Activism is clearly an important topic right now. Given that, I want to return to some of the issues of #-activism that I discussed previously in my piece on #Inclusiveness.
Here, I want to concentrate on how #-activism, whether by design or accident, enables a less restrictive and more inclusive method of organization that potentially (and ideally) incorporates both traditional activist styles and new, looser modes of activism—thereby intermixing the political voices of traditional organizers, casual supporters, and radical subversives.
Though much of what I say will apply to other #-movements, such as #NotMyPresident, I'm going to continue to concentrate on #BlackLivesMatter.
That #-activism is able to connect these three distinct groups follows from how their diverse political activities are unified under a single #-slogan. Traditional activists represent #BLM through visible, and often powerful, coalitions and organizations. Yet, #-activism essentially entails that no organized structure (nor even the set of all such structures) can represent the overall, inchoate entity that is #BLM.
That #BLM is larger than (though also inclusive of) these organized structures follows from the fact that the casual supporter can declare their allegiance without any explicit organizational membership. Whether by tweeting with the #, wearing a t-shirt, or bringing up the phrase in an argument with a dissenter, the casual supporter joins the larger movement through their seemingly small, but politically significant actions. The lack of membership requirements facilitates greater visibility: much of the public’s primary, direct connection to #BLM is through these casual supporters’ everyday postings and actions, which in turn supports the organizations.
Finally, more subversive radicals can incorporate themselves into the fluid #BLM without having to place their names directly on a membership list that would eventually fall into the authorities’ hands. Their connection to the movement can be made known through the use of the #-slogan, though not necessarily online, but through alternative methods of expression, such as spray-painting or simply shouting. The # provides a signature for the radical who wishes to unite with the movement while staying, as much as possible, off the grid.
#BLM, then, represents a trend towards a new style of activism that encourages greater inclusivity, enables fluid creativity, and presents new opportunities to resist surveillance. By its very nature, the grander #BLM style of activism allows a more open-ended kind of membership, a less restrictive hierarchy, and a greater potential for emphasizing activism-from-below. In this way, #-activism places a technological spin on the ideals presented by anarchist theories: leadership is made unnecessary, activists choose their own methods of action, and there is no single structure that recreates a hierarchy that would limit creativity. In conclusion, #BlackLivesMatter.