Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On Facebook Activism



This week the United States Supreme Court has heard–back-to-back–two landmark cases in the gay and non-hetero cis-gendered civil rights movements. The first yesterday regarded California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state by referendum, and today the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which labels marriage for the purpose of federal benefits as exclusively between one man and one woman, and has already been overturned 6 times on its way to the Supreme Court.

This is the precipice over which we as a nation may fall or off which we may launch great heights. This is so important, it calls for incredibly flowery, corny language, because one day someone is going to write all of this down, and you damn sure want to make sure your argument isn't the one that keeps parents from using your name when they have kids.

However, popular opinion is a queer animal right now.

Voting-wise, conservativism  has had a sizable upswing resultant from economic woes and political fear mongering. This of course only polls those old enough to vote, with the time to do so in the middle of a week day, and angry enough about something to back a party rather over a single political issue.

The Internet is decidedly left-leaning, even if you take out the insane "hacktivists" and techno-anarchists, and advocating for a technological utopia ruled from the highest seats of T1 lines by Linux-based programming gurus who probably failed gym. Kidding aside, the Internet is the domain of the young and the idealistic, and the geniuses too stupid to know they can't just make something work, so who do. Daily.

Which unfortunately is also something true of the truly stupid. "Like this page to support breast cancer." Fuck you, I hate breast cancer. What are you even doing? Liking a Facebook page or sharing a photo, does absolutely nothing. It changes a couple 0s to 1s in a box in a room in a server farm in Kansas. That's what Facebook activism does.

Recently the White House had to up the number of e-signatures required for an official response to any petition created on its special website. Because nerds wanted to know why we haven't built a Death Star yet. Then the Library of Congress, not understanding technology in the slightest, made it a felony to unlock your phone. The Internet wrote a petition, raised the newly required number of e-signatures, and the White House responded in favor of rewriting the stupid immediately.

That is political action taking place on the Internet. Online petitions. That's it. And yes, also Anonymous DDoSing certain websites and WikiLeaks publishing damning data hidden by our government for the set purpose of maintaining political supremacy by keeping the population ignorant of vicious mistakes and terrible crimes. Those count, though they remain illegal maneuvers themselves.

Changing your profile photo to a picture of a cat does not save kittens. It might make Sarah McLachlan a few dollars in some roundabout way with all the YouTube clicks, but it does not save a abused kitten. It does negative good. Effort that could have gone into something useful is wasted on showing off to all your friends that you care about issues.

If every time someone feels the need to "support" anything on Facebook, they instead donated $1 to said cause, we'd probably have developed a functional artificial pancreas by now. We'd have afforded pricier lobbyists years ago. We'd have funded cheap gene therapy. The tax write-offs alone could help rebound the economy. But instead we make in-app purchases to refill out digital Mazerati's tank a little faster.

The only thing I can imagine Facebook sharing and photo trends affecting is if some of the Chief Justices go to check their Inbox at the end of the day, they become as confused and furiously annoyed as I was when I woke up one morning to discover 3,000 new updates of people all changing their profile pictures to the same hot-pink image and linking the same three newswire pieces over and over and over again.

Maybe then they'll just sanction looser definitions of marriage just to shut us the hell up.

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