Does Activism On Social Media Actually Make A Difference?

The couple of years have been different as far as activism goes: namely, we’ve seen an increase in celebrity and influencer support for certain causes with social media used as the main tool to promote awareness. For example, Black Lives Matter was thrust into the media spotlight last summer as an inflection point was reached after several police shootings left a number of African Americans dead for no reason.

Breonna Taylor was asleep when she was shot and killed by police during a strange nighttime no-knock warrant. BLM opponents will say she wasn’t asleep, and while technically true — she was awake by the time the bullets started flying — that sort of misses the point, don’t you think? She was asleep when the door was broken down. She was killed seconds later.

This event and others just like it led to a day of “blackout” on social media to show support for the minority victims of police brutality and violence. Activism always used social media as a tool to gain more traction, but this — this was something new. This was bigger than it ever was before. Anyone following celebrities or popular influencers on Instagram will know what we mean. Awareness was being promoted everywhere. And even today, many influencers haven’t toned it down. They still want us to know everything that happens to minority victims on a daily basis.

Many have asked whether social media activism works. Should we keep up the fight using these tools? The quick answer is “yes.” 

Social media might not gain the ear of everyone who sees, but the point is that almost everyone is forced to see. They can’t just turn it off their feed. Many people will share posts, many will donate to organizations that need the cash, while others will get out there for the next march or protest. The vast majority won’t. But does it even matter that most people won’t? What should matter is that more people are.

It’s true that those in medical fields have provided a great deal of support for activists during the mostly peaceful BLM protest last summer — and some of them realized first-hand that police brutality was a real problem. One story showed a medical station that had been set up to offer first aid and water to protesters, only for authorities to show up and destroy the supplies.

One of the most popular climate change activists is a teen named Greta Thunberg. She routinely makes a name for herself by attending big rallies and speaking in front of the part of the establishment that doesn’t believe it’s real or doesn’t want to invest the money into saving the world. But most of her supporters will recognize her from Instagram. And without Instagram, most of us might not even know her name.

So long as platforms like Instagram and Twitter exist, we should use them to spread the word. It’s the right thing to do — because educating the masses is more important that limiting the tools we use to inform others that wrongdoing is pervasive in our society.

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Protests In Myanmar Find LGBTQ Support

The military coup in Myanmar has put relationships around the world on a strained setting and tested the first days of the Biden presidency. According to the authorities responsible for deposing the elected president of Myanmar, the military will stay in control for one year. Biden has ordered sanctions while we wait for new information. Now, human rights activists have homed in on Myanmar — LGBTQ supporters included.

Min Khant Zin is a popular drag queen who decided to attend the protests in drag, according to the Los Angeles Blade.

Zin said, “Most of the openly gay people in Myanmar are makeup artists and cross-dressers. They do not stand out in the crowds when they wear female costumes, but someone with drag costumes will. This is my intention…We want people around the world to know about the LGBT community’s contributions for the fight for democracy.”

At least 100 members of the LGBTQ community participated in a protest on February 8. The protesters say that police sprayed them with water and shot rubber bullets into the crowd.

Protester Maung Soe said ,”We have to be cautious because we look different and are easily noticeable. We are worried we might be targeted by the police forces and counter protesters. We are all coming to the protests to support the greater cause.”

Burmese college student Khant Sithu explained that the current unrest is simply a result of the military usurpation of power. Sithu said, “Regardless if you are gay or straight, we all vote for the political parties we like. People in Myanmar have overwhelmingly voted for Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party. Now, the military dislikes the situation and detain the civilian leaders.”

The situation overseas is not unlike the one that former president Donald Trump tried to create here in the United States both before and after he lost the 2020 election. He was reported to have been in talks with Pentagon officials about the outcome of the election.

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History Of Activism Around The World: Part III

So far we’ve discussed the Third Servile War and popular sentiment resulting from the dictatorial rule of Gaius Julius Caesar, which led to the beginning of the Roman Empire — which from that beginning until its end would be home to a number of revolts, civil wars, and overall large-scale civil unrest.

