The Islamist kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls has prompted a rapid and on-target response from the west: an argument over hashtag activism by preening Americans on Twitter.
First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama struck the first blow for international justice Wednesday when she posed for a twitpic holding a handwritten sign labeled “Bring Back Our Girls.”
Although the estimated 200 girls who remain in captivity to the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram are neither related to Obama nor American citizens nor in any other recognizable way “our” girls, President Obama’s wife was actually picking up on the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which has become a popular way of expressing solidarity with the victims of the Muslim fanatics, whose leader Abubakar Shekau has promised to “sell them in the market, by Allah.”
The scope of the tragedy is vast enough that it has led to the creation of not just one hashtag but two. He-man Hollywood celebrities have joined in the campaign by warning potential buyers of the kidnapped girls — who are apparently being punished for the crime of attending school — that #RealMenDontBuyGirls.
Shekau has yet to show signs of weakening in the face of the Twitter trend, and some Gloomy Gusses in the developed world are casting doubt on the strategy. The Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher and Iowa Hawk David Burge compared #BringBackOurGirls to efforts to free large numbers of people in the pre-Twitter era.
If they’d had iPhones 150 years ago, Lincoln could’ve freed the slaves with a single selfie. Handwritten sign: #SouthernHospitalityForAll— Jim Treacher (@jtLOL) May 8, 2014
Don’t bring a narcissistic selfie to a slave liberation fight.— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) May 7, 2014
Others offered more ambitious ideas for fighting injustice through hashtags.
@jrsalzman It only counts if you’re holding it with a sad yet determined pouty duck face.— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) May 7, 2014
National Review’s Jim Geraghty notes that Michelle Obama’s husband also has non-social-media resources at his disposal.
Michelle Obama’s tweet for the abducted girls is a nice gesture. If only our government had some other tools or resources they could use!— jimgeraghty (@jimgeraghty) May 8, 2014
In addition to having the First Lady hold up a sign, we can also fight Boko Haram with candlelight vigils and charity trunk shows.— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) May 8, 2014
#BringBackOurGirls is not the first time western dilletantes have taken on atrocities in Africa through a two-fisted social media campaign. Two years ago activists took to their smartphones in an effort to bring down Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.
Kony remains at large, but the #Kony2012 effort lives on in the form of pet-photo wordplay.
Meanwhile, first lady of Nigeria Patience Jonathan has reportedly ordered the arrest of the leader of Nigeria’s Bring Back Our Girls movement.