Wholly Digital Activism is anathema to direct action and there is nothing more stultifying than the glut of online ‘political’ petitions that are currently festooning social media sites.
We are less than 3 months away from one of the worst attacks on the social wage in the last 30 years and tens of thousands of people are being consumed by, admittedly well meaning, petitions initiated by signature grabbers. Not only do digital petitioners obsess over their petitions, but they also obsess over how many members they can get to join their associated Facebook group, constantly boasting about people clicking the join button, and each click taking a bite out of our capacity for direct action.
Digital activism definitely has its place in the broader picture of ways to connect, communicate & organise politically but it has severe limitations and can never replace direct human interaction. In fact, it’s dangerous to think it can, and worryingly this seems to be the case in the run-up to April, when a raft of cuts are enacted that will decimate people’s health and security.
Rather than empowering people, wholly digital activism and digital petitions disempower individuals by providing a false sense of action that leads to nowhere. It is borne out of a real desire to act but it removes our capacity to change our own circumstances, with others, in a real setting.
By signing digital petitions we become partially satisfied that we have done something —certainly something is better than nothing, but we cannot base a campaign or protest around a method that implores the State to change or address a specific issue affecting us. In doing so, we hand over to the State both authority over ourselves and our capacity to affect change.
Digital petition-signing, even if they are successful once in a blue moon, also undermine our ability to build confidence and solidarity within our class. By using direct action, we take matters into our own hands and achieve our demands through our own self-activity. We need not petition the State to do this.