Politics

05.14.14

Go Away, Coulter and Limbaugh; Hashtagging Is Better Than Snarking

OK, promoting a hashtag may not rescue those poor Nigerian girls. But it sure is superior to making fun of it.

Just when I thought there was nothing conservatives could say or do that would shock me, they proved me astoundingly wrong.  It’s simply beyond any sense of reason or decency that some on the right would ridicule the efforts of people to use the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on Twitter to raise awareness about the 200-plus girls kidnapped in Nigeria.

You would think this would be an issue that unites us all. But no. Instead, the same people who tell us they aren’t waging a war on women are now publicly demeaning actions taken to raise awareness about kidnapped schoolgirls. Perhaps they just want us to remain focused on Benghazi and don’t believe that young African women merit any attention?

First, we saw Rush Limbaugh mock Michelle Obama’s efforts to bring attention to the kidnapped girls when she tweeted out a photo of herself holding a sign that read, “#Bring Back Our Girls.” I guess Rush’s idea of appropriate activism is calling a woman he disagrees with a “slut” and “prostitute,” as he despicably did with Sandra Fluke. 

Then Sunday on Fox News we saw a double-barreled assault on the hashtag activism by conservatives. First, George Will mocked the “Bring Back Our Girls” hashtag as an “exercise in self esteem.” He then ridiculed the First Lady’s hashtag photo with the comment, “Will the terrorists who see her photo respond: ‘Uh-oh Michelle Obama is very cross with us, we better change our behavior?’” 

Instantly, Twitter users began retouching Coulter’s photo to change the words on her sign to read expressions such as “#Bring Back My Soul.”

Then House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers dismissed the social media activism saying the government can’t base policy “on what’s trending on Twitter.” Is he really saying that our government’s policy shouldn’t be influenced by the will of the people?

Ann Coulter found out the hard way that belittling the efforts to save kidnapped children will result in you being the butt of a lot of jokes. On Monday, Coulter mocked the hashtag activists by tweeting out a photo of herself holding up a sign that read: “#Bring Back Our Country.” Instantly, Twitter users began retouching Coulter’s photo to change the words on her sign to read expressions such as “#Bring Back My Soul” and “I’m a miserable person who peddles hate to make money off dumb Republicans.” You can find those and many, many others like them across the Twitterspehere.

140513-obeidallah-coulter-embed
via Twitter

OK, that much, we know already. But let’s plow these fields a little more deeply. Why are these conservatives upset over people taking to social media to voice their concerns about the Nigerian schoolgirls? My more cynical side says that they don’t like platforms like Twitter or Facebook, where people can easily have their voice heard. They know they will be outnumbered because there are simply fewer of them. Keep in mind, the GOP has championed voter-ID laws that make it more difficult for people who traditionally oppose them from voting. I wonder if they are now thinking of how to impose a Twitter-ID law to restrict access?

But lets get to the real issue: Can using a hashtag actually have an impact on an issue? The simple answer: Absolutely.  

At the very least, a tweet can bring attention about a cause to your friends. And awareness is the first step in the process of building a critical mass to effectuate change on issues. It informs and will inspire some to become more engaged in a hands-on way.

Plus the media now look to social media for stories to cover. In turn, more media coverage influences public opinion, and that often motivates our elected officials to change government policy.     

While tweeting a photo or a clever hashtag won’t change the world on its own, it can be a great start.  When I see even these small examples of activism, it brings to mind Bobby Kennedy’s  wise words: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events.” Of course, I’m sure Coulter and her crew would’ve mocked Kennedy for making such an overly optimistic statement, but I’d rather have tried to help the Nigerian schoolgirls in need by even one tweet than simply ridicule those who did.

To me, every person who took a moment out of their day to use social media to raise the issue of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls should be applauded, not belittled. Your actions have already had an impact as you can see from the increased media coverage that was absent prior to the social media campaign.

And to those on the right, please keep posting photos like Ann Coulter did. We could use the laughs.