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Black Lives Matter | Social Media Report

15Black Lives Matter

Activism in the Movement

Tia Simmons

Social Media and Online ActivismProfessor Beasley

IntroductionI cannot breathe! Hands down dont shoot! Stop killing us! These three phrases along with many more have become the slogans for the Black Lives Matter Movement as well as the reasons this social movement was founded. The movement is referred to online as #BlackLivesMatter. The movement was upstarted in 2012 after the brutal and uncalled for murder of young Black male, Trayvon Martin. Martins killer was acquitted of all his chargers, while Martin was unjustly blamed for his own death. Since the start of the movement, there has been expansion across the country with more than 38 chapters split into five regions including Canada. The organization writes on their website that they are not just a moment but a movement. The movement has a massive amount of supporters that host unannounced rallies, marches, sit-ins or lay-ins where the participators lay down on their backs with their hands beside them in silence. The social movement has an active presence on social media with an account on each popular social site Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. The movement has a 169K followers on Twitter and 18.7K on Instagram. They reinforce their presence by encouraging their followers to use the hashtag followed by the phrase Black lives matter. This keeps the movement trending and relevant on social media.ImportanceThe questions that guide this study are as follows: To what extent is this social protests Facebook page driven by the Tahir model? To what extent does this social protest utilize a chain of equivalence? To what extent is there a digital divide? Who are the leaders and choreographers of the movement? What is their role on the movements Facebook page? Does the movement utilize any pre-announced protests on its Facebook or Twitter accounts? Is there a symbol or sign? Does organization drive communication of this protest movement or does communication drive the organization? Is there more emotional condensation than material precipitation or less? What symbols or identities has this organization used to become that emotional rallying cry? How well does the organizations Facebook site contribute to a chain of equivalence? How could Occupy Wall Street serve as a model for the organization to become better? Are there differences between those who post on IG and those who Tweeted or Facebook?I have chosen these questions because I feel they will guide me toward a deeper understanding of the Black Lives Matter social protest. Prior to this research, I was unware of that the movement had social media accounts on every popular website. I had not even looked at these accounts. I began to take the movement a bit more serious than the way media and news wanted to receive them. I now understand what activism is. I am able to differentiate it from slacktivism. Gerbaudo (2012) wrote, For Morozov slacktivism is feel good activism that has zero political or social impact but creates an illusion of having meaningful impact on the world without demanding anything more than joining a Facebook group (7). Through the use of such understanding, I decided to choose these particular questions. These questions have allowed me to break down and dissect different aspects of the protest movement that I would not have been able to complete without them. MethodsThe Movement as a WholeI use several quotes that serve as a guide to help me understand the type of followers the movement attracts. Gerbaudo (2012) wrote, Hardt and Negri repeat several times that the multitude, unlike the crowd, goes beyond the reduction of plurality to a singularity the so called reduction ad unum (p29). He also quoted Hardt and Negri, [D]efining a new social class: the multitude. The multitude is for them what the proletariat was for Marx: The revolutionary subject. Yet different from the working class, the multitude, as its name suggests, is characterized by an irreducible multiplicity. / [A] multitude which can act together without being reduced to one identity or one place (pgs26-27).Mirroring the Tahir ModelGerbaudo (2012) wrote, [T]he Egyptian uprising and its use of social media as choreographic tools it foregrounded came to inspire copy-cat movements in the West. As we will see in the following chapters, activists in Spain and in the US were driven by a desire to imitate and build on the Tahir model (p75). I chose this quote to lead me into research to determine whether the Black Lives Matter movement compared to the Tahir movement. Oppositional IdentitiesGerbaudo (2012) documented, The Kullena Khaled Said page duly became an emotional rallying point for the Facebook youth, who not only felt compassion for Khaled Said but also identified with him, thinking, as Mustafa himself did, that this could happen to me (p55). This quote exemplified a big part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Many followers of the movement support it for the simple fact that the matter at hand they are fighting against could happen to themselves or someone closely related to them.Chain of EquivalenceThe Kullena Khaled Said page became a stage for collecting and cataloguing the extent of the baseness of the regime, gathering all evidence in one place and thus creating chain of equivalence; (Laclau, 2005: 94) between the grievances of different groups of people (p59). This quote created an understanding and easy digestion for chain of equivalence. I was interested in discovering whether or not this sort of thing was occurring within the realms of the social media accounts for the Black Lives Matter movement.Digital DivideIn terms of the barrier dividing old-aged social justice movements and the new modern day social justice movements, Gerbaudo (2012) wrote, Taking to the streets was the only way for the movement to break the double barrier of the digital divide and the censorship of the state-owned news media (p64). In this quote Gerbaudo discussed the digital divide now in the way of many social movements in modern day because of technology. I used this quote to decide if there was a presence of the digital divide in the Black Lives Matter movement. #tahirmodelinreverse #sept17I sought to discover the Black Lives Matter organizations use of making connections and facilitating face to face communication to in turn juxtapose them against the Tahir protest movement. I felt this quote stressed the idea of gathering in public assembly. Gerbaudo (2012) wrote, What is evident is that it began to gain considerable attention on Twitter only when occupiers eventually pitched their tents in Zucotti Park, and the police began their repression (p116). #takeapicture #mysignGerbaudo (2012) commented on symbolism within a social justice movement: by taking a picture of oneself with a sign and sending it to the website users could symbolically subscribe to the identity of 99%, adding their own individual story to a collective assembling of anger and indignation (119). The depiction of Black life is all around us. I used this quote to further understand if any of these depictions were symbolic to the movement itself.Organization and CommunicationWhile the relationship between organization and communication is characterized by equivalence in literary cultures, in secondary orality or electracy cultures, the relationships is reversed, Gerbaudo (2012) wrote, it is communication that organizes, rather than organization that communicates (p139). This quote helped me to determine the difference amongst the protest movements post on Instagram and those on Twitter. ResultsFacebookPosts thatFacebook usage

