Guest Editorial: Is This What “Activism” Has Turned Into??

By Alexander Lomax

In a political world where money talks and the average person can feel unheard, the right to organize and protest is critically important. We may disagree with the reasons as to why people are protesting, but the importance of it is encoded in our Bill of Rights. However, there is a good way and a bad way to do it; a productive way and a counterproductive way.

The contrast couldn’t have been much starker this weekend. As millions of women assembled peacefully across the country for the national Women’s March, largely in response to Texas’s hyper-restrictive abortion law, progressive immigration “activists” from the group LUCHA followed Senator Kyrsten Sinema into an ASU bathroom, badgering her with questions about her immigration policies as she was taking care of nature’s business.

What were they trying to accomplish, you may be asking yourself. Certainly they didn’t expect to have a productive conversation outside of a commode. Of course not, that wasn’t the point. The objective was what it seems to be so often these days, especially with more progressive and younger groups: social media clout. Shares and retweets. Attention.

Of course, the more civil of us feel largely negatively about it. I would say that perhaps it even turns Sen. Sinema into more of a sympathetic figure for those on the fence about her (and perhaps those who aren’t fans as well). And numerous left-end political candidates have clamored to defend the move, which won’t be a good look for a general election.

More overarchingly, this seems like part of a troubling trend of the social media version of Gonzo Journalism, just without the acerbic wit of Hunter S. Thompson. Twitter (and other social media platforms, to a lesser degree) has given an outsized importance to these sorts of tactics, with the dopamine hits of engagement egging them on. To be fair, this is not a phenomenon purely relegated to the political left; the right is certainly not immune. But regardless of the side, it still has the temperament of a toddler begging for its parents attention as it performs some ridiculous, silly stunt; self assured in its self importance, but clearly seen as the actions of a child by the adults in the room.

There are many gripes to be made about the corrosive impacts of social media on our society. From ingrained narcissism to political division, from body dysmorphia issues to lack of genuine interaction. But what it has turned “activism” into ranks among them. Poor, uncivil behavior without any real impact is rewarded with dopamine and self importance, real change is rendered less important than digital clout, and our society sinks further in the mud as a result.