Tag: facebook

In fact, snipe is a bird that is hard to shoot

by on May.02, 2011, under Politics

This status update is making the rounds on Facebook:

‎”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

I admire the spirit and I’m glad to see it circulating. I didn’t repeat it because it doesn’t accurately describe my emotions right now. I will admit to a small patch of gladness to see the guy dead. The feeling is swamped by shame and rage at the past ten years of pointless warfare, loss of life, madness and torture, not to mention being creeped out by the dickswinging “Obama 2012” (ok, I like Moshe Kasher) but I’d be lying to say it wasn’t real.

I’m also not impressed by this petition, also moving fast on FB:

After 10 years of war and the death of Osama bin Laden, it’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan. With al-Qaeda driven from the country and Bin Laden now dead, the rationale for war has evaporated. It’s time to stop now.

Well, no. The hunt for OBL long ago evaporated as the pretext for the United States’s two or three Middle East wars. This is coy to the point of useless. This is forgetting as the answer to forgetting.

A fair and related point to make right now is that the wars have in virtually no way led to this day. Rather, it seems to have been through careful, focused intelligence work. The capture or killing of Osama could have been accomplished with a much lower cost.

John Kerry was roundly condemned for saying as much in 2004. As in so much, his phrasing was infelicitous, but he was right. It’s imperfect to call this operation a simple matter of law enforcement and intelligence–for one thing, the ease with which everyone, myself included, dismisses its questionable legality only reveals how many sacred prohibitions we’ve cast aside in the past decade.

To now begin to end the wars will require more than forgetting how much we’ve forgotten. It will require accepting that they were snipe hunts from the beginning, and that their stated aims were either accomplished through other means or never obtainable at all.

UPDATE: Amanda Marcotte’s take: it may be bullshit but let’s run with it. OTOH, zunguzungu. Also MLK never spoke the first line of the quote (which I’ve put in italics). It was apparently added by some tweeter and then copied into the quote as re-posted.

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To my friend who shared Helen Thomas’s ill-advised outburst on her FB feed

by on Jun.07, 2010, under Uncategorized

This was what set off your Holy Land Outrage-o-Meter, this week?

[posted here because I am too smart/cowardly to get into it with you directly]

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When the Facebook Status Update Through the Worker’s Blood Shall Run

by on Sep.04, 2009, under Politics

Yesterday, several dozen people in my Facebook feed changed their status updates to read:

No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the next 24 hours.

Because I’m an asshole, I changed mine to read “No one should die, etc.” My favorite variation was “Everybody should get sick go broke die,” and J.H.P. babelfished in with “Nobody must die because they cannot allow well-taken care of doctor, and nobody must break because patients obtain. If you agree, you satisfy fix this like its state for the rest of the day.” In Soviet Russia, Facebook updates you!

But Gerry Canavan, God bless him, is taking it seriously. At HASTAC, he kicks off a conversation about status-update activism:

What have we really done when we “donate” our status update to a cause? While certainly tempting, I think it’s wrong to say we’ve done nothing — at the very least, we’ve taken a public stand, we’ve added our number to a count — and yet it’s very hard to pin exactly what the something we’ve done is.

It’s a question, I think, that takes us to the heart of digital identity. What is at stake in this sort of signaling behavior? What status does your status update have?

It’s easy to be crabby about this sort of thing. My friend V. complained that “if you care so deeply about the health care issue you should do something more than put a blurb on your FB page about it”, to which one of her friends responded:

Because the politicians seem to have forgotten their promises (as usual) at a critical moment in the debate, any action that helps remind people this is a topic worthy of attention and solidarity is one I consider worth pursuing.

This is a typical defense of decentralized activism: any little thing helps. I heard it a lot in response to my Whole Foods boycott-bashing. And I was guilty of it myself in this blog’s very comments. Let’s be clear about at least one thing: there’s plenty of things you can do on your own that, while nice, aren’t the slightest bit helpful. And the vague hope that one action will beget another, while not wrong, is almost always unfalsifiable. So let’s evaluate digital activism for what it is, not for what it might inspire.

Additionally, though it’s hard to make an argument that slacktivism will change the world, the arguments in favor of more accepted forms of politics, such as voting, aren’t a hell of a lot stronger. Short of owning an insurance company, a news network, or a United States Senator, there’s no guaranteed method for effective participation in politics. So why not take this one seriously?

I’ve noticed that liberal-sentimented people of a certain caste get unbearably twitchy around collective action. Raised on 1984 and Brave New World, we’re reflexively suspicious of lock-step action and automatic agreement. We overestimate our own agency and indulge in a fatuous civics of individuality. As a result, we can be very bad at politics.

So status-update “signaling” resists that tendency (though it also brings it out in assholes like me). It’s less than collective action, but I think it can be understood as cultivating solidarity, a precondition for successful collective action. It’s an emotional warm-up.

It still leaves the question, “what is to be done?” But by allowing it to be asked in (otherwise creepy) unison, I think it makes the question less academic.

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