Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Quiet riot

When was the last time Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans took place in a good ol' fashioned protest? 

Our healthcare system is close to the breaking point, gas prices are on the rise, local fisheries scientists are telling us our stocks are in danger, the federal government is pushing a bill making it illegal to put CDs you bought on your own MP3 player, and what are we doing about it? We're making Facebook groups, that's what.

I don't mean to come across high and mighty - I am, after all, a member of 37 Facebook groups, five of which are political. But what do we hope to achieve by joining these groups? Do we really think 482 people putting their name to a group about keeping the federal government from turning lakes into mine dump sites is really going to sway the powers that be?

One thing I've heard again and again from working in student media is that young people are apathetic, they just don't care; I don't think this is true. Young people care, they're just really lazy. I should know, I am a lazy young person. It's much easier to join a Facebook group, bitch on a blog, call Open Line, or just grumble with your friends than it is to take any sort of action. 

And it's not just young people (how many young people call Open Line, really?) — when was the last time we held a big protest in this province? I don't know a lot about this province's history, admittedly, but the last serious riot I hear about was in 1932 when our government was collapsing and the people were starving. We're a lot better off than we were back then, but our current situation is far from rosey.

Facebook groups, much like petitions, have their place, but they can't work alone. Governments know how easy it is to rubber stamp their name onto a document, so merely attaching our name onto a cause isn't enough. 

I'm hesitant to organize a protest myself — I'm supposed to write news, not make it — but that's also just an excuse. As a member of the media (yeah, I feel pretentious saying that) I'm supposed to keep my opinion out of my stories, but that doesn't mean I or anyone else can't express their opinion outside (and in some cases, inside) their occupations. As members of a democracy, we have a right to dissent and protest, so why don't we?

We put governments into power and if we don't like what they're doing, we can take them out, but they don't feel that fear of their people that they should. I'm not saying act blindly - research, educate yourself about issues, and use these Facebook groups to organize and plan your course of action, instead of just showing your anger, passion, support, or what have you with the click of a button before you go watch YouTube. And that goes for me, too.

1 comment:

Adam Riggio said...

I've actually come across pretentious media studies papers that talk about Facebook, the other social networking sites, and the empty phrase 'Web 2.0' as a resurrection of "public space" that's been eaten up by shopping malls. I'm unsure if this magical public space where "The Political™" manifested itself ever really existed. Most of them follow Hannah Arendt's lead and think it was the ancient Greek assemblies and marketplaces. But I'm not a fan of writers who look at ancient Greece as if it was the secular Garden of Eden. They're more prevalent in professional philosophy than you'd think.

But they're on to something underneath all the pretentiousness. Blogs like ours contribute to a growing information place that's heavily democratized and totally non-centralized. We may not be tearing down the walls of banks and getting our asses flatted by tanks in certain Squares which will go unnamed in case any Chinese readers stumble across this. But I see something else going on here that hasn't existed before. And I want to let it play out and see what will happen.