Slacktivism’s Not Enough

I transcribed this from an episode of Lovett or Leave It some time ago. I forget exactly which episode, but it was in the Before Times, and I never got around to posting it. It was also long before Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential primary race, and the deeply despondent response of some Bernie supporters to a Biden candidacy brought it to mind again:

When someone says to you, “Oh, I think Trump is gonna win,” say to them, “What did you do this week to prevent that from happening?” That’s all. “Oh, you think Trump’s going to win? You must think that’s a real emergency then. Wow, you’re that pessimistic? Did you donate to anybody? Did you knock on any doors? Did you do anything? Oh, you did nothing? You did absolutely nothing… So you’re just somebody who wants to make everybody feel bad?”

If somebody says Trump is gonna win, you say, “You don’t know that. And if you think that, you need to do something to stop it. Now get the f*ck out of my face.”

It’s harsh, and somewhat joking – it is a comedy podcast – but it’s a serious point. It also came to mind as I read a Guardian article about a pair of new books: EJ Dionne’s Code Red, and Eitan Hersh’s Politics is for Power. I think this, referencing the latter, follows on Lovett’s point:

Hersh, meanwhile, identifies a crucial first step toward righting our water-soaked ship of state: spend less time on “hobbyism or slacktivism”, which mostly consists of preaching to the converted (or picking fights with people we’ve never met) on Facebook and Twitter.

In 2018, Hersh asked a representative sample of Americans how much time they devoted to any kind of political activity. One third said they spent two hours or more each day on politics. But of these people, four out of five also said that “not one minute of that time is spent on any kind of real political work. It’s all TV news and podcasts … and social media and cheering and booing and complaining to friends and family.”

Spending time online, reading Twitter, Facebook, Slack, even this post, that’s one thing. Staying informed, learning, and building community can happen on the internet. But there’s a big difference between the kind of “spending time on politics” described there, and actually working to effect lasting change for our country and for our neighbors’ lives.

You don’t need to read another outrage article about how bad Trump and the Trumpist Republican party is. You knew it before he was elected, and you already know it hundreds of times more than you did then. Close your social media tabs, and get to work.