Blackspot

Rejecting Clicktivism

The way forward will not be through the mediation of the screen.

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The world is in desperate need of a cultural revolution. While some of us slave to produce objects we will never be able to afford, others toil to consume luxury items they do not need. Neither lives a fulfilling life, neither is happy and both play a role in the continued desecration and evisceration of the earth. Consumer society is founded in this vicious cycle that chains some to the factory workbench and others to the screens in cubicles. It is an increasingly inhumane cycle that is spiraling out of control, dragging humanity into the abyss of climate wars and cultural insanity. That much we know. But what remains unclear is how to change the situation.

One answer that has come to dominate all others is that the future of activism is online. Dazzled by the promise of reaching a million people with a single click, social change has been turned over to a technocracy of programmers and "social media experts" who build glitzy, expensive websites and viral campaigns that amass millions of email addresses. Treating email addresses as equivalent to members, these organizations boast of their large size and downplay their small impact. It is all about quantity. To continue growing, they begin consulting with marketers who assure them that "best practices" dictate crafting a message that will appeal to the greatest number of people. Thus focus groups, A/B testing and membership surveys replace a strong philosophy, vision for radical change, and cadre of diehard supporters.

It is no wonder that their campaigns soon resemble advertising: email messages are market tested and click rate metrics dominant all other considerations. In the race for quantity, passion is left behind. But with each day they find it harder to elicit a response from their "members". Soon, they hit the pitiful online-activist industry average: less than one in twenty of their members are clicking on their emails, the rest just hit delete. (It is a well-known secret within Bay Area progressive organizations that a 5% response rate is the norm.) Thus, despite their massive, gargantuan list size, they can only count on rallying a minuscule response for any of their actions. To increase click rate, they water down their messages and make their "asks" easier and "actions" simpler. Soon, the "click to sign" deception is rolled out and simply opening an email link is treated as signing a petition. And yet, while their membership list grows larger, the active portion of their base disappears. And what is worse, as well-meaning digital activists soon discover, they are being outdone by disingenuous advertising campaigns posing as true agents of change.

Thus, we find ourselves in the bizarre situation where the celebrated international climate change organization TckTckTck with 10+ million members and 350+ partner organizations – including Greenpeace, 350, WWF, OXFAM etc – is covertly run by Havas Worldwide, the world's sixth largest advertising company. Havas' clients include Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, BP and the rest of the ones who are to blame.

By turning activism over to the technocrats, we've done a great disservice to the noble tradition of rabble rousing that has brought humanity every egalitarian development. We've exchanged the difficult process of engaging in real world struggles for the ease of sending emails and clicking links. And I say this knowing that digital-activists agree and a new generation are only too eager to offer their services, hawking themselves as the pioneers in the cutting-edge field of turning email addresses into bodies on the street. But we must resist their claims to expertise and their successes defined by quantity. The way forward will not be through the mediation of the screen.

Activism, when properly conceived, aims at revolution by striking at the root. It deploys an essential critique of society that cannot be resolved, or recuperated, without a major cultural shift. Each era must find and hone that critique and with persistence use it to repeatedly attack the prevailing social order. The essential critique of our generation is the mental environmentalist perspective which understands consumerism to be a plague upon the earth supported by pollution of our mental ecology by advertisers.

The future of activism is not online; it is a spiritual insurrection against pollution of the mind. And that begins with turning off our screens.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He lives in Berkeley and is writing a book about the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org

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60 comments on the article “Rejecting Clicktivism”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 60

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Anonymous

The street warriors have a snobby elite. I got to know them well in Seattle (WTO), DC (A16), Philly/NY (RNC), Prague (WTO) and elsewhere. Those are the folks who can say 'spokescouncil' like it's a naturally occurring word.

Anonymous

The street warriors have a snobby elite. I got to know them well in Seattle (WTO), DC (A16), Philly/NY (RNC), Prague (WTO) and elsewhere. Those are the folks who can say 'spokescouncil' like it's a naturally occurring word.

Anonymous

"Dazzled by the promise of reaching a million people with a single click, social change has been turned over to a technocracy of programmers and “social media experts” who build glitzy, expensive websites and viral campaigns that amass millions of email addresses. Treating email addresses as equivalent to members, these organizations boast of their large size and downplay their small impact. It is all about quantity."

* * *

"We are a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society.

Now 86,586 strong!

Join us>> [click]"

* * *

Anonymous

"Dazzled by the promise of reaching a million people with a single click, social change has been turned over to a technocracy of programmers and “social media experts” who build glitzy, expensive websites and viral campaigns that amass millions of email addresses. Treating email addresses as equivalent to members, these organizations boast of their large size and downplay their small impact. It is all about quantity."

* * *

"We are a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society.

Now 86,586 strong!

Join us>> [click]"

* * *

Learn complexit...

Lame critique.

Everytime someone tries to attack the world as it is, there is always some fool who shouts: "YEAH BUT YOU ARE GUILTY TOO!!!" That's right: we all are dirty, there is no purity. But that does not mean what is written above is not a valid critique!

Adbusters always tries to maintain a tension between the ideal and the real. Yes, they have a website, but that does not mean they blindly adopt the ideology of techno-activism.

Learn complexit...

Lame critique.

