I loved Nancy Kaffer’s recent offering in the Daily Beast, When Activism is Worse than Apathy. Before noting that those things we were so fussed about for a few days here and there over the past six months are still happening, she writes:
Apathy isn’t our problem. We care—we care a lot. Show us an injustice, and we’ll slap a hashtag on it in a hot minute. We may even have a national conversation about it. And then? Ooh, shiny! We’re on to the next outrage. Call it hashtag activism, call it slacktivism—worse than indifference, it’s a transitory, bustling attentiveness that passes so quickly it barely registers, yet leaves in its wake a sense that we’ve done something.
Social media can decry a problem. It can spread news like wildfire scorching a dry field. But it doesn’t Do. Results require action. And we’ve seen that in the past 6 months.
While the Nigerian girls have not been brought back, Meriam Ibriam is free.
People spread #BackOurGirls all over the web, and then forgot it. But Meriam, the Christian woman sentenced to lashings and death for apostasy and adultery in South Sudan for not adhering to the Muslim faith of her father, hardly had a hashtag. Christian persecution isn’t something the hashtag warriors get fussed about. Still, Meriam had something better than social media activism. She had old media, Italian diplomats, and the Vatican.
In the comments on to the Times of London article on her freedom and surprise audience with the Pope, one highlighted the truth about PR campaigns.
David Cameron said that her oppression was “barbaric.” The former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the way she had been treated abhorrent. Western feminists didn’t even bother to create on of those ‘we care but aren’t willing to actually do anything about it’ hashtags. But the Italian Foreign Minister acted.
And that made all the difference. Apparently, the Italians offered diplomatic help to the US State Department to secure her release as The Telegraph and The Times of London publicized the story. The Italian Foreign Ministry flew representatives to Sudan and negotiated her release with the help of Vatican funding and advice. It wasn’t easy. There were setbacks and scares, but Meriam arrived in the US months ago. She is free. The Nigerian girls who we all heard about are not.