Social Advocacy and Politics: Is Facebook Gutting the Power of Social Advocacy Tools?

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Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have all added or turned on features in the wake of the Paris attacks this past Friday, November 13. These features incorporate many of the behavioral uses of these platforms into their code. For example, Facebook turned on its “Safety Check” feature, where people can mark on their profile that they are ok instead of just posting something to your wall. The new app creates a featured post for your profile that says you are safe in the midst of a crisis or disaster. Like more common features on other social networks (e.g. @mentions, hashtags and the Quote Tweet functions on Twitter), these built in features are inspired by the ways people were using the platforms already.

These new features typically make using the social networks easier for users and often help campaign organizers, too, but not always. And the new tools are not always received in the most positive light. For example, the Facebook Safety Check feature was not turned on for all recent crisis events, prompting criticisms by activists that Facebook was showing a bias turning it on for Paris, but not for attacks happening in other parts of the world.

Another recent change at Facebook made internal to the website a third party campaign tool called Twibbon. Twibbon gives campaigns the ability to create overlays for social network profile photos/icons. A few years ago, the Human Rights Campaign created a Twibbon for its marriage equality campaign that transformed it yellow equal sign on a dark blue square into a pink equal sign on a red square. Pretty soon, the campaign’s Twibbon went viral, with people creating their own variations of the image. To its credit, HRC pivoted its campaign to focus on the Twibbon, whereas before it was a side piece to the effort. The HRC Twibbons is given a lot a credit for driving the marriage equality message deep into American culture, leading to strong support for the policy change.

Now Facebook lets anyone alter their profile photo in the same manner as Twibbon. For Paris, people are able to superimpose a transparency of the French flag over their photo. The process involves tapping on the Try It button on someone else’s page that is already using it.

While this new Facebook feature is nice, there are some limits. As it stands now, Facebook decides what images are made available. So while you can get the French flag for Paris, you cannot get the Lebanese flag for expressing solidarity with the victims of the attacks this past week in Beirut. In other words, Facebook has incorporated this powerful advocacy tool, but in a way that has stripped its value to activists and organizers seeking to use the images for their own campaigns. Where Twibbon was a tool designed for activism, Facebook’s tool undermines its use for organized action.

When Twitter incorporated the retweet convention into its system, it raised a lot of objections because it only offered an instant auto-retweet. This upset Twitter users because many, if not most, retweeters would add comments before the RT text in order to add emphasis, commentary, clarity, etc. Eventually (a couple years later), Twitter launched the new option to Quote Tweet, which allows people to add a 120 character comment to a retweet. It took a while, but eventually Twitter figured out why and how people retweeted and built it into their tool.

Now the question is, “Will Facebook figure out all the reasons why people used ‘Twibbons’ and eventually build those features into it tool?” And until they do, will the internal Facebook tool undermine activists’ ability to leverage profile pictures for their own campaigns? It seems, for now, that Facebook has co-opted a powerful advocacy tool and gutted its power. And, back to the Safety Check, will Facebook leave the function on permanently so that people who need it anywhere in the world can use it? Time will tell.

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Politics Aside, They Should Definitely Be Called ‘Radical Islam’

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It should come as no surprise that even after Egypt, Lebanon, and France, the Democrats still refuse to use the phrase “radical Islam.” They choose to do this for political reasons because they are the party of political correctness. That means that you should never generalize anything, even things that are general. Seriously, it’s all a little messed up for many reasons, but I digress.

The Islamic State is 100% the epitome of the phrase. They represent the parts of Islam that are most dangerous, but those parts are still present within the religion itself. The majority of practicing Muslims in America are completely opposed to the actions of the Islamic State. These average Muslim Americans represent Islam without representing radical Islam. The American people are not so stupid that we must be protected from our own ignorance.

The argument from the left is that if they use the phrase “radical Islam” that people will get them confused with Islam. They claim to believe that the American people are too stupid to make distinctions, that we’re too bigoted to know the difference between our Muslim poker buddy and the terrorists who blew themselves up in Beirut. By this logic, Democrats shouldn’t use a lot of terms:

  • Democrats can’t say “White Supremacists” because Americans will think that all Caucasians want to persecute other races. Instead, Democrats should say “Non-Minority Protesters.”
  • Democrats can’t say “New Black Panthers” because Americans will think all African Americans use intimidation techniques. Instead, Democrats should say “Aggressive Political Activists.”
  • Democrats can’t say “Westboro Baptist Church” because Americans will think that all Baptists protest homosexuals and military members. Instead, Democrats should say “Simple-Minded Non-Denominational Instigators.”
  • Democrats can’t say “Starbucks Barista” because Americans will think that all Baristas serve coffee in red holiday cups. Instead, Democrats should say “Affiliated Coffee Brewers of a Secular Posture.”

