Bloggers and activism

I have been following recently many of the bloggers that label themselves as activists, and relate themselves to different types of nouns and adjectives that end with suffixes like -ist -ism and so on. And honestly I was disappointed; my personal opinion is that most of them are not up to the description they give about themselves.

Activism, in the lebanese blogosphere is not very much more than an image and a social status, they get a bit of recognition from here and there, the traditional media is curious about this phenomena that is, nonetheless, vibrant and promising. However, changing avatars and profile pictures each time something we don't like happens, and writing posts with, "attitude", and giving interviews to famous arab and western channels, well, is far from activism. What has been achieved is very little from a community that has been active in "activism" for a few years now, the only positive outcome that I've noticed was the campaign against the lebanese ICT law which was effective, but when it comes to other issues, things remained very limited.

I'll give examples, there was this march for secularism, I forgot what they called it, it was a very nice idea, but then what? nothing happened and we forgot about it.
There was this campaign about arabic language, okay we all wrote a couple of lines in arabic and then what? it died.
There was this campaign about racism in Lebanon, we've seen a couple of videos and then what? it died.
The whole blogosphere was criticizing when a blogger was questioned and 4 facebookers were arrested for insulting the president and then what? nothing happened.

I mean when it comes to secularism, why no other events were organized, why nothing was continued to use the momentum that was gained during that event?
Concerning the arabic language promotion, a follow up on it in a different form would be nice too, or else, why to raise this topic in the first place?
About racism and the twisted laws in Lebanon, all tweeters and bloggers meet constantly, is it hard to agree on trying to contact deputies and law makers?Just to try to get appointments to meet them, raise these topics with them and push them to change these laws or create new laws. You voted for them, so it's about time to be active and hold them responsible for what they are doing and follow up closely on it on your blogs.
Many other things can be done so that activism can have a sense and some results on the ground. My wish today and through this post is that activist bloggers apply more perseverance, and work through effective steps to make a significant change happen. Talking to a community of hundreds of your blog readers or even thousands doesn't make a difference if you're not actually making a difference.


zeina said…
That’s not activism, that's speaking your mind! You can speak ur mind with an attitude, u can be funny, u can curse..
Activism involves 2 things, raising the awareness of the public regarding a certain issue (providing facts, legislations, studies, assessments...) and pressuring the governments or law makers to change!

When you speak your mind you're only discussing an issue with someone who will have (or might have) a similar opinion. no change will take place here!

Add to that, Lebanon has too many issues, like toooooooo many issues for a single person to be an activist in all!

I must add Leblaique (the secular march) are working on another march for next year! But I don't know if they are educating people about secularism or they are just gathering the people who already know!
Rany said…
Exactly, that's what I'm talking about, it's not activism it's speaking your mind. And very few people who describe themselves as activists are being activist in the way you have described activism.

You're totally right about Lebanon having many issues, what I'm trying to say here is that if someone starts working on a certain issue why not continue on it to obtain some results, or else what's the point of starting in the first place? right?

About leblaique, what they did was nice, the first march was a nice step to create a momentum that is very useful to kick start other types of activities; but another march next year? That's all what they have up their sleeves? I mean secularism is not a taboo, no one is stigmatized by the society for being a secular, I personally don't think secularism needs yearly marches similar to the gay pride so that secularists mark their presence in the Lebanese society, I believe that fruitful work on that issue is more about pinpointing all the non secular stuff and trying to change them, laws, regulations, conventional practices, methods of sectarian discrimination in the public and private sectors etc. Leblaique needs a strategy, a plan of work if they really want some results, but if they want to set a tradition and a yearly festival, that's another thing, it's nice to motivate people and promote secularism even in a very slow manner, but I guess it's not enough.
poshlemon said…
I am afraid I have to agree with you Rany...

These are people who wish to give themselves authority with very little to show for their claims.

And, I am sick and tired of seasonal marches. They are useless and only good for activists to get out and pretend like they're the greatest activists out there before they disappear for another 10 months as they plan for their next march and maybe what they will be wearing then.

