Friday, May 16, 2014

A #Hashtag to Get Behind

By way of Wombat-socho's "Live at 5: 05.16.14", news that Russian SI and Victoria's Secret (just to mention a few of many) Supermodel Irina Shayk has come out allegedly topless behind a #Bring Back Our Girls!!!" sign:
No handwriting bonsus points awarded
Sports lllustrated Swimsuit model Irina Shayk was slammed after she took a topless #BringBackOurGirls photo and promoted it on her Instgram account.

For engaging in hashtag activism to pressure the international community save the hundreds of girls who were kidnapped by Nigerian terrorists, commenters, as GossipCop noted, called her a "disgraceful wretch" and, "Put your clothes back on, idiot."

Another person wrote "This is extremely ignorant and dumb. Holding this hash tag in front of your boobs as if it was some kind of Miss America badge. Seriously? THIS.IS.NOT.ABOUT.YOU.”. . .
But  Charles Krauthammer, not normally known to be a fan of wishy washy diplomacy posted, in my opinion, a surprisingly balanced column about #hashtag campaigns in the hands of private people.
. . .When a superpower, with multiple means at its disposal, reverts to rhetorical emptiness and hashtag activism, it has betrayed both its impotence and indifference. But if you’re an individual citizen without power, if you lack access to media, drones or special forces, then hashtagging your solidarity with the aggrieved is a fine gesture and perhaps even more.

The mass tweet is, after all, just the cyber equivalent of the mass petition. And people don’t sneer at petitions. Historically, they’ve been a way for individuals, famous or anonymous, to make their views known and, by weight of number, influence authorities who, in democratic societies, might respond to such expressions of popular sentiment.

The hashtag campaign for the Nigerian girls — originated in Nigeria by Nigerians — was meant to do exactly that: pressure the Nigerian government to respond more seriously to the kidnapping. It has already had this effect. And attention from abroad has helped magnify the pressure.

As always, however, we tend to romanticize the power of the tweet. For a while, Twitter (and other social media) was seen as a game-changer that would empower the masses and invert the age-old relationship between the ruler and ruled.

This is mostly rubbish. Yes, the tweet improves upon the mass petition because tweets contain an instant return address that allows for mass mobilization. People can be summoned to gather together somewhere — Tahrir Square, for example.
At which point, alas, the age-old dynamics of power take hold. If the tyrant, brandishing guns and tanks, is cruel and determined enough, your tweets will mean nothing. Try it at Tahrir or Tiananmen, in Damascus or Tehran. They will shoot and torture you, then maybe even let you keep your precious smartphone.
Michelle Obama’s tweeting #BringBackOurGirls for the nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists poses an interesting case of the semi-official tweet. This was no exercise in vanity. She does advise the man who does deploy the forces and who in this case provided serious concrete support — intelligence, reconnaissance, on-the-ground advisers — to help fight the evil.
Irina doesn't have her own army and helicopters, so yea, she's doing something that might contribute in a small way, certainly more than her president, Vladimir Putin.  Good for her.

Linked at Proof Positive in "Best of the Web*."  Wombat-socho has the "Rule 5 Sunday: Armed Forces Day Edition" megapost up at The Other McCain.  Thanks, Kevin!

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