The Big Ideas of 2011

Activism after Clicktivism

How to energize the political left.
Activism after Clicktivism

Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

This article is available in:

For more than a decade revolutionaries and culture jammers have been paralyzed by the computer screen. Trusting the promises of technocrats and digital visionaries, dazzled by the viral hype surrounding MoveOn and the like, we’ve come to rely far too heavily on a particular form of internet organizing. Believing that clicktivism could spark social change, we deployed market-tested messaging, glitzy Ajax websites and social networking apps. We entrusted our revolution to San Francisco techies and put our faith in the methods of advertising. But we have become so dependent on digital gimmicks that our revolutionary potential is now constrained.

Clicktivism is the pollution of activism with the logic of consumerism. Activism is debased with advertising and computer science. What defines clicktivism is an obsession with metrics. Each link clicked and email opened is meticulously monitored. Subject lines are A/B tested and talking points focus-grouped. Clicktivists dilute their messages for mass appeal and make calls to action that are easy, insignificant and impotent. Their sole campaign objective is to inflate participation percentages, not to overthrow the status quo. In the end, social change is marketed like a brand of toilet paper.

The fundamental problem with this technocratic approach is that metrics value only what is measurable. Clicktivism neglects the vital, immeasurable inner events and personal epiphanies that great social ruptures are actually made of. The history of revolutions attests that upheaval is always improbable, unpredictable and risky. A few banal pronouncements about “democracy in action” coupled with an online petition will not usher in social transformation. As Malcolm Gladwell put it recently, “activism that challenges the status quo – that attacks deeply rooted problems – is not for the faint of heart.” Clicktivism reinforces the fear of standing out from the crowd and taking a strong position. It discourages calling for drastic action. And as such, clicktivism will never breed social revolution. To think that it will is a fallacy. One that is dawning on us.

The demise of clicktivism is rebooting activism. It is setting off a paradigm shift in social change that opens the door to a new generation of activists. This rejuvenation is emboldened by three tactical insights: revolutions spring from epiphanies; the internet is best suited for memewar; and daring real-world actions are the indispensable foundation of social change.

Gone is trust in watered-down talking points and the “best practices” of keyboard messiahs. Metrics are being forgotten, website logs deleted, analytics ignored. Instead, passionate poetry is regaining precedence. The challenge of sparking epiphanies is the new revolutionary priority. But this does not mean we shut our eyes entirely to the potential of technology.

On the contrary, the next generation of activists will readily acknowledge that the internet plays a crucial tactical role. In the battle for the mind, the speedy dissemination of mindbombs, image-ambushes and thought-viruses is strategically essential. This is memewar, after all, and the web levels the battlefield against the propagandists of consumerism.

Still, real-world action is the only way to achieve social revolution. Clicking a link can never replace taking to the streets. Nor can we rely on digital technologies to get people off the screens.

Activism is scary. Social change is initially unpopular and insurrection always starts with disobedience. Trepidation is, therefore, the healthy response to the realities of culture jamming. Moments before victory, every revolutionary has felt the gut-pang of anxiety. But clicktivism encourages us to shirk these emotions, to hide behind the mouse, to embrace the inaction of passive clicking. Against this tendency, let us welcome butterflies back into our bellies.

Activism will be reborn when culture jammers find strength in the exhilaration of resistance, the intensity of protest and the emotions unleashed by taking part in upheaval.

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

48 comments on the article “Activism after Clicktivism”

Displaying 31 - 40 of 48

Page 4 of 5

K-H:

Operation Tear Down the WALL

CLOG UP FACEBOOK
POLLUTE THE WALLS

Create a fake account
name yourself something vulgar
photoshop a man or women(your choice) face with a spread ass, and wide hole

now fill out the info. using opertunities to state your view
(fill up the movies, books, music with your own online leaflets)

ADD ALL YOUR CONTACTS! ADD EVERYONE

now once you have a basis of friends
tear down the wall

post up single word status's that make long sentances
add a new word every minute
the idea is to clog up the people's facebook and to force them to look at our ideas.
i think of it as the Berlin wall. we will simply graffiti it until they have to tear it down
the first step in taking down fascism is breaking walls that prevent the people from seeing the world