Anti-Semitic views and hate crimes have fluctuated throughout history for thousands of years. Even right now in New York, hate crimes are on the rise — and in 2021! But this type of hatred goes back all the way to Roman times, when many revolts led to a rise in activism in the Ancient World. 

A man named Publius Quinctilius Varus was responsible for a great deal of conflict between anti-Semites and the Jewish people. When there was a messianic revolt in Judaea when Herod the Great died there in 4 BC, Varus wasted no time in stamping it out. He occupied Jerusalem, crucified thousands of rebels, and sparked a great deal of disgust for Rome’s actions.

Josephus, who made every effort to reconcile the Jewish people to Roman rule, felt it necessary to point out how lenient this judicial massacre had been…Indeed, at precisely this moment the Jews, nearly en masse, began a full-scale boycott of Roman potter.”

Historians believe Varus’s treatment of the Jewish people resulted in a great deal of protest. He was eventually recalled to Antioch. But his brother Drusus was campaigning in Germania in an attempt to acquire new territory for Rome to rule over, who in doing so subjugated many German tribes. This was the storied career of a typical Roman military commander or politician — the subjugation of other peoples.

Even so, Rome normally allowed its conquered peoples to retain their own culture and religions — and in fact, Rome routinely adopted the gods from other religions into its own pantheon. This was likely part of the reason the empire was so successful for so long. Subjugated peoples would reap the rewards of Roman rule — like new roads — and only have to pay taxes in exchange. 

Eventually, Rome went through a period where the disparity between poor and rich became too great to bear, allowing the seeds of Christianity to take root. This was a religion that taught that being poor was not just okay, it was actually how one was supposed to live life (something that many modern-day Christiants seem to have forgotten). But the slow rise of Christianity led to a great divide in Ancient Rome — because Christians believed in only one god, which inevitably led every other god in the pantheon to be cast out. 

This caused a great deal of social strife in Rome. One could say that Christianity kept the Empire alive for a bit longer at the cost of its soul. Social conflict between those who wished to keep their gods and Christians rose for centuries, and Rome’s grip on subjugated peoples was greatly weakened as a result. Christian activism caused the emperor himself to lose power, as he was an almost god-like figure.

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History Of Activism Around The World: Part II

One of the first traces of activism was the Third Servile War in Ancient Rome, and was covered in part one of our series on the history of activism around the world. But there were many other examples of times when social activism led to upheaval in Rome. These include the 241 BC Falisci revolt, the First and Second Servile Wars in 135 and 104 BC, the 91BC Social War, and the 80 BC Sertorian War. Revolt in Rome, suffice it to say, was relatively commonplace throughout history. True peace was rare.

Only a couple decades after the Third Servile War, Gaius Julius Caesar came to power. He was a divisive political figure among those who thrived in the Senate, and many of the common rabble of Rome loved him dearly. Why wouldn’t they? He symbolized Roman power — in part by committing the Gauls to genocide during his campaigns — he was rich, and he did what he said he would do. He was eventually killed by his own colleagues in the Senate for becoming too powerful after he was proclaimed dictator in perpetuity, i.e. for life.

But this followed a great civil war in Rome due to political matters and personal differences between Caesar and other men. After Caesar’s death, yet another civil war was fought between Caesar’s own adopted son and soon-to-be crumbling factions of Opimates and Liberatores. This was actually the true beginning of the establishment of the Roman Empire, paving the way for Emperor Augustus to take power.

This period of upheaval occurred for many reasons, but the people of Ancient Rome had spent a great deal of time transitioning away from a monarchy — because they frowned down upon kings and traditional monarchies. How strange it was, then, to have a single person upon the seat of power once again. In any case, this conflict paved the way for future activism that we’ll discuss in part three.