Everytime someone tries to attack the world as it is, there is always some fool who shouts: "YEAH BUT YOU ARE GUILTY TOO!!!" That's right: we all are dirty, there is no purity. But that does not mean what is written above is not a valid critique!

Adbusters always tries to maintain a tension between the ideal and the real. Yes, they have a website, but that does not mean they blindly adopt the ideology of techno-activism.

Anonymous

There is a difference between this seeming notion of purity and becoming a hypocrite.

-The notion of everyone is a little bit guilty - trying to do the right thing while still consuming / being consumed by the wrong.

-Being a hypocrite - using a thought process and action plan to garner new support and new members just to preach to those members that that very thought process and action plan that recruited them is part of the wrong that is being consumed / consuming us all.

Anonymous

There is a difference between this seeming notion of purity and becoming a hypocrite.

-The notion of everyone is a little bit guilty - trying to do the right thing while still consuming / being consumed by the wrong.

-Being a hypocrite - using a thought process and action plan to garner new support and new members just to preach to those members that that very thought process and action plan that recruited them is part of the wrong that is being consumed / consuming us all.

Jeff Royster

Okay, I have been reading the Adbusters "Counter programming mantra" at a delicious and actually suprisingly expensive price of $8.00! for years now. And I have marveled at the Deconstructionist thoughts written, the writerly passion, and the ever heat intensive seeming crescendo of each issue as the world careens into the coming abyss. I agree, we are duly screwed truly no matter what we do. If we lose a bit more of even ONE! one!! more precious resource (And we all know we will and soon!) It will further become like "The Road meets The Book of Eli"( excuse my name checking two commercial entities for impact! (UGH!)

We know the system is crumbled, archaic, and not suitable for anyones further use. And the writer above is right on about turning off TV. But until we all die, my question is and do what exactly? Everyone is on Facebook and or busy working trying to survive in this damned Habit-trail called life. They are tired, depressed, the "Natural-non-commercialized environment" is not like it was or NATURAL anymore. I hate most TV shows, what it does, I know its a drug etc. etc......but! I would rather, somedays!....watch a documentary, a good film, an Indie comedy, CURRENT TV or something online because I promise you folks. The guy who wrote this, as wonderful and decent and humane as he may be, takes something "IN" to get through this life, hell we all do. None of us are pure, we all like a lot of these damned creature comforts that are killing us softly! Like this computer I am staring at right now and my Autism Spectrume son is watching TV (Noggin) because I am exhausted and a single parent and live in the (HERE IT COMES!!) the Matrix version of the real world! I can deconstruct my reality till I am blue in the face. Yah! look at me, I am smart and use the big words to explain my and the worlds situation. But I am on the brink of financial free fall, like many Americans, don't know what to do. BUT I have an idea.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyone who wants to create a community with me one where we foster some truth, friendship, humaneness, honesty (As much as thats possible!), where regular folks can create ideas, share kinship and hurts and triumphs. Man I miss the 70's, this current era is absolutely mind numbing. I am open to how to create this, change something about our lots in life, do something radical before this planet overheats from our misuse and we go under! e-mail me at [email protected] We can complain and rant or we can complain and rant and do some local, real positive stuff and hug some damn trees, tend our own gardens again and make some noise!!

Jeff Royster

Okay, I have been reading the Adbusters "Counter programming mantra" at a delicious and actually suprisingly expensive price of $8.00! for years now. And I have marveled at the Deconstructionist thoughts written, the writerly passion, and the ever heat intensive seeming crescendo of each issue as the world careens into the coming abyss. I agree, we are duly screwed truly no matter what we do. If we lose a bit more of even ONE! one!! more precious resource (And we all know we will and soon!) It will further become like "The Road meets The Book of Eli"( excuse my name checking two commercial entities for impact! (UGH!)

We know the system is crumbled, archaic, and not suitable for anyones further use. And the writer above is right on about turning off TV. But until we all die, my question is and do what exactly? Everyone is on Facebook and or busy working trying to survive in this damned Habit-trail called life. They are tired, depressed, the "Natural-non-commercialized environment" is not like it was or NATURAL anymore. I hate most TV shows, what it does, I know its a drug etc. etc......but! I would rather, somedays!....watch a documentary, a good film, an Indie comedy, CURRENT TV or something online because I promise you folks. The guy who wrote this, as wonderful and decent and humane as he may be, takes something "IN" to get through this life, hell we all do. None of us are pure, we all like a lot of these damned creature comforts that are killing us softly! Like this computer I am staring at right now and my Autism Spectrume son is watching TV (Noggin) because I am exhausted and a single parent and live in the (HERE IT COMES!!) the Matrix version of the real world! I can deconstruct my reality till I am blue in the face. Yah! look at me, I am smart and use the big words to explain my and the worlds situation. But I am on the brink of financial free fall, like many Americans, don't know what to do. BUT I have an idea.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyone who wants to create a community with me one where we foster some truth, friendship, humaneness, honesty (As much as thats possible!), where regular folks can create ideas, share kinship and hurts and triumphs. Man I miss the 70's, this current era is absolutely mind numbing. I am open to how to create this, change something about our lots in life, do something radical before this planet overheats from our misuse and we go under! e-mail me at [email protected] We can complain and rant or we can complain and rant and do some local, real positive stuff and hug some damn trees, tend our own gardens again and make some noise!!

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