These marches need to be followed up by very strong campaigning, and as well-rounded plan for the years to follow.
Fadi said…
While you do have a point, I would say we have a lot of "Blogueurs engages" (in french, not sure how to translate that) who care about nice set of causes, and will write about them to help raise awareness. How many of these bloggers are actually at the forefront and planning campaigns ? Very few. The Lebanese blogosphere is full of people who are willing to serve as channels for a cause, and that in itself is great. The secular march would not have had the same exposure had there been no bloggers to write about it.

As for the follow-up and changing of policy, you are right. But I don't see it as a blogger problem as much as it is a Lebanese cultural problem: We're all talk. We think we are the best out there, but when it comes to actually getting our hands dirty and doing the work to fix things, there's not a soul out there to be seen. Look how (un)effective most NGOs have been in the last decade, this kinda speaks for itself.
Anonymous said…
i was very glad to read your post,
blogging is a kind of activism but it is not "all the activism"
as we may see, usually online activist are also offline activist, and we can count them. we all see each other and a kind of community of ativists is created. you would say to me that in social science this is normal, indeed.
you were asking why the work is not done offline, and the causes are not pushed forward in a way to make change truly happen.
the blogosphere in lebanon has worked on many issues, i truly liked what has been done to cover the municipal elections in 2010.
bloggers and e-activist were "whistling". a kind of participatory action. web users are becoming e-activists.
the example of the nationality campaign . a face book page, a blog were created and updated, and now the action is pushed forward by the campaign coordinators in the state and parliamentary arena.
the same for the sanayeh garden, or the save the egg campaign.
bloggers are writing, e-activists are working online by creating a page, or liking a page, leaving comments, but in some issues, the offline actions are being made too.
i was glad to read your post,
and will be glad to continue reading your blog.
rita chemaly
Rany said…
well yeah that's the impression we're having and I guess they should work on changing it ASAP.

I totally agree that there's an enthusiasm out there among bloggers, and they're writing and giving exposure to important issues. But what I'm hoping for is to go beyond that, blogs are not mass media outlets, the audience is limited very often to other bloggers who share the same values. So as you said it's a cultural problem in the first place, ppl are so laid back and lack the initiative or sometimes the vision to actually do things on the ground.

Thank you for your comment, I was glad to read a comment from someone who has contributed significantly to this issue in the past few years.
But I have to disagree on the online/offline activist notion. I personally see it from a different perspective, I'm still not understanding why everyone makes an organic separation between what's online and what's offline. If someone is an activist, then he/she is an activist; online and offline are one same world that we live in, and all the online tools and the modern communications tools are just new means to help him/her tunnel what he/she wants to pass to others.

It's a very good tool, as you have mentioned, in spreading the word, bringing together motivated people who share the same interests and want to work; it's good too in raising awareness despite that bloggers usually share the same opinions right from the start.
It's a very good tool too to spread the virus as you have pointed to motivate people(bloggers and non bloggers) about important topics. But, in my opinion, whistling is not enough, activism in most of the cases needs activity on the ground or wherever an actual difference can be made.

What I wanted to say here is that people who are really wishing to make a difference should move from the talking and discussing phase to the taking actions phase so that efforts can be translated into results, the blogosphere and the new technology tools should be viewed as tools that can serve socially, logistically, and strategically to reach a certain goal on the ground, but they're not activism in themselves, talking in them just to express opinions about things that we think should be different won't help us go very far.

I know that what has been done on the blogosphere is great and very needed, but it should be completed by actions on the ground and tackling the heart of the problem on the ground, only there the very needed change can be made.
Anonymous said…
You know what, I really do have to agree with you. Specifically when it comes to issues about Lebanon and aspects that affect our daily lives, we do have good ideas on the blogosphere, but we give up very easily. We do not try our hardest to keep campaigns going. One of the most recent was the Issue with Fairouz, we seen the protests and the blogs supporting her cause against the Rahbani children, but soon enough it was dropped and forgotten by us on the blogosphere, even though this issue still continues. Many of us either loose interest, or simply do not have the means or people who want to follow up on things.
I would like to see more of these campaigns carrying on.

What a remarkable post btw! Keep it up!

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