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What are “new social movements” and to what extent are their goals helped or hindered by the internet

What are “new social movements” and to what extent are their goals helped or hindered by the internet

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Eimear Phelan. Originally submitted for Journalism at None, with lecturer Neil o Boyle in the category of Modern Cultural Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Eimear Phelan. Originally submitted for Journalism at None, with lecturer Neil o Boyle in the category of Modern Cultural Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
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05/13/2014

 
Word count: 1,804
What are “new social movements” and to what exten
t aretheir goals helped or hindered by the internet
“O
ccupy
has recently gained a new meaning. When people refused to move in their protestthe world sat up and took notice. Occupy now stands for people who want change and aredetermined to get it. It seems every street corner; every lamppost and every green space
has been “o
cc
upied” by pe
ople looking for change.
The world’s history is rife with social movements. Humanity has shown time
and time againtheir willingness to bond together and challenge the current system and strive for changenot only for themselves but for their community and the world at large.Feminism is credited with starting it off. When women took up placards to campaign for theright to vote and equal treatment a lot was accomplished.
If you think back to the “rebellious” 1960’s and 70’s that is exactly what you see, rebellion. A
huge counterculture formed campaigning for what they thought was right, usually against
the government’s views. People organised for civil rights, campaigned against war
andbrought attention to their issues and themselves. Their aim was to bring about change onpublic issues.New social movements are the movements of this counterculture. The break away fromtraditional religion and a move towards mysticism or spirituality is what the term
newsocial movements
was first applied to. This move was in contrast to the rational modernsocieties it was popular in. Giddens (2006) explained
that people were “seeing anddeveloping new ways of life to cope with modernity”. People were not simple rejectingreligion they were experiencing a “transformation of belief.” P
eople now campaign forissues such as gay rights, the environment and anti-nuclear. Social movements of the lastfour decades are very different to how they used to be, they are different in methods,motivations and orientations and also in the sheer number of them.Movements vary in both size and approach. Some are giant gatherings of people openlycampaigning for their cause and others are just a select few individuals illicitly promotingtheir agenda. Then there are the counter movements, the most famous of which, pro-life,was spawned from the women
s rights movement. (Giddens 2006)Social movements are a reflection of the changing risks facing human society. Eachgeneration has a different war and we have taken ours into our own hands. So many newissues or risks: nuclear energy, fossil fuels, bio and Nano technology, GM food/ animals,cloning, robotics, flood the public sphere it is only natural that we see an increase in theamount of social movements (Giddens 2006).
 
People have become disillusioned with traditional political institutions. In the transient andrapidly advancing environment that is our modern world people feel that the institutions inpower simply
can’t
cope. They are limited in their power and scope so that that the majorityof what they
can’t
fix, they just ignore (Giddens 2006). This creates a huge space for socialmovements who feel their governing
bodies simply aren’t creative enough.
 
The systemsthat operate currently are in a state of dissolution and people need to become aware of that
Huw NesbittHowever there may be other factors affecting these numbers. Some argue that with theproliferation of the internet it has become much easier not only to co-ordinate and organisea much greater and varied group of people than before but, it makes it much easier for oneperson to spread their ideas and thoughts to a far greater audience than ever beforethought possible.The internet also creates an outlet for direct action. People no longer have to rely on publicrepresentatives such as TDs or MPs to identify the issues of the people or to spread theword about a particular issue. People can actively participate without the brokerage thepolitical system. The internet pierces most barriers and allows networks of people acrossthe world to connect and join up (Giddens 2006). In the words of the musician Saul Williams
“Technology is extrem
ely empowering and the thing is,
they can’t control it”
 With over 200 satellites orbiting the earth people themselves can respond immediately asevents occur, share information and ideas almost instantly and put pressure oncorporations, governments and international bodies (Giddens 2006).The internet itself is as varied as its users. The variety of communication it provides is almostastounding. We can Skype, email, instant message, send SMS messages, Facebook, tweet,video message each other easily. We can share music, files, pictures, words and videos allaround the world with just the click of a mouse. It is difficult not to see the benefits of sucha resource to the spearheaders of social campaigns. However with such widespreadcommunication the internet can also be the biggest stumbling block for campaigns to get off the ground.Take for example Occupy Wall St., it was the first of the Occupy movements which has nowspread all across the states and has even touched us here, over 5,000km away, with OccupyDame Street. Occupy has been a very effective social movement for numerous reasons. Themovement was started in an atmosphere of discontent with the tradition political structurebut crucially occupy manage the internet and their publicity very well.The movement has its own website which clearly states its goals and plans and is regularlyupdated with images and details of events than have happened. The site is clear, straightforward and up to date however, the main benefit of the site is its open nature. Links toevents and contact details are clearly displayed and there seems to be an atmosphere of 
 
active encouragement for anyone and everyone to join in. It really conveys the message the
Occupy is a “people’s
 
movement.” The
Occupy movements all over the world are also linkedby 
http://www.occupytogether.org/ which allows the clear proliferation of their messagethroughout the world. It allows for no confusion or divergence in belief as there is no middle man asfar as the information is concerned.
 Occupy have also broadened their internet presence in terms of the sheer magnitude of sites they are part of or mentioned on. In Twitter, the site relied upon most for up to datebreaking news, Occupy have over 130,000 followers. (Twitter 2011) The hash tag #occupyhas gotten 720,000 tweets alone. (Topsy labs, Inc. 2011)
 
Occupy’s Facebook page has 300,000
likes and is
talked about
by another 41,000 (Facebook 2011)
 
The Occupy Wall Street protest is getting 10-100 times more coverage (especially in activistcircles) than the typical protest of the same size. What is especially funny is how muchcoverage it gets by u
sing the ‘
this p
rotest is not getting coverage’
frame / message.
(akreider 2011)All these followers and retweeters sound very impressive but the internet can be a harshand unforgiving place. First and foremost the internet is largely anonymous. Thisatmosphere of no accountability can be a hotbed of xenophobia and generally derogatorycomments. People are not persecuted or victimised for any comments they make.In contrast to the publicity and the popularity of Occupy it is obvious there are a lot of people who openly mock and see the movement with distain. Alison Kosik of CNNcontroversially sided with the Wall Street traders in her recent coverage of the Occupymovement. She tweeted to the same effect and when asked to respond seemed completelyunapologetic (Olive Willis 2011).
The protestors are commonly referred to as “Squatters”
 and have been forcibly removed from most of the occupied areas. (mm5525 2011)Many individuals feel strongly about the ineffectiveness of the movement and howthoughtless their campaigns seem to be. One Facebook profile ridiculing Occupy Louisville
commented on the recent occupation of the cities ports with “
YAY!!!! The ports are
closed!!! Now granny can't get her meds delivered to her! Way to go, Occupiers!!”
(Facebook 2011) Another issue people seem to have with the occupy movement is thatdespite its central connection via occupytogether.org the goal and agenda of the movementseem to vary widely not only between camp but also from protester to protester. They are
met with “with condescension, snark and cynicism”
from many of the press corporationsand the Times even had a feature detailing the
banker’s
opinions of the protesters in thearticle "In Private, Wall Street Bankers Dismiss Protesters as Unsophisticated." (Peter S.Goodman 2011)Occupy has also created creative statements of distain with the students of the University of Pennsylvania organising an
“occupy
-
Pen” Facebook event. The event had certain criteria forattending which included “
You are currently unemployed and/or unhappy, You're just having a

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