Why The “Ownership” Issue Is Important (Updated with Sidenote)

 

However trivial hashtags can feel, their most basic function is as a tool for focusing attention. Crucially, they’re also free and open to anyone to use. So desperate Nigerian parents, without extraordinary power or resources can draw the kind of attention that leads to real pressure and real power.

That feels a little bit world-changing. And activists who started the hashtag have gotten out of it exactly what they’d hoped for. In the space of a week, they made it impossible for President Jonathan to continue chalking up their daughters’ abduction as the latest Boko Haram atrocity to be grimly accepted and eventually forgotten.

It’s not everything, but it’s a start. And the world is now talking about 276 stolen girls in Nigeria when before it wasn’t talking about them at all.

–Laura Olin, Time, May 9, 2014

If you ask why it matters who gets credit for spearheading that hashtag movement, I don’t think I can explain it more plainly than Olin just did in her piece published today on the Time website. Many people have been dismissive about the furor about Ramaa Mosley and the American media’s attempt to co-opt the movement, stating that the issue of ownership of the movement is unimportant to the ultimate goal of finding the 276 missing schoolgirls.

Here’s the thing: I agree that the hashtag movement in and of itself isn’t going to find those girls, and that ultimately people on this side of the Atlantic arguing about this doesn’t do much to bring about that result. That’s fine.

However, when we’re claiming that ownership of it isn’t important, we’re basically saying it doesn’t matter that Nigerians—desperate to call attention to the fact that a mass kidnapping happened and nobody in government or the international community seemed to respond to it—started this as a method to get their government and the international community to respond. (more…)

The Most Obvious Co-opting of #BringBackOurGirls I’ve Seen Yet

Ramaa Mosley is attempting to co-opt the #BringBackOurGirls movement, and I am not here for any of this.

Yesterday, ABC News (of the United States) made up a profile on the newsmagazine Nightline of Ramaa Mosley, and essentially credited her with creating the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag—for those wondering, it refers to the 234 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigera weeks ago, that haven’t been found as of yet. And I have a problem: the claim just isn’t true. (more…)

Twitter Is.

 

We should know by now that journalists—especially those who write for major publications—have a tendency to write screeds lamenting the proliferation of social media on society; then years later, after opening an account on the platform and having it verified, doing the exact the same thing they lambasted everyone else for doing.

So if the recent screeds about how Twitter is a dead medium—written by journos who only were on the service to brag about connections to other scribes in the business, and now lament the loss of access and interaction with them—are any indication, it only seems fair to point out that many in that pundit/journo industry have been trying to kill it since 2009.

Twitter’s death has been predicted by so many people since then—when people first started paying attention to Twitter in the first place—and the reasons so varied since then, that it seems like everyone was just trying to presage the next fall of MySpace. Twitter was dead because not that many users interact, there were bugs, there are too many spam accounts, The Failwhale, it’s not a real business, it’s taking too much revenue from ads, Old Twitter sucks, New Twitter sucks, the interface sucks, too many people tweeting about Justin Bieber, too many hashtags…

Mark McKinnon wrote in that same edition of Newsweek/Daily Beast in 2009 that, because U.S. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) had started tweeting, the service had “jumped the shark”. Doesn’t exactly stop him or his organization from using the service—and the journo connections there—to promote the No Labels political group, but there you go.

And here it is, five months into 2014, and Twitter is still here, and we still have people trying to kill it.

I read this piece, and my thoughts are that the authors are writing specifically from their own point of view, and their usage of Twitter was couched in trying to be friends with other journalists in the know, and this harkening for the Good Old Days of Twitter—when Roger Ebert and Rob Delaney were monarchs—seems rather individualised.

