Political activism is going nowhere

Why are so many otherwise rational people spending so much time ranting about Donald Trump and other politicians on social media? Yes, of course Trump is a dangerous basket case. But ranting about him to your few hundred online friends and followers who already share your opinion is the same as peeing down your trouser leg when wearing a dark suit - it gives you a nice warm feeling but nobody notices. Beware of the trap that lured the British twittering classes into believing that if they made enough noise on social media about the benefits of remaining in the EU, the referendum result was a foregone conclusion. Instead of ranting about Trump, people should read Jarett Kobek's novel i hate the internet, and this passage in particular:
One of the curious aspects of the Twenty-First Century was the great delusion amongst many people, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, that freedom of speech and freedom of expression were best exercised on technological platforms owned by corporations dedicated to making as much money as possible.
People from across all the political spectrum loved Twitter. Instant activism with an instant response. There was the sensation that things were happening that people were listening.In fact, all of the people who exercised freedom of speech and freedom of expression on Twitter were doing nothing more and nothing less than creating content they did not own for a corporation in which they had no stake...
The only purpose of tweeting was the creation of new opportunities for advertisements. The only function of exercising freedom of speech and freedom of expression on Twitter was to make money for the people who had founded and invested in twitter.
So that was radical activism in 2013. Hosted by a service owned by white dudes which displayed advertisements for Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
No review sample used in this post. Renault 4 going nowhere was photographed by me in Essaouira, Morocco. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Inevitably but ironically also on Facebook and Twitter.


Pliable said…
Before anyone trots out the standard exemplar of the 'Facebook Revolution' also known as the 'Arab Spring' I recommend they read this extract from Jarett Kobek's novel:

Because the American media was fueled by advertising, its narrative of revolution mimicked the method of advertising, presenting both a stated idea and an intended one.
The stated idea was the embrace of human rights, which s to say a replica of AmericanConstituional Rights.
The intended meaning was the idea that countries liberated by an embrace of human rights would be a great place to sell the goods of multinational corporations.
To the surprise of no one, these multinational corporations were generally the same corporations that fueled the American media with advertising revenue.

The Arab Spring was the moment during which the American media collapsed both the stated and intended meanings into one thing. The reporting had focused on Facebook and Twitter.
Here are some headlines from the period:
Is Egypt about to have a Facebook Revolution?
Egypt's Revolution 2.0: The Facebook factor
The First twitter Revolution?
Was What Happened in Tunisia a twitter Revolution?

Social protests staged in countries thousands of miles away, on a different continenet, were covered in advertisements for multinational corporations headquartered around and near San Francisco.

Adeline's friend J. Karacehennem, whose last name was Turkish for Black Hell, went to Egypt one month after its Facebook revolution led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, a dumb asshole who had been in power for thirty year.
Lots of Egyptians talked to J. Karacehennem about the protests. Many had been in the protests.
No one mentioned Facenook. No one mentioned Twitter.
Mostly people talked about money and how they had none.
Joe Shelby said…
Well, the begged question, re: I Hate the Internet's commentary, is, well, how else would you do it? Every revolution has been dependent on something that makes someone else money.

Martin Luther's 95 items? Printing press: someone had to be paid to make that thing. Additional people and printing shops were paid to make the thousands of copies that spread across the continent.

So too, Thomas Paine's Common Sense: as a pamphlet, it was sold to people (120,000 copies, according to Paine himself), not handed out for free. The printers made money for distributing it, and Paine made a cut of that writing it.

So while there is the matter of the ownership of people's contributions to internet media being slightly different, an end effect of publishing copyright changes over the last 60 years (many of which I disagree with - and I accept that British copyright law is different than American in this regard, and music different from prose), it in the end is no different: you can't really have a revolution without having to pay for it. Literally.
Pliable said…
Joe, the point is not so much having to pay for the social media platforms used for this political activism. Rather it is the inflated expectations of the power of social media to change anything, expectations that are vigorously hyped by the media owners.

Ranting to your few hundred online friends and followers who already share your opinion is the same as peeing down your trouser leg when wearing a dark suit - it gives you a nice warm feeling but nobody notices, except the media owners who benefit from the increased ad revenue.
Unknown said…
In my usual way of having a peculiar take on something, in the States this year's election cycle as vocalized in Facebook and elsewhere has had the unintended result of many "un-friendings" that may lead to shorter Christmas and birthday gift lists. That can have a commercial application in reverse.

I get the more troubling aspect, that social media is enhancing the echo chambers of deeply divided groups who lost the ability to have measured, calm discussions and debates about the issues. It all comes down to being a pure broadcasting platform on which advertisers hitch a ride in an ironic symbiosis when you think of the deeply-rooted control mega-corporations have taken in American government, often the very thing at which both sides are furiously angry.

As more and more American TV broadcasting features people hollering and screaming at each other, social media has taken on the same form. No problems are really solved, it's just a last-man-standing brawl at the virtual coliseum.
billoo said…
brilliant post, pli. Lots of interesting work on the effects of the net on anxiety, on reading and social habits ( Shelley Turkle) and on skills ( Matthew Crawford's great new book). As Gil Scot Heron said: The Revolution will not be televised.

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