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History Of Activism Around The World: Part I

The United States has a long and storied career as a nation of activists when compared to others on the world stage, but did you know that the word “activism” has only been used in a political sense for about the last century? Even in the 1960s, though, we usually referred to these types of actions and campaigns for equality as “social action” instead. But in the less literal sense of the word, activism around the world is something experienced by nearly every generation. 

This is the first in a series on activism around the world, where we’ll explore every trace of activism from Ancient Rome to modern-day California. And where else to start but the story of the slave turned gladiator, Spartacus — and his rebellion to free the slaves? It would eventually be named the Third Servile War because of how far Spartacus’s reach extended.

That the revolt happened at all was a shock — not just because of what it meant to the Roman Empire, but because it was nearly a miracle. An escape from Lentulus Batiatus’s gladitorial training school in 73 BC had already been planned, but someone spilled news of the plot. That didn’t stop anyone. Dozens of men grabbed kitchen instruments to fight their way free. 

Once outside, the gladiators accomplished two things in quick succession: they captured a store of weapons and armor to outfit themselves, and they chose leadership. Spartacus was one of these men (and would become the face of the rebellion from history’s point of view), but Crixus and Oenomaus were two others.

Historians believe the escaped gladiators had many early successes in no particular order: they pillaged the towns surrounding Capua to free and recruit more slaves, they defeated forces sent from Capua, and eventually fled to Mount Vesuvius — perhaps in hopes of finding a more defensive position.

The real shock occurred when Roman militia were sent after them under the command of Praetor Gaius Claudius Glaber, who tried to starve the slaves from their perch on Vesuvius. But the slaves managed to climb down the other side of the mountain using vines, flank the militia, and slaughter the force of 3,000 men. Another expedition was subsequently sent and slaughtered.

Because of these Roman defeats, word of mouth spread — the seeds of activism — and the cause swelled to around 70,000 men and women, who trained until 72 BC. Accounts differ, but after Oenemaus was killed (historians don’t know how), Crixus and Spartacus may have had a falling out and split the army in two. This led to the eventual defeat of both armies. We know that Crixus was killed, but what happened to Spartacus is still a matter of debate.

Following the destruction of the slave armies, many thousands disappeared into the ether — either never to be heard from again, or to be slowly picked up by Roman authorities. Thousands of slaves were crucified along the Appian Way as a future warning. But it served more as a reminder.

Want to learn more about Spartacus? There are many historical references in texts from the time, but books dedicated to the Third Servile War are in abundance. If you might prefer a fictionalized and dramatized account, try Starz’s popular TV show that aired beginning in 2010: Spartacus.

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What Will Biden’s Legacy On Civil Rights Look Like?

Finally, we have President Joe Biden. It’s been a long time coming! Many were certain it would not happen even after he was justly elected. But Trump is gone and, while Trumpism may remain in one form or another for years, his voice has been drowned out by those who wish to move forward — and there are more of us. And looking forward means that we have to ask whether or not Biden will uphold his many promises on racial justice and lasting equity.

Progressives and civil rights leaders around the country have made one thing very clear to the new president: They will not let up for one single second while there is work to be done.

And that leaves us with good news and bad news. The good news: A few executive orders signed by the new president make small gains in the civil rights arena — and this is after Biden said that such executive actions were outside his authority — but they have been overshadowed by undoing the damage Trump by reversing the former president’s own executive orders, from the Muslim ban to separating families at the border. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Not yet.

The bad news: Biden seems poised to focus his efforts on putting into place the framework for a strong economy and providing the means for the renewable energy sector to take off. And let’s face the facts. We can hardly see that as bad news. In fact, in the long term it will undeniably be a good thing for everyone, minorities included at the top of that list. 

That’s because saving our planet will protect us against displacement and war, both of which adversely affect minorities more than anyone else. The same is true of the coronavirus. African Americans are one of the hardest hit groups. Biden’s gambit to inject over a trillion dollars into the economy should help them.

