Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Problem with Twitter Activism...


I love Twitter. I really do. I've met so many fascinating, ratchet, interesting, out-of-pocket, classy, ignant, unforgettable people there. It is definitely a quick and painfree way to reach a lot people in a short amount of time. Twitter can open your world to people and ideas that you may not have been exposed to anywhere else.

With one glance through my columns on TweetDeck, I can know the weather worldwide. Sports scores, the latest Obama sighting, who said what in Congress, what's up on Wall Street and what celeb just did something regrettable. Who died, who got pregnant, who started dating, who just broke up - it's all there to see. I also know who is reading what, watching what, eating what. And I know what the latest soapbox issue of the day is as well as ongoing causes and campaigns.

Never was this more apparent than with the case of Troy Davis. I can tell you who is for and against the death penalty, who believes the justice system in America is fatally flawed and who is still an eternal optimist. I can tell you who had never heard of Troy Davis before Monday and who has been blogging and tweeting his cause for years. 

Either way, it doesn't matter. We are able to (finally) get our issues heard by driving trending topics that news organizations pay attention to. Whether or not Twitter manipulated the trending lists to "shut down" the Troy Davis discussion will be hotly debated for months. What we do know is that by attempting to shut down a topic, they actually drew more attention to it. And that's great... though not good enough. 

I need folks to understand something fundamental about activism... it still requires action. It's awesome to draw attention to the wrongs of the world by tweeting about them but at some point, you have to get up from behind your keyboard and stand up for what you believe in.

I say this right now with less than fourteen months to the 2012 elections. If no one else sees the direction this country is heading in, I'm happy to be the one to tell you - it's not good. Tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging are great vehicles to share opinions and disseminate information. But I'm going to need folks to do a bit more than rant in 140 characters or less.

Ranting in tweet after tweet about how the Supreme Court ain't sh*t does very little. Putting people in office who can shape the judicial system and fight for what you believe in? It's everything. Everything.

Quite simply, I ask this of you:

Vote. Take others to vote. Join a phone bank. Learn who your representatives are and how to contact them. Buy a t-shirt, write a check, support a candidate, go to a debate, get into it. No one is going to do this for you. Get yo' tweet on, find like minded individuals and mobilize. Your tweet is only as good as the action behind it. It's going to take more than keyboard bravery to get this country on the right track. Vote.

And before you ask, well what are you doing Ms. Michele? Don't worry about me. I'm all knee deep up in Organizing for America. Plus I've got some covert ops style ideas I'm running with. (If Rick Perry disappears, he may or may not be wrapped in purple satin and locked in the trunk of a German sedan while being forced to listen to R&B hits of the 90s. But you didn't hear it from me)

The revolution will not be tweeted, people. (You can count on somebody to shut that down) it will be in the streets and at the polls. See you there. Thoughts?

47 comments:

rozb said...

I was there before I could legally vote. I was there throughout the military. And I am here now. The importance of voting and citizen activism has never escaped me, and I will always be someone to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Remember this - if you do not vote and do not participate, you really have no recourse to complain.

Jubilance said...

AverageBro tweeted a great term - "driveby activist". And sadly, most people are that. They hop from cause to cause, bandwagon to bandwagon.  Action requires WORK, which is often too much for people.

I've voted since I was 18, attended rallies, volunteered at registration drives, etc. I've been contemplating volunteering for my representative's re-election campaign (my rep is Rep. Keith Ellison btw), and tonight I feel moved to take the plunge. We all must do our part.

Mr.TramueL said...

Thank you.

tiffanyinhouston said...

*standing ovation*

Brendadc said...

Well said. I am very interested in seeing the numbers for voter turnout for the 2012 elections.

maureen said...

Ditto, could not have said it  any better myself! Someone said on my timeline that they will not vote for Obama b/c he did nothing on Troy's case. I DM'd him  and said I hope you vote to get those judges from the bench.

Tazzee said...

