but I do consider myself to be a feminist. I’m also a supporter of Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

I encourage everyone, men and women, to share their thoughts by leaving a comment. But I have some questions meant specifically for the wonderful women of the inter-web, what do you think of the statements made by Gloria Steinmen and Madeline Albright? Do you consider yourself to be a feminist? And who will you be supporting for president?

 

Welcome to the Surreal World!

giantgrandpaHorace Walpole famously wrote that “The world is a comedy to those who think; a tragedy to those who feel.” But the world we live in has become surreal.

The social lives of millennials have been relocated to the virtual realm where even important events are instantly interpreted as tragedy/comedy and infused with memes, viral videos, and God-awful GIFs.

Our culture has embraced the self imposed control+shift to living our entire lives online where we all have the freedom of being oppressed by twitter twats.

My name is Joshua Stoughton. Among other things, I’ve created this blog to comment on the rapidly changing rules of social interaction among the ever shifting landscape of social media.

I’m currently working on a bachelors degree in English with a focus in writing and rhetoric from Florida Atlantic University. My online commentary will be about everything from politics to penis jokes so be prepared.

Steve Allen said that, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” But in the surreal world of twitter trending hashtags and live streaming video, does anyone take their time anymore?

Almost everyone has a phone which is smarter than they are. So why would they wait when everything is available right then and there at their fingertips?

I’ve limited my paragraph structure to a maximum of two sentences each since the modern attention span is shorter than… Oh who am I kidding, you have already stopped reading this post about three short paragraphs in.

If, against all odds, you are one of the few people out there who are actually reading all the way to the bottom of this post. I would like to say thank you, welcome to the surreal world, and what the hell is wrong with you?