Recently I’ve been thinking about whether I want to identify as a ‘Pro Israel Activist’.
“Do I really want to put myself in the same boat as that lot?” I think to myself.
Since when did being ‘Pro Israel’ mean believing the world has been taken over by a secret society of anti Semitic BBC journalists who will stop at nothing to find a way to bash the Jewish nation in every report they broadcast?
You think I’m joking, but some people think like this. And they’re obsessed. Israel, Israel, Israel. As a friend recently remarked, “It’s getting to that point now where people are putting on Facebook, yes that episode of X Factor was good, but why didn’t Simon Cowell mention the Hamas Charter???”
But perhaps I’m being unfair. There will always be bad apples and OTT nutters in every movement. (If you’re over 30, OTT means ‘over the top’. You’re welcome.)
So if I’m willing to resign myself to the fact that there’ll always be a few strange people in the ‘Pro Israel’ movement then what’s the problem?
The problem, in a word is Slacktivism.
Slacktivism is lazy advocacy. And it’s everywhere.
When the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) tells its members to boycott SodaStream they are encouraging Slacktivism. Not going out and not buying a machine you probably had no interest in anyway, is not activism. Its pointless Slaktivism. (Pointless because not buying one actually hurts the Palestinian cause.)
But my gosh, the PSC people get a buzz out of sitting at home and not going out to buy a machine. Slacktivism is all about the feel-good factor.
And nothing makes a Slacktivist feel better than typing their name into an online form, and pressing the ‘submit’ button with all the tenacity they can put into a click of the mouse.
That’s right, I’m talking about online petitions.
WE MUST STOP IRAN, my friends tell me. And I agree, I’ve been saying so for the past five years. I was getting irate about this issue before most people had ever heard of I’m-A-Dinner-Jacket (say it fast).
So let’s just stop with the emotion and use our heads for a moment. Huge nation-state in the blue corner. Guy huddled over his laptop in the red corner. Who will win this battle? We may entertain the romantic notion that the ‘little guy’ with his laptop and online petition has the potential to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program but can’t we also agree 99.99% of the time, that just doesn’t happen?
Clearly some petitions have merit. But please, if you’ve ever spent one minute filling in a petition, spend another minute on Google, researching what petitions can actually achieve. (Spoiler alert: Most of the time the answer to that query is ‘not much’.)
The third type of Slacktivism I want to call-out is the classic preaching-to-the-converted. Ladies and gentlemen, it is far too easy to create a Facebook group, invite all your Pro Israel friends and then moan about the outside world. A space for networking can be extremely useful. But often such places are mis-managed. It’s far better (and far more difficult) to interest the uninterested. But that is what we must do.
The fourth and final type of Slacktivism doesn’t just lie on the couch, it also throws its brain out of the window. Slacktivism defends every action of the Israeli government. I’ve been guilty of reading an allegation that Israel have done X and immediately rushing to friends (OK, yes, Google is my friend) and asking them to refute it. My underlining presupposition is that Israel would never do X. That’s not a fair, objective starting place to view the facts from. The best Activism is Activism that is supported by the facts. If you haven’t bothered to search out the facts and let those facts lead your Activism, you’re nothing but a Slacktivist.
How can we avoid Slacktivism and advocate on the issues that need to be heard by those in power? See my follow up post, “The Best Activists”