I know, it sounds silly. The logic is definitely silly, but then again the Democratic party is acting silly when it comes to this topic. They hide behind the guise of defending non-extremist ideology that can be wrongly associated with a particular radicalization of religion when in reality they are simply catering to CAIR and other Muslim organizations and their voters. It’s completely indefensible for three very simple and obvious reasons.

The Islamic State is Practicing Islam

Radical Islam

The left likes to call Islam a religion of peace. They either haven’t read the Koran or they choose to ignore the more truthful commands. The truth is that most practicing Muslims have chosen peace and sought to represent their faith in a non-aggressive manner.

If a Jew decided to stone his children for disobedience, he would be considered someone who was practicing radical Judaism. Unfortunately, the Koran calls for many more actions that are contrary to our western sensibilities. That doesn’t mean that the perpetrators of terrorist acts aren’t Muslims. They’re just radicalized.

Democrats like to believe that these people are fighting western imperialism. They want you to believe that they’re living in despair and they turned to terrorism because they weren’t given enough prosperity. These thoughts represent a fundamental disconnect with the reality of the situation. They aren’t fighting imperialism. They are fighting for their very narrow doctrine which is why they attack other Muslims, even other Sunnis, in the quest to fulfill the caliphate. They aren’t fighting against economic despair, either. Many of those joining their ranks are leaving plush western lifestyles to live in a desert in order to embody their religious convictions.

They are Muslims. They represent Islam. They are doing what the Koran commands them to do. The thing that separates their pronouncements of Sharia law and the caliphate from the peace-loving Muslims of the world is secular pragmatism. In essence, the terrorists and warriors of the Islamic State are radical because they take a stricter stance to the whole of the Koran than peace-loving Muslims. In a way, they are practicing a more pure form of Islam than those who are not terrorists, who are not fighting for the caliphate, and who choose to ignore the more detestable aspects of the Koran.

Stupid Americans Won’t Be Coddled

Islam Protests

The other argument for political correctness is that they don’t want to incite further bigotry. Unfortunately, there are plenty of Americans who hate Muslims. They don’t differentiate between radical Islam and peaceful Muslims. You will not change their minds based upon using politically correct variations of terms. In their minds, Islam is an evil religion and Muslims are evil people.

Don’t coddle them. It won’t work. Don’t attempt to use political correctness to prevent Americans from feeling a certain way. They do or they don’t. They hate or the love. Changing a phrase will not do a single thing to change their minds in a positive direction but it does help to drive more hatred when they see our leaders unwilling to utter something that might offend their voters.

Bigots might be dumb but they’re not stupid. Every time they hear President Obama or the Democratic candidates skirt around the topic of radical Islam by using unaffiliated phrases, they’re only angering the bigots even more.

Peaceful Muslims Can Defend Themselves

Muslims Fighting Against Islamic State

When a Christian group came under fire for promoting hatred towards the President, I didn’t mark it down as something that didn’t represent me. I’m a Christian and with the media citing this Christian group as a hate group, I felt responsible for setting the record straight. I didn’t go to the press to try to separate my beliefs from the beliefs of this group. I went to the group itself to tell them that they were not doing what the Bible calls us to do.

The Democrats are giving the Muslim people a free pass. Thankfully, many of them won’t accept it; there are wonderfully vocal Muslims in this country and around the world who will fight the Islamic State for the evil that they bring to the world. This is their right but it’s also their responsibility. If the terrorists are trying to represent them, they should want to set the record straight.

To do this, they shouldn’t rely on the Democrats to play the game of political correctness. They should be fighting to represent what they feel to be the truth of Islam. When the Democrats try to mask what the Islamic State does as not being within the tenets of the religion, they are actually hurting Muslims who can defend their own religion. They don’t need Hillary Clinton defending their religion. They need all of the Democrats to get out of their way and let them speak for themselves. If that means speaking against the organizations that support (coerce?) the Democrats’ agenda of political correctness, so be it. Non-radical Islam does not need the Democrats keeping them in the shadows.

Call it What it Is

Radical Islam represents the darkest side of the religion. Just because the majority of Muslims do not support it does not take away from the fact that radical Islam is exactly what the name implies. It’s radical and willing to commit evil acts. It’s Islam even if most Muslims choose to practice the peaceful side of their faith. The sooner that our leaders become willing to deal with it directly and call them by their proper name, the sooner that this existential threat to society can be eliminated.

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