Excellent post. I pray that all the folks that protested tonight are registered voters. Voting apathy in GA helped get us to this point. We must vote and we must act!

thinklikeRiley said...

My thug is on the floor with this one. I got nothing smart ass to say.
*lights a candle for Troy Davis*
*fist bumps OneChizzle as she stands at the podium preaching*

Leon X said...

Great post as usual. If Rick Perry does disappear and is wrapped up in purple satin in the trunk of a German sedan will he also be sprayed with Apple Mango Tango Febreze?

Brenda Kay said...

AMEN Chele! Amen!

I posted a similar comment in my FB status about 50 minutes ago. It's so easy to be a laptop activist and post rant after rant on FB or Twitter. But seeing the outcome of the 2010 Mid-Terms where thousands of voters stayed home and what took place with our Supreme Court this evening - people need to push back from the lap top and get themselves, their family members, their children of voting age, their friends, co-workers and fellow church goers, down to their  local voter registration office and make sure that they are ALL registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election. 

No more excuses. Ranting only goes so far. 

We simply can not afford for President Obama to be a one term president. 

Leon X said...

I said it on Twitter and I'll say it here. Wanting President Obama to intervene on the behalf of Troy Davis is like calling 911 to complain that your McDonald's has run out of Chicken McNuggets.

CaliGirlED said...

I am stunned! I knew it was going to happen but as I read through my TL my heart dropped and tears came to my eyes. I have voted since I was able to.  Even though this type of bulls**t continues to happen, I will still vote.  That.is.all...*says a prayer*

GuessImJay said...

Chele,
Please do not try and pull off some sort of Pelican Brief type government takeover. I can hear you plotting from here.

JohnKinPDX said...

No one real does a good, cleansing civic-minded rant like you. Thank you for this. It's important to remember that words are not enough.

Jasmin said...

Finally a post I can comment on! (I'm a teacher on the West Coast so I always miss peak commenting hours.)

On topic: The best term I've ever heard for this is "slacktivism". People get some online kudos and start feeling like the reincarnation of MLK. Meanwhile, the people who are really making changes do so without needing to constantly toot their own horns. (I could go into a long anecdote about slacktivists popping out of the woodwork to protest Obama speaking at my alma mater's commencement--in his first year as prez, no less--but I'll save that story for another time.)

Rob said...

Hopefully, this will be a wake up call. Sitting in silent outrage never saved a life.

Bryan Anthony said...

Voter apathy and ignorance to how the system works are HUGE issues and barriers to true progress.

OneChele said...

Sir. If you must mock, do so with accuracy. It was Hawaiian Breeze. LMAO!
In all sincerity, since he is the largest cockroach I have ever seen... we may have to nuclear.

Tonda Williams said...

It is impossible for me to articulate why THIS hurts so much but suffice it to say that it breaks my heart AND stokes the flames of activism that may have otherwise found comfort in cyberspace.  In my heart and home there is OFFICIALLY a R.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N

For Bougieland I share THIS:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlvEiBRgp2M&feature=player_embedded

StLunatic said...

St. Louis: Email alerts for the election schedule: http://www.stlelections.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=60&Itemid=68

Any others have info for their areas?
 

keishabrown said...

The interesting thing about being 'called out' for not tweeting about Troy Davis 2 days/weeks/years ago is that those people ignore the very premise of Twitter. We are all FOLLOWERS and jump in on topics, some of which trend, others that don't.  With hundreds of followers, I am able to be a part of many different conversation threads - which is the entire point of connecting and being on it in the 1st place. 

When Amy Winehouse died (or any celeb for that matter), the same thing inevitably gets tweeted: oh.. y'all weren't on her yesterday, but now today it's all RIP. What about those who died in Oslo. Or Japan or.. etc... 

