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log off and get out!

April 6, 2010

I had the privilege of attending the Utah Valley University Animal Ethics Conference last week. A topic that came up in these conversations several times was the role of Facebook in activism. While Facebook and other social media is good for disseminating information, a prevailing notion was that perhaps it deterred some activism as the time spent chatting and reading others posts could be spent fighting for the animals.

Facebook can be both a blessing and a curse. In the words of one activist, known on Facebook as John Brown:

The dual aspect of FB is clear. It has an amazing capacity for subversive organizing; the creation of a greater union of activists; and the world-wide sharing of information…However, its pacifying aspect is also apparent. One becomes lost in the labyrinth of petitions, meetups, and friend requests. Time ticks by. Hours pass. And nothing substantial has happened. Virtual ‘activism’ replaces actual activism. FB should be used as a tool for organization and mobilization, not decadent stupification.

– “John Brown”

The conference concluded with a wonderful but sobering conversation between the audience members and a powerhouse panel of some prominent defenders of effective activism: Steven Best, Jerry Vlasak and Peter Young. All three of them pondered the role of online activism:

What is it about today’s culture that allows people to pass off their activism as spending 8 hours a day on Facebook and handing out Facebook petitions? And how do we reach people who are interested in helping animals? And how do we get them to realize the revolution is not going to be on Facebook?

–Jerry Vlasak

Why is it that today, in 2010 we probably have so many more people who “care” about the issue but there is so much less being done? We have to ask ourselves, what’s pacifying us? What are these things that come to us as saviors…but are actually pacifiers instead? I would say the internet is one of those things. This has to be one of the greatest myths of the modern day, that the more information you have the more that gets done.

-Peter Young

Steven Best suggested a three day moratorium on Facebook. I think it is a brilliant idea and I am ready to act on it. Are you??

As Dylan Powell from the Vegan Police is fond of saying “Talk – Action = Nothing”

As the tattoo’s on Greg Kelly’s arms say “Words mean nothing. Action is everything.”

So let’s stop socializing and let’s get busy!

I am inspired by their words and hope to use social media to advance a campaign in which we ditch social media for a week and devote that time to the animals. World Week for Laboratory Animal Liberation is almost here. I propose that we spend this week or next figuring out how much time we spend each day online.  Then, let’s take 3 days during Laboratory Week for Animal Liberation to devote this amount of time to the animals (or any other social justice movement in which you are involved).

Let’s use Facebook for it’s good for and promote this event! Please see the Facebook invitation and invite others!!!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Dylan P permalink
    April 6, 2010 4:35 pm

    At least one person at the ICAS will like my presentation.

    • April 8, 2010 1:02 am

      i am very very excited for it! i feel lucky to be presenting in the same session as you.
      “diy activism and talk-action=nothing”, followed by “militant direct action in the animal rights movement”! it’s going to be SWEET!

  2. April 7, 2010 3:30 pm

    It’s a phenomenon not limited to activists, I would say. The internet, and especially tools like Facebook and Twitter, make talking so easy that action kind of gets put on the back burner, with this idea that just a little more talk will inspire even more action, but in the end nothing ever happens.

  3. April 17, 2010 9:28 am

    Posted about this on our blog! Thanks Vegina!

  4. Erica permalink
    May 12, 2010 12:24 am

    So does this mean that using facebook is not an effective tool for activism? Of course, it is used as a way for people to feel like they are doing something (signing petitions…not sure how you feel about this, but I’ve actually stopped bothering for the most part).

    But what if you use it as a way of distributing info? I was hesitant to get a fb for a long time for a lot of reasons (kind of saw it as the death of genuine interactions…sort of depressing really), but now I find it an empowering tool. If I post a link about egg farming, everyone that is my “friend” is going to see that. Whether they read it fully or not, the word is out there.

    I by no means am suggesting that this be the only tool for activism. It see it as more of a supplement to things like leafleting, walks, protests etc, but I am wondering what are the most effective ways to use it responsibly.

    In general, I struggle with feeling confident in what are the most effective, time-effecient forms of advocacy.

    • May 13, 2010 12:01 am

      I think that FB is BOTH good and bad for activism. Good for the reasons you mention. Bad, because sometimes we get more involved on the web than we do in the streets. That is why this suggested a targeted moratorium for only 3 days on a very specific week- World Week for Laboratory Animal Liberation- that is geared toward having international anti-vivisection public protests. So I think everyone should do what works best for them, but we all need to be willing to take some time to hit the streets and go public so that our voices are heard.


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