I’ve written about online activism before. I thought the #nomakeupselfie was a vanity movement. The #bringbackourgirls one was self-righteous. I’ve had to bite my tongue mighty hard to hold back a rant about the #icebucketchallenge.
So I find myself somewhat hoist with my own petard, because I now want someone, anyone, to start a social media campaign directed at the lunatic members of Islamic State.
Why? Because it’s becoming pretty obvious that Isis’s most effective weapon is the smartphone. The group has been using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to great effect, to create a digital broth that has both panicked and fascinated us. Their graphic videos make front page news and their deranged tweets sway international diplomacy. Social media strategists round the world must be watching in awe.
But so far, the only coordinated attempt to respond to this was with a social media ‘blackout’. #ISISMediaBlackout gathered pace after the beheading of James Foley, which was as dignified a response as possible following such a barbaric murder. A blackout can only go so far though if we want to ensure freedom of speech remains sacred. There will also always be people who peep at the pictures.
Where are the hashtag activists now – Muslims and every other creed – tweeting photos of themselves with signs reading #notinmyname? Where is the concerted effort on Instagram to show Isis that #wearenotscared? I sense it doesn’t exist because retaliating feels dangerous. In this instance, maybe it is a little bit dangerous. Certainly more so than pouring a bucket of icy water over your head or not wearing any makeup.
But that’s exactly why we should do it. Fight Isis where they seem to be doing a lot of their fighting: online. If ever there was an opportunity to put social media to good use, this is it. Isis are armed with smartphones, but then again, so are we.