All those people need to have an empty Olympic stadium in China (its got a plentiful amount of seats). Why is it people believe there is a 'right' way to tweet? Who are you to dictate and pretend to know why someone has all of a sudden picked up on a topic? I'm not an American, but the majority of the people I follow and who follow me are. So Troy Davis wasn't on my radar until I saw it mentioned on blogs/social media. And I know it was affecting my friends, so I spent several of my tweets on it. And as long as its something they will talk about - I'll be there to listen, learn and educate myself. Be a part of the change I'd like to see in the world. And if I never tweet about it again, doesn't mean it wasnt a moment in history that that will shrug off  like an Eagles loss. It just means I've stopped tweeting about it. My entire life and opinion on everything is not on twitter. People need to stop thinking that it is!

I feel like I'm rambling (I'm still thoroughly disturbed by the events of the evening/past 20 years that's I've just come to learn), but will end with this: Twitter never ceases to amaze, educate, entertain and piss me the hell off all at the same time. But that's life. And like it, it is what you make it. Its an amazingly powerful tool that in the hands of some can lead to greatness, and in the hands of others...well...becomes a weapon. 

Thanks for letting me rant! Peace to everyone

Singlelif said...

Chele - I'm right there with you Organizing For America. I have been involved in Voter Registration drives since before I could legally vote.  I civically organize as much as my fed employment will alive, and I drive folks to the Poll for every.single.election.

Still, it blows me that there are some people who wonder why they never "get called to be a juror".  How about you need to register to vote, or they wont ever call you...that's how it works in most states...

Our best chance expires in 14 months unless we get off our azzes !

BlackButterfly said...

I take this seriously and I refuse to acknowledge one damn complaint about where this world is headed-- due to the repulsive and deceitful acts of the corrupt-- from anyone who doesn't vote.  I know that there is a struggle and a feeling of helplessness but if we don't exercise our vote which is our voice then we are in essence saying that we want to be victims instead of advocates for what is right. 

My prayers go out to Troy Davis' family!

SassyJJ said...

*that picture is life giving*  :)

I was one of the ones that had heard about Troy Davis, but didn't know his story.  Even as the activity geared up, I still didn't really know.  As I learned more and more, my heart went out to his family.  And then my spirit got REALLY heavy (part of the reason I can't with issues like this) because, as of this past June 30th, my brother was released from his first (AND ONLY) stint in the federal prison system.  Last night could have been my brother.

One of the things that I heard yesterday on the Michael Baisden show, was that in one of Davis' appeals, he had a state-appointed attorney.  Of course this is biased but sadly, this is one of the few options for folks who don't have the resources.  My brother was looking down the barrel of 40 years; if my daddy didn't hustle and retain the best lawyers his money could buy...yeah...

I will say that this revived something in me.  We have to vote.  But not only that, we have to be productive citizens in the communities that we live in and participate in local politics.  This is where many folks get their start.  Go to city council meetings, know who country reps are, volunteer with country board of elections.  My mom, who has never really been a political person, has been a volunteer with the San Mateo (CA) board of elections for the past five years.  She says that on those local elections, voter turnout is dismal...and that is when many important ballots are up for votes. 

I graduated with an MPA from a university here in the DC region.  Because of the region, the curriculum had a strong federal foundational approach and this has prepped me more than I ever really knew.  One of my prerequisites that I had to take was U.S. Government course.  Other than maybe a course in high school, I was a little rusty on Govt 101.  I learned soooo much in the class and it really helped to explain/frame/conceptualize what is going on in our current climate.  I highly recommend that if one is able, to take a U.S. Government or Poli Sci course.

sol_dier said...

recently riots enveloped my city. On twitter, I watched some of my esteemed colleagues turn into keyboard warriors. They had solutions, blame and huge jokes. - Aside from that, they did nothing. 
People talk, its what they like to do. Personally, I keep my politics off twitter and most other online spaces where I am easily identified. I work in an industry that should be open minded, but as usual is extremely bigoted, insecure and pretty incestuous (I know more about the mating habits of some people than I care to)

I'm learning to: Walk NOT Talk, Show INSTEAD of just tell, watch & observe before dipping in, be strategic in all that you do. 
Politics on twitter are a no- no for me.

