For me, internet based activism is primarily about shifting people’s thoughts and perceptions. Done well, people can find themselves asking new questions and entertaining new ideas. Done badly, people become entrenched and incurious.
Good activism always presents a pathway or avenue to walk down, or a door to walk through. Bad activism slams people and doors; burns bridges and leaves activists and their potential audience (which is where any future fellow traveller must come from) isolated and nursing antagonisms.
Good activism is always a two way street – a process of give and take – where the activist is as open to change as they imagine those they are out to influence are. Without that openness, the dynamic can, and often does, quickly become characterised by an off-putting air of superiority, or worse, an authoritarian call for unity – a subjective insistence that this way is the only way and that others must and will be choppethed up and stompethed down if they can’t see the self evident truth of…
Actually, there is no such thing as ‘good’ activism and ‘bad’ activism. What I have labelled as ‘bad’ activism above, isn’t activism at all but rather the antithesis of activism. And beyond that, I don’t readily know or really care what they should be called, or what they are.
Activism can only ever be more effective or less effective. In either case, doors are open, and paths presented. The only difference would be that the door isn’t opened as wide in one scenario as it is in the other – or the path isn’t as broad, as inviting, or as obvious in one as in the other.
Putting the above into a real world and possibly familiar context – if anyone was wanting to convince me of the merits of veganism, they wouldn’t get very far if all they did was bang on about how meat was murder and by extension insinuate that my moral compass was no better than that of a murderer, would they? Far better to extol the culinary delights of some vegan foods, or maybe point to some personal saving or gain, or whatever…anything that might give me a reason to ‘buy in’ – to engage or care.
Whatever the progress of any subsequent exchange, or whatever the result of any ensuing argument or debate, the alternative, of just repeatedly and self-righteously kicking me in my non-vegan nuts wouldn’t amount to any kind of activism at all and would likely only result in any potential worlds of interaction and learning being lit up by the flames of burning bridges.
And, in spite of and in full knowledge of that, some might walk way from ‘dishing it out’ to others feeling vindicated and righteous and a whole lot more determined to be tough, to ‘never give an inch’, and to ‘tell it to the bastards like it is’ etc, etc.
Or then again they might walk away feeling empowered and purposeful, reflecting on the progress to date of eliminating, neutralising or ostracising any potential source of discord from their idea of a perfect, but unachievable world of unity.
But on a good day, just maybe they’d reflect on what exactly it was they had achieved and what it was they hoped to achieve and conclude that it wasn’t really all that flash, or that what they hoped to achieve could only ever amount to dystopia. And maybe then, they’d decide that activism was a thing worth exploring and getting to grips with instead.
A disparate group of activists bringing their different ideas and thoughts and their spread of knowledge to a blog, and that blog becoming popular and, among other things, a go-to source for decent information and a place of inspiration, new ideas and challenging thoughts…
But then, it’s a good dream, and one well worth nurturing.