Written by Tania Edwards

In The News

Another Armchair Activist Presses Send

In an age when digital crusades are all the #rage, we’re never further than a click from an online campaign. Slactivism is annoying – but is it annoying the right people, asks Tania Edwards.

Another Armchair Activist Presses Send
Photo Credit: Idil Sukan

Photo Credit: Idil Sukan

I’ve always avoided talking about politics in public (pubs and parties aside), but during this year’s Edinburgh Festival world news penetrated our privileged bubble. I found myself sharing petitions about Gaza, publishing stats, filing complaints against bias in news coverage: I’d become an armchair activist. I used to work for an old lawyer whose favourite pastime was scouring local news to complain about proposed planning applications in his area. I don’t think he managed to stop one solar panel or kitchen extension; yet here I was – brandishing my torch – daring Facebook friends to hide me from their news feed.

I often wonder what difference any of this stuff makes. Sure, something like the ice bucket challenge unites parents with their kids, and buff-bodied blokes with their conquests, while raising much needed money for a little known cause.

The no-make-up selfie allowed thousands of women to suggest that they look pouty and fresh faced – nay better – without make up. But these campaigns are feel-good, they’re sexy, they’re uncontroversial. Apart from the frustrated fundraiser struggling to come up with something equally catchy for their own cause, they bother few.

Who wants to think about a UN shelter packed with refugee children being blasted by state-of-the-art weaponry? Who wants to believe an unarmed black teen can be executed by police on the free streets of America?

It ain’t sexy but I do think knowledge sharing changes our frames of debate. I believe in people challenging official narratives when they know them to be untrue. Of course we have to think carefully about the information we share between our enjoyably lame quips about Primark – but if it’s important – share we should. Because they are listening: and not just to your private emails.

If you can sign and promote you can vote – so you matter to the people who want to be in charge. And we know that when we are being watched, we modify our behaviour. This fact drives our campaigns for personal privacy as much as CCTV contributes to crowd control in football stadiums. Recording activity in public places is a means of holding people to account: which is why some police officers don’t like it.

The weirdest thing is that even at a local, personal level, information sharing really does matter. It matters to the people who don’t agree with you and it matters to those that do. I’ve had all sorts of rows with all sorts of people in the last few weeks and I haven’t even had to have a drink first.

So for my ice bucket challenge I propose you put a couple of cubes in your whiskey while enjoying my nominations: Andrew O’Sullivan at the Daily Dish (http://dish.andrewsullivan.com), Jarecki’s documentary The House I Live In 9 (http://thehouseilivein.co.uk), and stand up comedian Pete Johansson (http://www.petejohansson.com) – who perfectly articulates in Several Jokes how important it is to hear the views we don’t want to hear – alongside those that we do.

Follow Tania on twitter @taniaedwards


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Written by Tania Edwards

Tania Edwards is a standup comedian and writer.