Online Activism Is Real Activism

Hey, everyone. This is going to be a short entry. I guess maybe I shouldn’t put options in polls unless I’m prepared to write about them, but this is what my Patreon supporters chose. I should do more polls so my Patreon supporters are getting something for their $5 pledge, so I should get used to writing things I’m not really prepared or inspired to write. This is an apropos entry for the times, though, since activism you can do while safe indoors from the fucking global plague currently happening…yeah, apropos, right?

Okay, enough stalling. Online activism. Often called being a “keyboard warrior” or a type of “slacktivism.” Also called being an “antivist” by the band Bring Me the Horizon, who have a song called such containing a lyric “If you really believe the things that you preach/Get off of your screens and into the streets.” Well, respectfully, BMtH, fuck you.

Okay, not just fuck you. Fuck you, and also understand that being a “keyboard warrior” is an important job, people who engage in online activism aren’t “slacktivists,” and we certainly aren’t “antivists” (which sounds like an unholy portmanteau of “activist” and “antis”–you know, the pro-censorship teeny-boppers with no sense of nuance who are too young to remember the LJ Strikethrough). “Get off your screens and into the streets” is a bullshit thing to say for several reasons, the first of which being that the streets aren’t accessible for everyone. Yeah, I protested Autism $peaks, but that was a fairly small protest of an organized walk, and even then I was barely able to handle it from a sensory perspective. If I went to a BLM protest, the crowd and people-noise would push me into a meltdown, and then I would be a liability instead of a help.

Granted, sometimes inaccessibility of “the streets” isn’t a barrier, depending on the situation–at the Capitol Crawl in 1990, the activists were protesting inaccessibility and the fact that they had to crawl was the point–but online activism is the only activism accessible to a lot of Disabled people. Someone who is just going to have a meltdown or is bedbound or is weak from chemo or is in too much pain to walk can’t get out there and march.

So in-person activism isn’t always accessible, which is why saying online activism isn’t real activism is ableist. Also, saying online activism doesn’t have an impact is just false. Most people think of online activism as people spewing half-formed thoughts on Twitter. However, Twitter lends itself pretty well to activism. Twitter threads often divide complex social justice concepts into easily digestible chunks, which is not only useful, it’s accessible for a lot of people, including ID/DD/LD people who may have trouble reading information in longer forms. I personally have learned a ton from Disability Twitter, particularly @Rose_TCA, @autistichoya, @VilissaThompson, @ebthen, @coffeespoonie, @mattbc, @dominickevans, and probably others that I’m forgetting. Fat Twitter seems to be pretty great too, except for the asswipe who told me that my eating disorder precluded me from being anti-fatmisia. (One of my protector alters came out and screamed about asswipery and social justice praxis. That was a fun day.) Jwitter is fantastic too, as is Black Twitter. I could do a whole blog entry on activists I suggest following on Twitter. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I feel like I should mention Facebook. You might think that Facebook is a terrible place for sharing information about social justice causes, and I wouldn’t disagree. But it does seem like an excellent place for getting into arguments about social justice issues with your shittier family members. Unfortunately, this is a thing that needs to happen in activist lives. We need to advocate for ourselves and causes that we’re passionate about (even if they don’t directly affect us, e.g., my white ass helping my QP debate a family member about Black Lives Matter). Facebook, for better or for worse, is where this often happens. It hurts. It’s ugly. But it has to be done.

There are other methods of online activism besides disseminating information on Twitter or Facebook. There’s also Tumblr, which I’m not going to touch with a 39.5-foot pole, even though it was instrumental in teaching me about disability justice, cultural appropriation, and trans rights, because there is just too much bullshit on there. There’s also YouTube. I mention this because video has been instrumental in reality checking people who don’t believe that, say, police murder innocent Black people. Posting links to YouTube or news sites with embedded video on social media has been an effective way to raise awareness of police violence and other issues like abuse in insular cults.

Oh, right, I was going to talk about other methods of online activism besides disseminating information, not just mention other social networks. I believe in giving money directly to marginalized people. This happens a lot on Twitter to the point that many different marginalized communities joke about members passing around the same $20. Sharing and signing fundraisers is also a way to perform activism online. I’m kinda broke right now thanks to vet bills (https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-b039elanna-beat-lung-cancer), but I’ve donated to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and a few bail funds. Signing petitions is another way to perform activism online (although you shouldn’t donate to change.org after signing a petition; just sign and donate to whatever cause directly). Yet another method of online activism is contacting policymakers via email or online forms; this is especially useful for people to whom phones aren’t accessible.

I’m also always surprised when people say that online activism isn’t real activism because SO MANY PEOPLE ARE ONLINE. Yeah, I could print this blog as a physical zine and distribute it around the city where I live, but I have a much higher chance of reaching people if I post it online. And there’s also a lot of bullshit online. I don’t think “Google is free!” is a very good response to social justice questions asked in good faith (unless the answer is very basic) because there is just so much fucking bullshit out there on the Internet. If there’s going to be multitudes of bigoted right-wing radioactive trash out on the Internet, I feel like there damn well better be correct information out there to combat it. When your conservative great-aunt posts some bullshit on FB, you can be there with a link to an infographic about how she’s wrong.

I think that’s all I have for now. Tl;dr not only is online activism valid and effective, but saying that online activism isn’t ~real activism is ableist. 