Create an oasis of assembly25

Disseminate symbolic mediation7

Create oppositional identities0

Create a chain of equivalence25

Bring together digital divide0

I viewed the latest twenty-five posts on the movements Facebook account. The picture on the right is an illustration of a Black male. He is to represent the ongoing never-ending issue hovering our nation fear of the Black male. Within only the first 35 minutes of the image being published on the Facebook page, it received one hundred twenty-five likes, seventy-six shares and two comments. The common denominator many people following the page see in this image is racial profiling which may link a multitude (diversity). I have not seen many of the same posts on their Facebook page. The meaningful pictures that can be found on their Instagram account are not as present on their Facebook. It seems as though the Facebook page is used for reporting relevant news stories that connect by sharing the same message the issue of police brutality. The symbolic hashtag - #blacklivesmatter can be seen in a few news post on the page but there is no consistent doing of it. This equates to the movements Facebook page having a weak chain of equivalence. Looking specifically at this movements page there is really no call for action. The page seems to be a thirds-party news outlet. There is no clear evidence that it promotes the gathering of a multitude or even crowd. TwitterPosts that utilizeTwitter usage



SECOND-HAND CIRCULATIONRT 21 posts / Was RT 57 times





*RT = Retweet/edI viewed the latest twenty-five posts on the movements Twitter account. There was only one post that facilitated face to face protests. The post was not a direct post from the account but a protest march going on that was posted by a supporter taking place in the movement. This was also what I considered to be live reporting. The person was recording the video live and posted it to Twitter causing second-hand circulation, also contributing to strengthening ties by promoting fellow activists. Protest gatherings for the movement are not promoted on Twitter until they are under way. The twitter account does not help bridge the digital divide. There is no real time coordination. There also is not any sign of cross posting, to my surprise. I scrolled for about twenty-minutes on both the movements Facebook and Twitter and I did not come across any evidence indicating that the two accounts were linked. Much of what the Black Lives Matter Movement has on their Twitter page is second-hand circulation. Of the twenty-five posts I viewed, twenty-one were retweets the account had done. The only direct tweet that came from the account gained fifty-seven retweets. Not much of their posts had to do with the Black Lives Matter movement but for the advocacy of people in Haiti. There is no evident collection of tweets I have found that highlights the organizers of this movement orchestrating public gatherings like the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Three posts that the account commented on called supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement to support Haiti. Two of these posts I found to be a facilitation of online-based actions e-tactics, because it was calling supporters to donate money. The Black Lives Matter Movement utilizes the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter () which has become so popular that as soon as you complete the final word of the hashtag and press the space bar three fists appear behind the hashtag. The (Black) fist was previously associated with the Black Panthers movement and the Black Nationalist Movement. The fist still holds as the same meaning to Black people even though it is now a symbol linked to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Participators of the protest are often photographed holding up the sign that embodies the ironic hashtag while pumping up a fist in the air. Using a catchy symbol and phrase makes it easier for the movement to broaden its audience. By simply typing in the hashtag #blacklivesmatter in the search box or attaching it to a post or photo you are now attached to the movement. InstagramPosts thatInstagram Usage