Lady4Real said...

If Rick Perry disappears, he may or may not be wrapped in purple satin and locked in the trunk of a German sedan while being forced to listen to R&B hits of the 90s. But you didn't hear it from me<~~~~~~ too too much

GrownAzzMan said...

"Ranting in tweet after tweet about how the Supreme Court ain't sh*t does very little. Putting people in office who can shape the judicial system and fight for what you believe in? It's everything. Everything"

Very well said.

GrownAzzMan said...

"And before you ask, well what are you doing Ms. Michele? Don't worry about me. I'm all knee deep up inOrganizing for America. Plus I've got some covert ops style ideas I'm running with. (If Rick Perry disappears, he may or may not be wrapped in purple satin and locked in the trunk of a German sedan while being forced to listen to R&B hits of the 90s. But you didn't hear it from me)"

*Raises hand to volunteer for the RP drop squad*

GrownAzzMan said...

It may be an unpopular statement but POTUS has to think about 350 million of us. He could not sacrifice his presidency to intervene here. We have all allowed these conditions to grow and fester for 100+ years and to expect him to fix them now is...

blackprofessor said...

Great post! I have been anti-death penalty for a long time and have had heated debates with many people regarding the ineffectiveness of the practice.  As long as half of the American population supports capital punishment (including a sizable Black portion), we will continue to have more Troy Davis type situations.  If you don't want innocent people to be put to death, then work towards abolishing the death penalty in the remaining 34 states.

GrownAzzMan said...

But if you do, I'm in!

GrownAzzMan said...

And there it is.

Penny said...

This is another reason that people need to understand and make use of the power of the vote.  When you vote for president (as well as any legislator on the national level) you are voting for the people who have the power to appoint judges and approve or deny presidential appointments-all of which impact peoples lives in a more direct way than many people think. 

Earthangel172 said...

I will say that this revived something in me.  We have to vote.  But not
only that, we have to be productive citizens in the communities that we
live in and participate in local politics.  This is where many folks
get their start.  Go to city council meetings, know who county reps
are, volunteer with country board of elections.  My mom, who has never
really been a political person, has been a volunteer with the San Mateo
(CA) board of elections for the past five years.  She says that on those
local elections, voter turnout is dismal...and that is when many
important ballots are up for votes.

^^^^this right here!!! Local elections are so crucial.

Earthangel172 said...

Prayers for the Davis family and for those who worked tirelessly to prevent his execution.

Cheris Hodges said...

It's easy to sit on Twitter with your cute little name and protest with a hash tag, but who's writing to their governors, signing your name to a letter? I am. I looked up NC's death row. 157 men and women are waiting to die, more than half are African American. North Carolina's SBI lab has been proven to create evidence to win cases. So, if one of those 157 people is innocent, we have a serious problem! THIS IS  WHY voting in your STATE and LOCAL elections MEAN A LOT! It's the people in your backyard deciding if you live or die. Good post. Let's do something. And stop thinking President Obama is a savior. Learn how the system works so we can FIX it.

JoycelynC said...

As I said on FB yesterday evening, local politics matter.  It is the Governor who nominates judges if there is a vacancy before an election, nominates members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and such.  It is the state legislature which allows the death penalty in any state.  National voting is great but it is the local politics which will have a more lasting effect on your life in whatever state you live.  I hope people really start looking at who they are putting into office on the local as well as national level. 

MidWestDominicana said...

This is why I love BnB. Thank you soooo much for putting this out there plainly!

Natasha said...

I read somewhere that Republicans think locally, while Democrats think Nationally which is why we are losing out in these elections.  Local and State Government decide redistricting laws which determines how state maps are drawn for elections and ultimately determines whether a state is going to go red/blue/purple.

Thanks OneChele for this timely post.

Ravenn Gethers said...

Chele - I enjoy reading your blog!  I'm usually lurking in the shadows.  However, I decided to jump in and respond today.  