Yet these lamentations in the Atlantic piece about self-promotion, coming from people who probably self-promote their work there (hello?); the complaints about unverified content (which you don’t have to click on, and can easily research and put down); the statement that Twitter is a space that “we” have outgrown (meaning, these two will delete their accounts? Not likely)…and yet I’m supposed to believe that the impetus for all of this is because Ezra Klein isn’t tweeting (or retweeting their shit) anymore, and will be amongst the first people to leave?

No. Just…no. That’s not the apogee of Twitter, ladies and gentlemen. Really, no one singularity is that important to the medium that they can’t disappear and the service stops being a useful tool for other people. Not even Bieber has that much pull.

And this idea that it’s difficult to have productive conversations is complete nonsense. If people can have sex in direct messages, you can still discuss feminist theory or discrimination or political science on Twitter, despite the character limit. You also have to understand: you have to regulate those conversations by regulating your feed. You can also have stupid conversations on Twitter. Just as you can in real life. The service wasn’t intended to be a high-minded place of exchange of ideas and ideals for high-minded people; it was designed with the intention to communicate, and the level of communication is determined by the users. The diversity of that communication is what makes it what it is, what it has been, and what it will be. And if you can’t go outside your circle and try to communicate with others, when that’s what you claim you want to do, well…your bubble’s gonna get a little boring.

Maybe it’s just my reading of it, but it seems like the complaint isn’t that Twitter is dead or boring or whatever, it’s that the people who complain about it aren’t using it effectively enough to make it interesting for themselves. And that’s not anyone’s fault but theirs. It’s not a eulogy for Twitter, but an asseveration of their limitations using the service. Theirs, not everyone else’s.

To Hell With Respectability Politics

Despite what some fake-ass revolutionaries would have you believe, listening to their thousand-word meandering rants on the internet; if you think that the problem with racism, whether in America or in the world, is that Black people haven’t put on a good enough face for other people, and that the only way to solve the inherent racism foisted upon Black people is to “do better”–in whichever variation of the Black Folk Gotta Do Better speech you’d like to use…

…then you are part of the problem.

I’m not sure why every time a racist controversy comes up it turns into a referendum of the Black Community at-large, but it’s a bait-and-switch tactic employed by fools who, frankly, are embarrassed by their own people. So, in order to get an Amen Chorus going, this is what they turn to: a sonnet about the ills of the Black Community, and how “we gotta do better”…so that racism can stop.

When the reality is: Black people could be the cleanest-cut, proper-talking, great parents and students and community leaders and all the other crap that these people wanted us to be…and racism would still exist. It isn’t going to disappear on a condition that we behave a certain way. So, tell me: how is “fixing what’s wrong with us”–whatever the hell that means—stops assholes from being racist? We all act right, and then…the racists will, at long last, accept us as human beings?

Maybe pick up a damn newspaper, and see for yourself how your bullshit works—when respectable people like the First Lady of the United States cannot go speak at a high school graduation in Kansas, because of “concerns about politics”–and you morons think lowering the out-of-wedlock birth rate changes that shit?

We elected the first Black president, yet people are taking polls where the “majority” of the respondents claim he isn’t Black—but you, in your infinite Facebook/YouTube/Twitter wisdom, think saying “The N-Word” less changes that shit?

There is nothing more or less we can do to make racist people respect the people who they are racist against.

Let me repeat that: there is nothing more or less we can do to make racists respect the people whom they are racist against.

And if we have to play that game, if we have to qualify ourselves to a standard that others set for us, in order to get them to respect us? Then we will have sold out. Then, we will have given away any sentience of our humanity, because we had to put on airs for them to stop being assholes. Rather than doing it to uplift ourselves. Rather than doing it because it is the right thing to do.

Yes, we have to do better. So does everyone else. You preachers of respectability politics and faux-Stokley Carmichael-esque revolutionaries of the internet must—and I do mean must—quit making respectability a prerequisite and stipulation for us to stop being treated like crap by the assholes of this world. Because they, too, must do better, and it should and does not require me to put on a face, a song-and-dance routine, or a suit-and-tie for them to do so.