Do Online Movements Make a Difference?

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    • 00:11

      DEANA ROHLINGER: Hi, I'm Deana Rohlinger.A professor of sociology at Florida State University.Today I will answer the question,do online movements make a difference?Now new technology has been the topic of many conversations.And this is true of social movement scholars, as well.

    • 00:32

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: Particularly, social movements scholarsare interested in how activists use new technology to organize.Now when I say online movements, and ask the questionwhether or not they matter, I reallymean movements that are organizedboth online or off line or a combination of both.

    • 00:54

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: What's really different about these new movementsand why we're talking about them today,is we often don't see immediate policy change.And this is the outcome that we typicallylook for when we're talking about and analyzingsocial movements.So again, the question we're interested in is,do movements that start online, do they really

    • 01:15

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: make a difference in our day to day lives,or in the political world?And the answer is yes.And so the purpose of this video willbe to address two questions.First, how do these movements make a difference.And then to just discuss some of the challenges that they face.So I'll discuss four ways that these movements

    • 01:37

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: make a difference.First they frame a debate.Second, they helped mobilize money and people.Third, they shape policy debate.And then finally, they shape political platforms.Particularly those of parties in the United States.

    • 01:59

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: Online social movements can really help frame a debate.So what that means is, essentially,that you have politicians in the public talking about issuesthat they weren't discussing before.There are some recent examples of this.For example, the Tea Party movement--which emerged in response to government bailing out

    • 02:20

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: the banks-- got Democrats talkingabout the size of government and what the role of governmentshould be.Which is not something that you see every day.Similarly, the Occupy Wall Street Movementhad Republicans talking about inequalityin the United States.We even have a contemporary example

    • 02:41

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: with the Black Lives Matter movement, whichemerged after Ferguson in 2014.In which teenager, Michael Brown, who was unarmed,was killed by a police officer, Darren Wilson.So the Black Lives Matter movementhas gotten politicians on both sides of the aisle talkingabout institutional racism.

    • 03:02

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: So really, in this case, how do the policies and practicesof the criminal justice system discriminateagainst people of color.Second, online social movements can mobilize peoplein both the short term and the long term.

    • 03:23

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: So let's start with the short term.So we can use the example of the Tea Party movement.Which is often attributed to the Rick Santorum rant in 2009,where he suggested that we have a TeaParty in the contemporary era to protest the government bailingout banks.So within months, what happened, is Tea Party

    • 03:44

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: activists actually held tea parties on the White Houselawn.And not long after, Glenn Beck had a rally in Washington DC.So in 2010 he started his 9-12 groups.He really pushed Americans to feel as they did on 9-12, wherethey were united to protect the principles

    • 04:05

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: and values of America.Glenn Beck's group was not the only group that formed.There were as many other groups thatformed around these ideas, some national and some local.So Tea Party Patriots is an exampleof a group that's primarily online, that emerged as wellin response to these ideas.It was founded in 2009.

    • 04:27

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: And the two activists that started the Tea Party patriotsreally began to mobilize money so that theycould launch campaigns, and get people involvedat the grassroots level.Particularly in rallying and starting these local groups.Now what's really amazing about someof these online social movements is

    • 04:47

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: they've been able to mobilize peopleand money over the long term.So I talked about the Tea Party movement in a bit of detailbecause you will see some of these groupsare still around today.And are active.And not just at the national level.So thinking about the Tea Party Patriots.But also people who are engaged in local Tea Party groups

    • 05:10

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: across the country.It's worth pointing out that activists are just notinvolved in grassroots activism within their communities.You also have people that are engaged in the RepublicanNational Committee at various levels.I can give you one other example of mobilizingover the long term.

    • 05:32

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: And this is a more contemporary one, where as of now it's notclear what's going to happen.This example is the Black Lives Matter movement.And what the Black Lives Matter movement has done,is they're really trying to figure out where they're goingand what kind of organization they're going to be.So again, they emerge primarily in the Twitter universe,

    • 05:54

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: and getting people mobilized around the Ferguson incident.Well, they now have a website, and theyhave grassroots chapters across the United States.One of the things that they have done during summer 2015is they really focused on democratic presidentialhopefuls and disrupting their events,

    • 06:14

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: to try to hold individual politiciansaccountable for their positions on institutional racismin the criminal justice system.But to point to problems within the Democratic Party,and politics more generally.Unfortunately, in the wake of some of these incidents,police officers have been killed and the Black Lives Matter

    • 06:35

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: movement has been blamed for this.So in the summer and fall of 2015,the Black Lives Matter movement is reallytrying to retool itself, figure out who it is,and where it's going.We will see how well that comes along.

    • 06:56

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: The third thing that an online social movement can dois it can really be involved in shaping the policy processes.This is a little bit different from framing the debate.Because as I just mentioned with the black lives matter example,movements and activists can reallyforce politicians to take a side.

    • 07:16

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: And so we've seen it not only with Black Lives Mattermovement, but also in summer 2015, the debate over an Irandeal.This is a very complicated debate,so I'll just give you a very brief overview.But essentially the United Stateshas been working with Iran to create a deal.Iran, of course, wants some of the economic sanctions lifted,

    • 07:39

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: and the US doesn't want them to have a nuclear weaponor be able to build one.So they came up with a deal.Just some of the points are that Iran,they have a 15 year limit on uranium.So they can have a small stock of uranium,but it's at low level so they can't actually make a bomb.Inspectors will be able to visit the sites

    • 07:59

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: where nuclear activity is expected,as long as they have evidence that thereis reason to think that there's something illegal goingon there.And of course, the US would lift their economic sanctionsif the Iran complies.Now both groups on the progressive sideand the conservative side have really not

    • 08:22

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: been happy with this deal for various reasons.So the Tea Party movement, for example, has held protests.They held one on September 9th, 2015.And they've been really pushing politiciansthat they've helped get elected to reject the deal because theybelieve it will lead to a nuclear Iran.