But again, it’s not enough. We’ll have to wait and see where the legacy goes from here.

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Trump Lawsuits Will Likely Head To Supreme Court

The scene was set months ago. Trump would cry foul, win or lose. If he lost the election, he would not concede. He would launch dozens of lawsuits aimed at halting the vote after Election Day. He would ask electors to vote directly for him in the event that he lost the popular vote in critical swing states — all on the basis of unsubstantiated voter fraud. Most of those lawsuits have already failed miserably in court.

The chaos that this cloak and dagger routine has thrust upon the American people is immense. Just after Election Day, protestors took to the streets to demand Trump’s concession. In Downtown Chicago, hundreds gathered to say in one unified voice: count every vote. Similar crowds could be found in Washington, Los Angeles, New York City, and Portland. 

The protests have made little difference.

Trump’s supporters still believe wholeheartedly that the election was stolen from him — that upwards of a million votes were cast by dead people (Trump said the same thing after the 2016 election, even though he won), or that votes for him were thrown out by the hundreds of thousands.

Yesterday, an appellate court made an especially strong rebuke of Trump’s lawsuits: “Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

That was Judge Stephanos Bibas, referring to the fact that while Trump has consistently and constantly said that election fraud has run rampant, he’s failed to provide a shred of evidence to support the claim. His own lawyers haven’t had it easy.

But Trump doesn’t care if there’s a legal basis for his arguments. He doesn’t care what the truth is. All votes must be certified by specific deadlines in the states (many of which have already passed), and then nationally certified on December 14th. If he can delay the certification beyond that date, he could cause yet more chaos.

Right now, his lawsuits will likely be headed to the Supreme Court, where he hopes the three judges he nominated for service will rule in his favor. That seems exceedingly unlikely. But even if they ruled in his favor, it’s difficult to see what difference it would make. Trump is suing to prevent Pennsylvania from certifying the vote in Biden’s favor. But preventing that certification doesn’t mean that Biden automatically loses. The Republican-controlled legislature has already said matter of factly that it would not subvert the will of the majority of the voters — and that means sending a set of electors to vote for Biden in January.

Trump’s lawyers (and Fox commentators) have suggested that the “judicial machinery” has covered up his victory in Pennsylvania. But the judges in question were all nominated by Republican presidents.

Trump’s lawsuit said that state officials should not have tried to certify the “results of an invalid and constitutionally infirm election process before this case can be heard on its merits.”

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How To Calm Down Post-Election Day

Election Day was a moment of suspense for everyone — and of course the stress from that day continues. The fights and conflicts will likely continue for some time, both in and out of home. We all need to take a moment and calm down to prepare for what lies ahead. What can you do? First and foremost, avoid talking with the people who will never see your point of view. Words don’t reach everyone, and Trump certainly fought to ensure that the effectiveness of words was as diminished as possible over the past four years.

It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll act now.

Are you someone who requires action to relieve yourself of stress? Then you might benefit from protest, volunteer work, or even starting a career in politics. We need more people who believe in the freedoms we as Americans hold so dear to enter the political fray if we want to remove those career politicians who cast doubt on elections, suppress the vote, help organize gerrymandering, etc.

But you’re probably not the type of person who wants to be out right now. That’s okay. Most of us could benefit from some relaxing music, a bath, and some ice cream today. And maybe everyday for a while. 

One of the best things you can do for yourself is limit any media. That means staying off your phone, tablet, or computer. Don’t even think about connecting to Facebook or Twitter! There’s too much negative commentary. Instead, sit down and read a book. Allowing yourself to get sucked into another world can help reduce the urge to watch the news or soak up more election-related information. You don’t need it right now. Wait.

Another tactic is getting outside as much as possible. This is a great time for a camping trip, long-distance hike, etc. Los Angeles is surrounded by mountains and forests. We could all use them right now.