Happy hacking

K-H:

FacebookisforFASCISTS

— K-H:

K-H:

Operation Tear Down the WALL

CLOG UP FACEBOOK
POLLUTE THE WALLS

Create a fake account
name yourself something vulgar
photoshop a man or women(your choice) face with a spread ass, and wide hole

now fill out the info. using opertunities to state your view
(fill up the movies, books, music with your own online leaflets)

ADD ALL YOUR CONTACTS! ADD EVERYONE

now once you have a basis of friends
tear down the wall

post up single word status's that make long sentances
add a new word every minute
the idea is to clog up the people's facebook and to force them to look at our ideas.
i think of it as the Berlin wall. we will simply graffiti it until they have to tear it down
the first step in taking down fascism is breaking walls that prevent the people from seeing the world

Happy hacking

K-H:

FacebookisforFASCISTS

— K-H:

Mirza

You would inconvenience others to promote your belief? This is no different that religious nuts harassing any woman entering an abortion clinic.

Mirza

You would inconvenience others to promote your belief? This is no different that religious nuts harassing any woman entering an abortion clinic.

K-H:

how is this an inconvienience to others? by thinking this, you clearly are inconviencing others. Any action, can be seen as an inconvience to others, but if everyone thought like that NOTHING would get done. do you call your self an activist? then your inconviencing those who, unlike you, think society is perfectly fine the way it is, likewise the same is true if you are one who thinks society is perfect the way it is, looking down upon activism as terrorism..
this is the way in which our war needs to be fought first.. through the consistent clattering of clanking keyboards demanding a CHANGE. when we take over the internet, when we manipulate the way of corporations to suit our needs, we are making a difference. once the airwaves go down, the field will be set to change. it will be a much more physical war.

again the comparison of clogging facebook and tearing down its wall to a women going into a abortion clinic and being ridiculed by religious fanatics is just utter stupidity. these two things dont even fit into the same category. why are you on the adbusters site? do you want change? or are you afraid of inco9nviencing too many people??

K-H:

how is this an inconvienience to others? by thinking this, you clearly are inconviencing others. Any action, can be seen as an inconvience to others, but if everyone thought like that NOTHING would get done. do you call your self an activist? then your inconviencing those who, unlike you, think society is perfectly fine the way it is, likewise the same is true if you are one who thinks society is perfect the way it is, looking down upon activism as terrorism..
this is the way in which our war needs to be fought first.. through the consistent clattering of clanking keyboards demanding a CHANGE. when we take over the internet, when we manipulate the way of corporations to suit our needs, we are making a difference. once the airwaves go down, the field will be set to change. it will be a much more physical war.

again the comparison of clogging facebook and tearing down its wall to a women going into a abortion clinic and being ridiculed by religious fanatics is just utter stupidity. these two things dont even fit into the same category. why are you on the adbusters site? do you want change? or are you afraid of inco9nviencing too many people??

Mirza

How are you inconveniencing other by clogging up their facebook page to force people to read your ideology instead of staying in touch with friends and family. Yes, any action inconveniences someone, but you are doing it on purpose.

Society is not perfect, but let us not go the way of Pol Pot. Advocate change in the marketplace of ideas, but don't cause disruption to cram your ideas down other people's throats.

What you are advocating is NOT different than harassing women going into the abortion clinic. You think that you are justified in your methods because you think that you are right, but guess what, so do abortion clinic protesters. If everyone who thought that he or she was right, tried to force his change on other people, civilization itself would not be possible. That is why the only way to validate that you are indeed right, and that society needs to change is to win arguments in public discourse.

I guess my point is that if everyone thought like you, than REALLY NOTHING would get done. Society, as it is now, gets a lot of things done. Everything from making a computer that you are typing on, to finding cures for diseases, to helping the poor in your country as well as world wide, to passing a green legislation, to finding green technological solutions is being done right now by "the system". You want to cause disruption to make things better, but your way will probably make them worse. If you want to improve society than work with the rest of the society - not against it.

Mirza

How are you inconveniencing other by clogging up their facebook page to force people to read your ideology instead of staying in touch with friends and family. Yes, any action inconveniences someone, but you are doing it on purpose.