    • 08:44

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: So this has worked, in some instances,because politicians that feel accountable to themwere very vocal and spoke out against the deal.Well, progressive groups have done the same thing,but only have been pushing in the opposite direction.So a progressive online group like moveon.orghas pushed for Democrats to be very supportive of the deal,

    • 09:07

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: quite publicly.Because they say this is the only waythat we can have diplomacy, and they arguethat conservatives want war.so Moveon has quite effectively gotten Democrats, eventhose who are not happy with the deal,to show support for this policy.

    • 09:30

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: Movements that start online can helpshape the political platforms of the parties.One thing that we don't often think ofis that these groups that start online,they're competing with political parties for money.And these groups are often asking for our supportat really relatively low rates.So they ask you to make a $3 or $5 contribution.

    • 09:53

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: And what they promise is to push their ideas-- so pro-peaceor pro smaller government-- in ways that politicians can't do.So this gives them some sway over the political platform.They can also sway public opinion by funding advertising.That then, with our $3 to $5, they

    • 10:15

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: can place strategically around the country.What this ultimately does will force political partiesto take up their issues.Particularly if they're loud enough,and they have a lot of members.So let me give you one example.The group Moveon.org, when John Kerrywas running for president, he initially

    • 10:38

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: didn't take a strong anti-war stance.But what became clear is Moveon not only had a lot of money,and had anti-war on its agenda, itpushed the politicians and Kerry,in particular, very hard to make sure he took it up.With the promise that they would help

    • 10:59

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: support him through the campaign.Not surprisingly, he did so.Of course, the same is true of the Tea Party movement.In September of 2010, Republican Partyissued a contract with America, not unlike onethat they had done before.But this one took up Tea Party claims.

    • 11:19

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: So it took things like Fiscal Responsibility Act,that requires the federal governmentto have a balanced budget and to limit taxes.It also had a Citizen Legislature Act,which would impose term limits.All things that the Tea Party activists were looking for.

    • 11:44

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: Social movements that start onlineface a number of challenges.One of the biggest challenges they face is failure.And we have a fairly recent example wherewe can see this was the case.That is the Kony 2012 campaign.If you're unfamiliar with this particular campaign,a group called Invisible Children made a movie

    • 12:06

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: to publicize the atrocities that werebeing committed by Joseph Kony.It was extraordinarily well received and viewed.So it had 1.4 million likes on YouTube, more than 20,000 viewson Vimeo, and it was estimated that about half the youthin America knew about this film and about what Kony had done.

    • 12:30

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: So initially, this campaign was successful.The Senate even passed a resolution.But then, as a result of some controversiesabout the director involved with the film,the social movement began to wane.And when invisible children produced and put outa second movie, it fell apart all together.

    • 12:51

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: Another challenge that groups that start online,or movements that start online, and really, again,all movements face is vilification.So this is something I brought up earlier in regardsto Black Lives Matter.There is something similar that happened with the Occupy WallStreet Movement.So in their camps, there was incidents in which

    • 13:12

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: women were sexually assaulted.This became a topic of national conversation,as media and pundits alike questioned the safetyof camps and their purpose.Another challenge that groups and movements faceis co-optation.So politicians, celebrities, or just random individuals,

    • 13:33

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: can sometimes take these ideas for their own,and really use them for their own purposes.It's a great examples of this are with the Tea Partymovement, where Michele Bachmann and RickSantorum have made careers off of capitalizingon some of these ideas.Another challenge, and this one is

    • 13:54

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: particular to groups and movements that start online,is astroturfing.And so essentially astroturf is fake grass.So instead of there being a legitimate grassroots movement,sometimes it's claimed that it's a astroturf movement.And sometimes corporations intentionally do this.So for example, if there's an environmental claim

    • 14:15

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: that they don't want to deal with,they will sometimes start an organizationand make it look like there's people that supporttheir particular point of view.This, of course, is not always the case.Sometimes big organizations will have a lot of moneyand really dwarf what is happening at the grassrootslevel.

    • 14:35

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: So again, the Tea Party movement is a great examplein this regard.So there's a group called Americansfor Prosperity, which is the Koch brothers,and they've put a lot of money into this organizationin an effort to state shape the agenda.This, of course, does not mean that there's nota local or grassroots Tea Party movement.In fact, Tea Party movement groups

    • 14:58

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: that are at the local level get reallyangry about the existence of groups like Americansfor Prosperity, because they don'tfeel like it represents their groupor their goals or their ideas.To summarize, hopefully this video

    • 15:19

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: has given you a better sense of online social movements, howthey matter, and the challenges that they face.I'll leave you with two reflective questions.First, are there other ways that you thinkonline social movements matter?Second, what do you think is an online social movement

    • 15:40

      DEANA ROHLINGER [continued]: that makes a difference?[MUSIC PLAYING]

Do Online Movements Make a Difference?

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Abstract

Professor Deana Rohlinger discusses online social movements and how they make a difference. Rohlinger explains that these grassroots movements effect political change by framing debates, mobilizing people, and shaping policy. Unfortunately, online movements can also face challenges such as astroturfing, vilification, and cooptation of their message.

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Do Online Movements Make a Difference?

Professor Deana Rohlinger discusses online social movements and how they make a difference. Rohlinger explains that these grassroots movements effect political change by framing debates, mobilizing people, and shaping policy. Unfortunately, online movements can also face challenges such as astroturfing, vilification, and cooptation of their message.

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