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Countdown Until Election Day 2020: Protesting Trump’s Strategy

You may have noticed that Democrats and Republicans adopt increasingly different strategies when it comes to winning elections: Democrats try to get out the vote while Republicans try to suppress the right kind of vote. Generally speaking, Democrats and left-leaning Independents outnumber Republicans and right-leaning Independents. That means that a high voter turnout usually signifies a blue wave. Democrats are hoping for that wave to wash over Trump this year — which is what looks most likely to happen.

Republicans are fighting to allow guns at the polls, which combined with poll-watching techniques — which were illegal during the last election — should amount to a significant amount of voter intimidation. Add to this the fact that Trump is doing his best to manipulate his voting block to believe that mail-in voting amounts to fraud (even though that’s how he votes), and you have a recipe for legal battles after this Election Day.

Many of us have been personally damaged by this administration’s actions. While we cannot litigate against Trump as an individual, we can sue the government as a whole. It’s unfortunate that a personal injury or work accident attorney isn’t enough to obtain compensatory damages for the financial harm that has been done, but there are other avenues to fight back beyond litigation. One of those is good old-fashioned protest!

It’s expected that Trump will make a valiant attempt to dismiss any votes cast after Election Day. That would negate much of the blue wave because most Democrats plan to vote by mail while most Republicans plan to vote in person. Should Trump be successful, many other groups of people won’t be able to vote. This includes the armed forces — which have increasingly abandoned Trump — and certain U.S. territories.

It’s important to note that Trump only won in 2016 by a slim 70,000 vote margin. Without the armed forces, suburbs, and women, he would have lost by a landslide.

Many Los Angeles communities will see an increased police presence in the days following the election, in part because Trump’s comments practically invite violence and unrest. Should he find a way to delegitimize or delay the results, the city expects protests. Considering what’s at stake, no one would be surprised to see some of these turn violent. The same precautionary steps are being taken in several other cities, including New York.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “We are very prepared for the election, but at the same time I don’t want to buy into a narrative that there’s going to be chaos during our election. We prepare for the worst, but we are hoping and expecting generally the best. There may be individual instances, we’ll see some stuff around the country, but don’t let any of that change the narrative of you, your right to vote.”

“Law enforcement isn’t and oftentimes by law allowed to be right at an election site,” he added, “because…that’s not the sort of country we live in. But they are available to protect our rights when we need them should anybody through violence or other means try to take that away.”

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Protests Continue Unabated In Face Of Police Violence

Police continue to be violent with peaceful protesters and troublemakers alike, regardless of the fact that they’re on candid camera for all the world to see. And the world is most definitely watching. International headlines are glued to the brutality being witnessed in the United States. Demonstrations have spread to other countries across the globe as the outcry continues. The question everyone is asking: Will this change anything at all?

Many have expressed hope that an inflection point has been reached in America, but the truth is much more sinister. Only half of Americans — i.e. the half that did not vote for a President Trump — believe in the validity of this movement, which itself could be brought down if coronavirus numbers spike after the typical one-to-two-week incubation period has been reached.

Coupled with an upcoming election which itself is likely to bring a great deal of turmoil in the United States, and you might have a recipe for change — but not peaceful change, like protesters have been promoting.

We never condone violence. We urge protesters to remain peaceful. Refrain from looting or vandalizing or becoming violent, even when police illegally become violent with you. 

In Downtown Los Angeles, protester Corey Jiannalone said, “I think everybody out here is excited, is enthusiastic and is motivated to fight for what we believe in, what we continue to believe in, and that’s equality for every single person that’s out here.”

Meanwhile, the ACLU is arguing that the curfew in Los Angeles (and other cities) is unconstitutional and in fact precipitate police violence.

The most unimaginable part of this is that scientific studies have been done by the dozens about how to peacefully deescalate situations that grow out of control. Essentially, you can successfully disperse people through peaceful interaction. Police are instead using militaristic tactics scientifically proven to escalate — rather than deescalate — tense or chaotic situations such as these.

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