Why “slacktivist” is such a beautiful word

Look, I’ll make this quick. It’s 2:28 AM and I woke up thinking about this stuff. Earlier I tweeted about how much I love the word “slacktivist,” a word that I just heard on a TV interview with some dude involved with the KONY stuff. He was saying “This isn’t some slacktivist movement…” as they showed images of angry people from the KONY-damaged area becoming more and more angry about the “strange white man” on the film. Yeh, protest films are great…but in their minds where was the richest country in the world when their kids were being robbed? I can’t blame them.

This has been an amazing year for slacktivism. Now, I don’t know what the hell wiki calls it or where it came from. I know what this word means for me. I got to watch on TV as well-meaning Americans gathered for a “protest” on Wall Street this year. It grew and grew, until there were drum circles, circus performers and “wifi tents” peppered throughout the entire thing. I knew right then “This is going to do nothing.” I get the same feeling when some dorky kid puts on a Guy Fawkes mask and makes a film warning the “protest” that will come in the form of their “hacktivism.” I know that hacking some innocent dude and handing out his credit card numbers is a great way to hurt some average American, but hacking a multi-million dollar corporation will not do a single solitary thing 99 percent of the time. Even if some cheeseball “hacktivist” exposes some dark secret about an evil empire, there are 30 kadillion more evil empires to go. It will make no difference, so the energy and time could be spent in better ways. I promise.

Let me make it clear that in no way do I think protests are stupid or useless. That’s not what I am saying. To use an example from gamer culture, it is simply stupid to protest something that you continue to support. If you hated that patch so much, why are you telling me on the official forums? Protest by cancelling your damn subscription or by ignoring the products the developer makes. I can promise you one thing: that developer will listen to constructive, informative criticism and will take it to heart. BUT, they will mock and giggle at some game dork who claims to hate the game that much while he is still paying their paychecks.

So, it’s not protesting that is the problem, it’s how we Americans protest.

If you want change, “awareness” will not do a thing. Tweeting about it is nice, but it will not change the situation. Gathering at the state capital for a few hours on the weekend will not do shit. If you want change, there are three simple, boring ways to do it:

1) You vote for the right people

2) You volunteer

3) You stop supporting stupid stuff

I love how Neil DeGrasse Tyson seems to put most of the blame for our screwed up political system on the voters and not the politicians. He’s right: we put them into place. We. You might have voted for someone else, but enough people voted for that shithead __________ . We are not a nation of individuals, we are a beehive. It’s a very real possibility that this impressively nutty religious freak Santorum will get the nom. We would be to blame for that. If someone from another country sees that asshole take charge of the most powerful country in the world, do you think they would go “Well, 45% of them didn’t want him, so it’s cool.” We must vote for good people.

Volunteering is revolutionary because it gets you off your ass, helps someone who literally needs help in this country at this very moment, and spreads kindness. Imagine if every one of those protesters who hung out sipping lattes at the current crop of rallies went out and volunteered for the month. Imagine if every college student was forced, in order to graduate, to volunteer for a few hours per month? Every single poor person in this country could eat if we all volunteered just a little bit each month, I promise. Volunteering is protest.

Next time you want to go to Wal-Mart to buy protestin’ supplies, stop and think this thought: “I am going to Wal-Mart to protest corporate greed” and then slap yourself. Go ahead and go into the Wal-Mart, but buy an extra bag of shit for some poor kid in the south part of town. That’s a protest.

Yes, it’s easy to say to anyone who has an issue in America “Go live in a third world country and see what you think.” But that’s not what I am saying. Protesting has actually made a difference in this country, many many times. I am simply saying that getting a little pepper spray in your eye on the weekend or attempting to hack into the database of a video game developer is not really a protest, it’s a hobby. The US will not change because of it.

The US will change when we elect the right people, help those around us who could physically use our help right now (just look in your neighborhood) and stop buying stuff from places we do not like. I just want this notion that we can make a difference by raising a fist for a few hours on the weekend or by tweeting about some new hot topic to go away. It’s silly and will give people the false impression that we can change things like that.

Hell, you want to protest? Don’t have a kid. Don’t buy that giant car. Don’t vote for that asshole. Don’t eat out all the time. Don’t continue to work at that shitty job. Don’t buy a house. To take another example from gamer culture: if you want to protest, speak up the next time someone is being a sexist asshole. Sexism is a real, dangerous force in the US right now, and gaming is one of the worst spots for it. Protest that.

Shit, this blog is a form of slacktivism. I will not pretend otherwise. But, it made me feel better because I was thinking about it and couldn’t get to sleep. Other than that, I will donate some time like I do, will try to buy from decent places when I can, will attempt to vote for the right people, and will admit that I am the luckiest ass in the world because I drew the lottery and was born in a country with (mostly) clean, running water.



Author: Beau Hindman

I write for a living, which means that I sit around in my PJs all day. I love it. www.beauhindman.com