Thanks so much to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean! To become as cool as them, or to see my blog entries 2 days early and get a thank-you in every blog entry, you can support me for $1 a month on Patreon: patreon.com/arzinzani

Mental Health and Social Justice Call-Outs

Content/trigger warning: emetophobia, discussion of saneism and neurotypicalism, homomisia mention, suicidality mention, self-harm mention

I’ve had a really hard few days. Carrie’s yahrzeit and the anniversary of her death by the Western calendar, for one, and also December 26th is a traumaversary for me. Apparently Christmas is also terrible for my PTSD as well, as I spent half the day being violently sick for psychosomatic reasons. So if this blog entry is a little subpar, it’s because I’m operating at like a 35%.

I recently saw a semi-prominent YouTuber claim that a particular group of people had no consideration for mental health or respect for people with mental illness because they…drum roll please…were upset at him for using homomisic slurs. On the surface, this is bullshit. If you look deeper, it is still bullshit. However, it is still worth talking about mental health and call-outs, because call-outs can be triggering.

But first, I want to say that trying to defend your own bigoted behavior with “I don’t know any better, I’m neurodivergent” is neurotypicalist. Yes, really. Saying that neurodivergence makes a person incapable of understanding morality and justice is a particularly scary type of neurotypicalism and it needs to be stopped, especially if it has been internalized.

The rest of this blog entry is going to be about two things: how to call someone out while minimizing the chance of triggering someone and how to respond if a callout triggers you. Let’s start with minimizing the chance of triggering someone. Here are a few things you can do when calling people out to ensure that you don’t trigger any potential health issues of theirs:

  1. Discuss the person’s actions or words instead of making statements about them as a person. I know, I know, we are all everything-ist because oppression is built into our society and we’re all in the process of unlearning. I know. I’m not being sarcastic, either; I know. But saying “what you said was [blank]ist” instead of “you’re [blank]ist” may keep a person’s douchebag brain from latching onto “they said I’m [blank]ist, that means I don’t deserve to exist/I should self-harm/etc.” And of course, stay away from ad hominem attacks, which are bad social justice praxis in general.
  2. Don’t dogpile. Dogpiling can feel like a personal attack or be overwhelming to abuse survivors. If one or two people have the call-out handled, let them handle it. Only get involved if the person being called out is responding by being a belligerent asshole.
  3. If the call-out is happening online, don’t continually post lots of messages without giving the person being called out a chance to respond. A flood of messages, even from only one person, might be too much to process for the person being called out or might feel like an attack.
  4. This one is really specific, but I’ve seen it. Don’t mock the shitty thing the other person said using the Spongebob meme mixed-case text. That meme is disfiguremisic and ableist against ID/DD/LD people.
  5. If you did trigger someone with your call-out, don’t mock them for the symptoms they’re showing, including accusing them of “crytyping”. You should have seen how shot my fine motor control was after someone complaining about bicyclists riding on the sidewalk accused me of not agreeing with basic human decency because I suggested that more bike lanes might help. My PTSD was having a fit and a half.
  6. This is more of an accessibility thing, but still relevant. Don’t use sarcasm, especially in a text-only medium. If the person you’re calling out can understand sarcasm, it might feel like an attack. If the person you’re calling out can’t understand sarcasm due to neurodivergence…well, shit.

However, sometimes call-outs are triggering no matter what. I dissociate when I get an email from my boss, no matter the contents of the email. It’s annoying, but it’s not my boss’ fault. So if you’re triggered by a social justice call-out, here’s what to do.

  1. TAKE A BREAK. Disengage. Walk away. Count to ten. If you’re triggered, your ability to respond constructively is probably limited. Go engage in self-care, or do whatever you need to do to calm down.
  2. Only go back to the call-out when you’re ready. Evaluate whether or not the call-out used any of the tactics in the previous list, in which case you can–respectfully–tell the person who called you out how to change their praxis in the future. Also, if you can’t go back to the call-out for the sake of your health, don’t.
  3. Whether or not the call-out used any of the tactics in the previous list, evaluate whether or not you did the thing you were called out for. Maybe you did. Maybe you fucked up. We all fuck up. Nobody is a perfect bastion of social justice.
  4. If you did indeed fuck up, acknowledge your fuck-up. (But if you’re tempted to self-flagellate and be like “oh I’m terrible, I am just the worst person, I feel so awful I’m going to go cut myself,” you’re either being deliberately emotionally manipulative or you’re still feeling symptoms. Walk away until you can respond constructively.) Make a real apology, which consists of acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an indication of doing better in the future.
  5. Try to take the call-out to heart. This can be hard because if a call-out was triggering, even measured, respectful discussion of whatever -ism you were called out about can become a trigger or be retraumatic, and you just don’t want to think about it. (This has actually happened to me a few times.) Do whatever you have to process what happened so you don’t end up with a new trigger. If you have a therapist, you may want to talk about it with them.

I think that’s all I have for now. Happy (Western calendar) New Year!

BAD ME I have not been listing my Patreon supporters at the end of blog entries. Many thanks to Ace, Emily, Hannah, Karina, and Sean! To be as cool as these people, visit Patreon.com/arzinzani to pledge. Even a dollar a month is massively helpful!