I agree with Natasha in that your post is quite timely.  I laughed after reading your 1st two sentences.  It reminds me of Kim Wayans' character "Ms. Bonita" on In Living Color.  She begins with love and adoration, then goes straight in with her critique.  I've noticed that all of us have a "Ms. Jenkins".  In this case, Twitter.

I, too, have this love-hate perception of Twitter for similar reasons.  It makes me wonder whether people truly believe that Tweets will mobilize the masses.  I agree with your sentiments that action and activism go hand-in-hand.

Ravenn Gethers said...

Chele - I enjoy reading your blog!  I'm usually lurking in the shadows.  However, I decided to jump in and respond today.  

I agree with Natasha in that your post is quite timely.  I laughed after reading your 1st two sentences.  It reminds me of Kim Wayans' character "Ms. Bonita" on In Living Color.  She begins with love and adoration, then goes straight in with her critique.  I've noticed that all of us have a "Ms. Jenkins".  In this case, Twitter.

I, too, have this love-hate perception of Twitter for similar reasons.  It makes me wonder whether people truly believe that Tweets will mobilize the masses.  I agree with your sentiments that action and activism go hand-in-hand.

OneChele said...

This website allows you to keep track of elections from city to federal in your area: http://www.mytimetovote.com/

GammasWorld said...

This right here:  "The revolution will not be tweeted, people. (You can count on somebody to shut that down) it will be in the streets and at the polls."    For you younguns: 

http://youtu.be/qGaoXAwl9kw

JojoRaze said...

A-MEN!  Folk wanna complain but don't want to volunteer for campaigns etc.  PBO had no jurisdiction in Troy Davis' case. Nathan Deal the gov of GA couldn't even pardon the man.  If people in GA had voted or influenced who was on the Pardons and Paroles Board that would have made a difference. A whole lot of people need to re-watch "School House Rock" videos about how the constitution and the bill making process works.

AndreaPlaid said...

A whole lot of people need to re-watch "School House Rock" videos about how the constitution and the bill making process works.

+1.

I'm going to take a slightly different stance on "slacktivism": I've actually seen it work. Though folks may not, say, go to a rally or wear the t-shirt or vote--in some cases, people may not be able to vote due to criminal records, immigration status, etc.)--they will, say, sign an online petition (online petitions also get lumped into "slacktivism).  And I've seen these online petitions cause some changes, like JC Penney withdrawing sexist t-shirts from its shelves, Psychology Today removing racist evolutionary biologist Satoshi Kanazawa, and freeing Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, to name a few.  So, I'm not going to frown too hard about online activism, from petition-signing to tweeting the latest info and link to an online, say, asking for Mr Davis' freedom.  

Do I believe that a combination of activist methods can bring about change (tweet it/wear it/vote it/march it)? Yes. But I also understand that there are many, many ways to be an activist and I'm for people getting in where they fit in to affect the political system. And I'm all for people getting rightly informed about how the system works (like re/watching "School House Rocks" for basic grasp of the US lawmaking system and reading up as a follow-up to this), so folks who want, say, POTUS Obama to slap an "S" on his chest for everything that goes down in this country (also folks tend to forget he taught constitutional law, so he'd understand what his role was in regards to what he could and couldn't do as far as doing something about Mr Davis' case) will dig themselves when they do get behind their keyboards.

Alvin Milton said...

So right, the news cycle is very "on to the next" regarding any issue let alone hot button issues.
I just saw a movie that put some things in perspective in an angry yet eloquent fashion.
I'd like to submit that we are conditioned to not fuss too much over things like this even though it is blatantly unjust... hence the lack of "getting up and doing something".

Would like to share:
http://www.hulu.com/watch/93209/500-years-later

CorettaJG said...

Amen!

Here in DC, it seems like people think another cocktail party is action.  Even with the Congressional Black Caucus Convention going on, a lot of what is happening is seeing and being seen.  Be cute, network, but then get up and get active.

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