Thursday, June 19, 2014

14 loosely-connected thoughts on how that KONY2012 strawman is full of shit

1. So a few times this last week I noticed one person or another casting aspersions on online campaigning with some smug variation or another of a line like 'Hey, online campaigning slash clicktivism is cool. We got Kony, right? KONY2012!'.

2. Maybe it's been going on longer than that but a) I am not that perceptive and b) I keep getting distracted by the majesty of the fucking sky. Seriously, that thing is amazing. I just stare at it like a fool.

3. If you don't know what KONY2012 was, it was an online campaign based on lies. The lies got found out and so it failed. What I am calling the KONY2012 strawman is the notion that because that campaign failed, online campaigns are necessarily a waste of time.

4. No-one actually puts it as bluntly as that, because if they did you might realise they are full of shit, but I will and you should and they are. Because here's the thing: the magic ingredient that causes a campaign based on lies to fail when the lies are found out is that it is based on lies and those lies are found out. It being online or offline makes not the tiniest fucking whit of difference to that.

5. I have noticed that some of the people making that argument - such as it is, since it's not spelled out - are people skeptical of the ability of anyone to do anything useful about anything. Some of those people, like Helen Razer, make a living by eloquently expressing that skepticism in print. Others are seduced by the combination of said eloquence and their own paranoia into repeating the argument. It's still a bad argument.

6. By paranoia I mean - and I'll go into detail about this another time - if you're alive now in a rich country you simultaneously suspect a) you're not doing all you could to help keep alive the thing-of-all-things that gave and gives you life, and b) that maybe there's nothing you can do OMIGODWE'REALLDOOMED.

7. re a), you're probably right. My humble suggestion is that repeating bullshit is not the way to deal with that. My humble suggestion is that instead you walk outside and gaze up into the infinite sky and ask the thing-of-all-things if it could use a fucking hand not bleeding to death and if so what it suggests and then see what it says and then go and do it. That will bring you as much peace as you can reasonably expect from this life.

8. re b) this is an old argument. It's half right. Our salvation lies in the other half. The half that's right is that there are forces larger than us and we don't have perfect freedom - all our choices are constrained by history &c &c - and many of those forces are dire.

9. The other half is fuck you, don't try and wriggle your rich-country way out of doing what you can with what freedom you have. It's 2014. You have so much power. DON'T FUCKING WASTE IT.

10. The thing-of-all-things is saying this through me. I asked it to speak through me and now I just say whatever shit comes out of my mouth. It's also saying it loves you very much: I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH. BUT SERIOUSLY, WAKE THE FUCK UP AND QUIT WASTING TIME.

11. I have been blessed this last 12 months to get to hang out with campaigners who don't care whether you're skeptical and who are getting on with doing what they can to save what ecological and social furniture they can as the flood of late capitalism sweeps lo! across this earth. All of these people use online campaigns as part of what they do.

12. Since those people are overworked and operating on the scent of a coaly rag, partly because you have not yet had that conversation with the thing-of-all-things have you and so they are doing it without you, trust me when I say they would not bother a second with online campaigning if it wasn't useful. Seriously. Think it through for more than a few seconds: why would they waste those precious minutes otherwise?

13. Sure there's all kinds of useful questions to ask about efficacy, especially around turning online actions into offline ones. But when it comes to thinking about those questions I trust the people who are actually using online tools to try and do something useful more than I trust the people who make a living out of putting hopelessness into fancy words.

14. Whatever your other views on online life, it's clearly a big chunk of how we are social, now, or you wouldn't be reading this. It's not a magic space somewhere else. So the fancy hopelessness people should quit trying to pretend we should cordon it off from how we work to keep the thing-of-all-things from bleeding to death. Because a) if we did that they'd just criticise us for that, because their schtick is critique, not efficacy; and b) their KONY2012 strawman is full of shit. X


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