Capture Material condensation3

Reconstruct & Facilitate physical proximity0

Capture Social textures0

I viewed the last twenty-five post on the Black Lives Matter Instagram account. The last of these post, counting from most recent to oldest, was posted on February 29th. The next post was not until April 5th, followed by another post on April 21st. I found there to be no consistency in this accounts updates unlike the movements Twitter and Facebook accounts. Of the twenty-five posts I viewed, only three exemplified some sort of material condensation. Interestingly enough, the other twenty-two posts did not promote places where people could gather nor were there any suggestions on places to publicly assemble. There is a picture on the movements Instagram page of a (Black) young female child. She is sleeping in her bed, as pictured to the right, when a bullet flies through her window. The caption reads, Lay down sleepy head. Time to dream, have a blast! Dream a good dream, for this dream is your last Similar post as this one can be found on the movements Instagram. Many of the comments on this post as well as many others on the page were similar: I can relate! That was my niece! That could be my child. Police are killing innocent kids. Etc. DiscussionThe Movement as a WholeThe movement has chapters in various places of the country which limits people from taking part in the social justice movement. According to protocols found on Facebook, one has to be approved by the head person over the chapter they are trying to join. What about the people who are turned away perhaps for something as simple as phenotypical features? This would create a crowd of people and dismiss the idea of a multitude if everyone is of the same background. There is a consistency in many of the movements post on Instagram; the people illustrated in the pictures are African Americans. This could be a dangerous thing when trying to make an impact. These wiki-revolutions, self-organizing should be of a multitude because it is the new wave of activism. The movement leaves no room to evolve into a multitude. The Black Lives Matter Movement cannot fill the space of a multitude because its representation is not of more than one face. The Twitter and Instagram accounts do not host a variety of faces and people of different race and socio-economic background. Sticking to the definition Gerbaurdo used to define a multitude, this movement, in its gatherings, do not gather as a multitude but rather a crowd of people who look the same and share similar cultural beliefs. This crowd could be reduced to one identity if we really wanted to do so. The GatheringsOut of result of being able to demonstrate online, the Black Lives Matter Movement seem to rarely meet up to protest any more, at least according to their social media sites. The people behind the movement have done more talking on social media than they have gathering around for the cause they are supporting. The movement does have pictures of them laying down in the middle of the road or marching down highways. The fear of being arrested or receiving some other social consequence of the like could be a reason for less collective action by the group. Networking is at the sole root of this movement seemingly. There are no images of rallies and meetings held since the initial upstart of the group before their Twitter and Instagram accounts became popular. Many of the things they feel are vocalized on Twitter for a mere retweet I suppose. I propose the founders of this movement are slacktivist. I do not identify none of the three founders (Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza) as leaders of this movement. I did not find anything from these founders that prompted a call to action. By simply clicking the follow button you are now a part of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Without having advocated, marched, or any other physical work being done you are a social activist. The Black Lives Matter Movement has not created any more innovations for Black life than what was there when the group started in 2012.Mirroring the Tahir ModelI feel the Black Lives Matter Movements Facebook page is not at all driven by the Tahir model. It does not call for assembly anywhere on the page. There is no tab for events or even to RSVP for any upcoming events. There are no pictures of the actual movement in action in public space or fighting for what they claim to advocate for. The Facebook page fails horribly to integrate online activism and public assembly. If the movement were to be mirroring the Tahir model it would have at least some sort of advocacy for assembly to protest while cleverly and strategically knowing when to make the public aware of these gatherings occurring in public space.Oppositional IdentitiesI will point out only a few things that link the crowd following this movement. The crowd of Blacks following this movement particularly relate to each other in more ways than one: racial profiling, wrongful deaths (of Black men) which everyone can relate to or empathize with whether having a brother, son, nephew, etc. and many of the words in red speak to the oppression they continuously undergo linking a crowd of people together.Digital DivideIn my opinion, the Facebook page is only thriving because the people utilize the coined phrase Black Lives Matter. There is no one else posting but the pages administrators. In terms of comments, there is a surplus of people commenting under these post discussing their opinion of the news reports. There is no evidence of white presence anywhere among the page, positively supporting the movement. This page definitely attracts a crowd. By using the term people it individualizes each and every person commenting on these posts. Leaderless MovementsThe founders of this movement are not leaders and choreographers of this movement. They are simply the first to coin the phrase and get the hashtag circulating. Their presence on Facebook is passive - posting articles on police brutality acts and photos. Nothing the three founders have done has impacted the community at large. The founders, in my opinion, only are here for thousands of followers and publicity. They do not coordinate events to promote assembly outside of social media nor do they have an agenda to explain the ways in which they plan on inflicting social change or end goals. The founders are simply doing feel good activism enough to say they have made a change when really they havent. TwitterThe movement does not utilize any pre-announced protest on its Facebook or Twitter. If there are protest gatherings they are not promoted on Twitter until they are underway. Similar to what happened during the protests for the Occupy Wall Street movement, participators are assaulted by police and forced to evacuate the public space they are occupying. What is even more interesting, without being publicized the event at upstart is already overflowing with participants. Despite the possibility of being thrown in jail or assaulted by police, participators of the movement still pursue justice while marching and holding up their signs. The government does not regulate when the movement can gather, however, they do try to intervene once the protests are underway.Monuments as Social TexturesIn the photos below, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are pictured. King, who was inspired by the peace Gandhi embodied, was a non-violence Civil Rights Activists and Reverend. Dr. King spent majority of his life advocating for equality and acceptance of all races. King directly relates to the Black Lives Matter social movement because ultimately both want the same result better treatment of Blacks and the recognition of them. This area could be a place for facilitating assembly by highlight it on social media along with these two great men and things they said displayed. One of the quotes on Dr. Kings monument reads, Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. By displaying this on their Instagram account, the Black Lives Matter Movement may create an up rise, prompting people to gather in this area and protest peacefully and nonviolently for their race.

Works CitedGerbaudo, Paolo (2012). Tweets and the Streets. London: Pluto Press.

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Black Lives Matter | Social Media Report Activism in the Movement Tia Simmons
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