Finding your own activism

I was also fascinated by the media guru who posted the item, who admitted that she’s “someone who has never been a protester.”

siena.billboardThis is one of those stories that wasn’t particularly interesting to me UNTIL other people piped up.

Some students at Siena College, at a suburb north of Albany, protested about a billboard they found offense. I was unaware of the controversy until the local media guru posted the response from one the local radio deejays, a guy named Chuck, with whom I was unfamiliar, on her Facebook feed:

I believe apathy is a dangerous thing and it’s particularly depressing when I see it so frequently exhibited by young people. For that reason, I actually admire the fact you are willing to take action against something you deem offensive and misguided.
With that said, here is my unsolicited advice. Devote your energies to a cause that might actually make a difference in someone’s life.

THAT response rubbed me the wrong way.

Among the Facebook discussion that ensued: “While it certainly wouldn’t be reason enough for me to protest, I’m certainly not going to condemn someone else for taking a stand on something! we need more social engagement in this country and young people have to start somewhere!”

That more or less was my position. Yet, as I reread Chuck’s blather, I got more and more irritated. Maybe it was because I was feeling unwell.

I wrote, “Chuck’s response is a classic diversion stance of ‘Aren’t there more pressing issues?’ Of course there are, but this one engaged these people in this moment, something that they might change in the moment.”

Chuck had written further in his response:

“You really want to help women? There’s a strip club a couple miles up the road. Maybe some of those women could use your help. Their lives truly ARE dependent on men.”

I noted, “Telling them about a strip club that they might not have even known about, and suggesting they ignore what’s right before their eyes, is patronizing and insulting. Good for the protesters.”

Ultimately, I thought there was less sexism in the ad than in the snarky response by the deejay.

Chuck wrote, “Somehow you have whipped yourselves into a frenzy…a storm of wild indignation and self-righteousness…fooling yourself into believing you are doing something noble and important. I hate to break it to you but….you’re not.”

The subtext to me of his comments was clear: they were silly, overly sensitive “girls” who didn’t know about “real life” or “marketing.” Someone wrote of the DJ: “You are perpetuating the many stereotypes assigned to women over the years who get passionate about unpopular ideas” which sounds about right.

I was also fascinated by the media guru who posted the item, who admitted that she’s “someone who has never been a protester.” As someone who has protested a lot of things over the years, I’m interested to see how someone, albeit half my age, could not moved by some cause, some issue. It’s just foreign to me.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Finding your own activism”

  1. As you know, I advocate activism, and I think it and protest are vital for democracy to work. However, I recognise that, first, not everyone is disposed toward activism. That’s their issue, not mine.

    Second, everyone is passionate about something and, like you, Roger, I don’t think it’s my place to discourage that, even if I don’t share that passion. I’ll go beyond that: I don’t discourage someone else’s protest even when I think it’s silly or doomed, yes, but also even when I disagree with the ideology or goals. For example, my argument with the radical right anti-gay industry is NOT that they take positions with which I could not possibly disagree more, it’s that they use lies, distortion, smears and defamation to try and argue their corner. In other words, it’s not their activism I object to, it’s HOW they do it.

    There’s a saying I vaguely remember and have never been able to find in the original form (I think it may be biblical in origin). Maybe you know it. It goes something like, “They have a right to complain who have the heart to act.” In other words, only the people who try to change the world have a legitimate right to complain about the way things are. Maybe that goes too far the other way, but, I pretty much endorse the sentiment.

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