Society is not perfect, but let us not go the way of Pol Pot. Advocate change in the marketplace of ideas, but don't cause disruption to cram your ideas down other people's throats.

What you are advocating is NOT different than harassing women going into the abortion clinic. You think that you are justified in your methods because you think that you are right, but guess what, so do abortion clinic protesters. If everyone who thought that he or she was right, tried to force his change on other people, civilization itself would not be possible. That is why the only way to validate that you are indeed right, and that society needs to change is to win arguments in public discourse.

I guess my point is that if everyone thought like you, than REALLY NOTHING would get done. Society, as it is now, gets a lot of things done. Everything from making a computer that you are typing on, to finding cures for diseases, to helping the poor in your country as well as world wide, to passing a green legislation, to finding green technological solutions is being done right now by "the system". You want to cause disruption to make things better, but your way will probably make them worse. If you want to improve society than work with the rest of the society - not against it.

K-H:

sure, facebook was made to keep in touch with friends and family, it is a SOCIAL(ist) networking, a 2-d pixalaterd universe, where everyone and anyone can escape their 9-5 day jobs, or their shitty lives with a clatter of a keyboard and a click of a mouse. However nice that may seem to the naive human, facebook is also a tool for the organizing and the herding of the people by "the system". you can't deny that... before getting a job, a interviewer is likely to look at your facebook page. is that not a breach of privacy? now you'll probably say that what you put on facebook is your own doing, and only you can be held acountable for it, but how can profiling(and not the facebook way but, the discriminitive way) be allowed in this great society your talking about, thats looking for a green movement, which i do not see at this present day and age(i dont know where you live).

Now i ask you, how do i advocate change in a system, without cramming ideas down people's throats.. even speaking, about your ideas in a public enviroment, is a considered cram. any infomation you recieve in this day of info, is a cram. whether it goes with your idea's or not.your stuck in contradictions and paradoxes.. do you ever think that this system we have now, just manipulates our psychie? even this green movement could be a manipulation... the companies and corporations are buying into global warming like its the newest trend because they want your dollars, its an illogical fallacy, a sympathy plea. "hey we like the enviroment too" but they say it with a crooked smile, and then the consumers buy into their marketing..

you also dont know my veiws on how the world should be run, to say that is again commiting an illogical fallacy, basing it on my view of facebook as a socialist tool. if you think facebook could be compared to civilization, the word you speak so friendly of, then socialism has already won.. they have manipulated you into believing that your computer screen could be something more then just pixels and glass.

K-H:

sure, facebook was made to keep in touch with friends and family, it is a SOCIAL(ist) networking, a 2-d pixalaterd universe, where everyone and anyone can escape their 9-5 day jobs, or their shitty lives with a clatter of a keyboard and a click of a mouse. However nice that may seem to the naive human, facebook is also a tool for the organizing and the herding of the people by "the system". you can't deny that... before getting a job, a interviewer is likely to look at your facebook page. is that not a breach of privacy? now you'll probably say that what you put on facebook is your own doing, and only you can be held acountable for it, but how can profiling(and not the facebook way but, the discriminitive way) be allowed in this great society your talking about, thats looking for a green movement, which i do not see at this present day and age(i dont know where you live).

Now i ask you, how do i advocate change in a system, without cramming ideas down people's throats.. even speaking, about your ideas in a public enviroment, is a considered cram. any infomation you recieve in this day of info, is a cram. whether it goes with your idea's or not.your stuck in contradictions and paradoxes.. do you ever think that this system we have now, just manipulates our psychie? even this green movement could be a manipulation... the companies and corporations are buying into global warming like its the newest trend because they want your dollars, its an illogical fallacy, a sympathy plea. "hey we like the enviroment too" but they say it with a crooked smile, and then the consumers buy into their marketing..

you also dont know my veiws on how the world should be run, to say that is again commiting an illogical fallacy, basing it on my view of facebook as a socialist tool. if you think facebook could be compared to civilization, the word you speak so friendly of, then socialism has already won.. they have manipulated you into believing that your computer screen could be something more then just pixels and glass.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.