Whether you believe that the idea is a vacuous piece of 21st Century buzz or a genuinely progressive development, it’s true that many people have turned to the Internet to put their ideals into action.
Sites like Avaaz allow the noble armchair activist to protest about a range of issues within minutes – and petitions against illegal whaling, human rights abuses and attempts to restrict our freedoms are a happy fact of online life.
These mass petitions eventually rock up on the desks of policy wonks or politicos, and the word on the street is that they pay serious attention to them. ‘We’ve Won!’ proclaims Avaaz about yet another campaign victory. I hope so, and it makes a change!
All the same – without naming names – ‘clicktivism’ has its detractors. I read a Guardian article last year (don’t ask me to find it, I can’t be bothered) suggested that armchair activists are apologists for all that’s wrong in the world, and a danger to the already weakened political left.
I disagree. I did my fair share of protest clicking in 2011, and I took to the streets when I could make it. I can’t hope to attend every single demo that comes my way, so clicking to glory seems like the next best thing. It’s better than doing nothing, assuming that this kind of protest ends up as a head count of detractors in support of genuine issues.
Avaaz aside, there are always online petitions to get involved with. These are a welcome contrast to the scores of junk emails (and junk snail mail) I receive bringing glad tidings of affordable penis enlargement, Viagra (same thing?) and get rich quick schemes. I decided a while ago to refocus my time on getting thing done; and while I wouldn’t advocate clicktivism as a total replacement for face-to-face action (assuming your life has room for this), I think it’s the next best thing.
Who knows. Perhaps in a few years I’ll change my mind; but I think it’s probably blinkered to suggest that online activists are ineffectual. Cynical as I sometimes feel about ‘virtual communities’ (what have we replaced?!), I still believe that the Internet can act as a conduit for social change if it’s used in a very focused way by people who are clear about their objectives.
Note to self: If energies are not directed properly they go astray, leading to confusion and time wasting. And life is finite, so this is well worth considering. I do tend to let time slip by…
In any case the sham that we call ‘democracy’ – votes cast for crypto-fascist tyrants who ignore their electorate from then on – lends itself to taking action in between elections. You will not be noticed otherwise, so please kick up a fuss.