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Kushay's Matter Bank Social Movements

[AK] The Bad Side of Online Activism

This note will discuss why online activism is sometimes ineffective in achieving it’s wanted goals.

In many parts of the world, a large group of people taking the streets bringing signs of frustrations and demands to the current government constantly mobilizes. The issues are very diverse; from abortion, civil rights, to toppling down authoritarian regimes.

In some cases these protests works such as in Tunisia Egypt (toppling down authoritarian regime) and Poland (defending abortion rights). But oftentimes (or most of the time) it failed, receiving only rhetorical and lip service response from the target government (like in Turkey, Brazil, etc.). Why?

1. Oftentimes the groups that participated in the demonstration had no formal affiliation with one another, no clear hierarchy, and no obvious leaders. Because of this, the movement have little political capital than can be pushed as a leverage against the government when attempting to enforce their demands.

2. Social networks helped to virally replicate the movement so that the basic patterns of camping, protesting, fundraising, communicating with the media, and interacting with the authorities were similar from place to place. The problem with this is that because it is so easy to do, oftentimes there is no good follow-up on the tedious, dull technocratic process of implementing the demands into a government policy. In the past when mobilizing is a hard thing to do, technocratic decision-making is necessary to maintain the movement’s momentum.

3. There’s a “feel good effect” that some people does after engaging in online activism. The feeling that “I have signed a virtual petition at change.org, and thus I have created change” is problematic because it deprives individual of their motivation to opt into actual mobilization and democratic discussion with government actors.

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