Posted by: paulacunniffe | 10/18/2010

Activism in hiding?

When looking for a comparable site to Move On I expected to find a participative interactive website with comments and forums. This was not what I found. After looking unsuccessfully through a number of websites I chose http://www.citizensunited.org/.

The About section of the Citizens United page says that their aim is to ‘reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security.’ Their store sells DVDS such as ‘Hillary: The Movie’, ‘Obama: The Hype Effect’ and ‘Celsius 41.11’ – which ‘reveals the lies behind Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.’ I’m going to go ahead and guess this website is pro-Iraq war and pro-President Bush, so the opposite perspective to Move On.

Move On and Citizens United have similar websites. They both have links for contributing or volunteering and sections for buying merchandise – such as books and DVDs.

The Citizens United website has separate sections for upcoming events, photos of past events and press releases. There is also a store (mentioned above) where users can buy books and DVDs. These DVDs are also displayed in a side bar on the website’s homepage. This is all similar to the Move On website.

However, I was surprised to see little interaction with users on either site. How do these organizations move challenges from the ‘virtual world to the real world’ if there are no forums, comments etc?  They have ‘real world’ events but what makes their followers move from participation in the virtual world to the real world? Citizens United’s website has tabs linking to their Facebook page and Twitter account. I decided to look there for the answer to my question.

Citizens United have an active Facebook page with over 6,000 followers. They update their status often providing mostly links to their blog posts. Most responses thank them for bringing things to their attention, although one comment calls them ‘bozos’. They also have a Youtube page which shows trailers of ‘Citizens United productions’ documentaries. Finally, their Twitter page publicizes their DVDs and books, especially one called ‘Battle for America’.

Judging by the comments on their Facebook page and retweets of their content on Twitter it seems that their ‘documentaries’ and blog posts are what is motivating people. But it is hard to judge who is motivated, and how, when you can’t see any forums, chat rooms, comments.

Rohlinger and Brown’s article puts a lot of emphasis on the role of the organization’s website because it gives people a free space for political dissent that offers anonymity and protects activists from backlash in the real world. I don’t see where this is happening (have I missed something?) However, maybe their article could be updated to look at social networking as a motivator. This seems to be where the conversation is.

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Responses

  1. Someone else presented this point on my blog that neither of these sites have a discussion forum or allow for like minded individuals to interact. It makes you wonder exactly how effective these websites are in political activism in no one is taking action rather donating to these organizations and reading articles online about activism. The author’s emphasis was using online activism to get people “from the arm chair to the streets” and I’m not sure either of these sites accomplish this task.

  2. This seems to highlight the split between two common notions of the internet – a place to find things and a place to do/say things. The internet as a space of freedom and interaction vs. the internet as a space of information. This site would seem to be relying upon disseminating information that the visitor can enfold into their identities as citizens and hopefully act upon, making them informed citizens and, with the right information to spark them, perhaps informed activists. If there’s no real space offered/encouraged to discuss this information, the site runs the risk of being propaganda – trying to get people to believe/obey rather than think/act; I’m now curious how many sites with political agendas fit this model.

  3. http://tinamoore2222.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/67/#comment-93

    http://francesca6612.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/online-activism/#comment-80

    http://sadiecone10.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/activism-and-the-internet-project-vote-smart/#comment-96

  4. I think your point about social media is valid, but also, some of these politically oriented sites seem to just want to spew criticism, or elevate particular issues — but not encourage any kind of community or activities. I mean apart from using social media (or not), they do not seem interested in getting real people together in real life. Maybe they are more interested in selling DVDs?


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