The internet and social media has created a powerful and sometimes reckless form of activism known as social activism. Social activism can spawn quickly and grow to the masses at an incredible rate. There are times when the message is good, a true injustice has been done and the people will not stand for it any more. On the other hand there are times when a war has been waged based upon misinformation, half truths and a bending of fact. This war can be as minor as claiming that a certain product is bad for you and can even go as far as wanting to see a certain dentist hung up by his ankles for the shooting of a lion.
I have seen often enough that a blogger is at the heart of the matter, often picking up a story before the mainstream media has time to react. Blogging and social media is how the social activist can pull out their soap box and begin to spread the message, reaching a large audience very quickly. Once a message hits social media, it begins to spread like wildfire; no moment for validation or time to question the so-called facts that have been presented. “Everyone grab your pitchforks, someone may or may not have done something bad and they must pay; no need for a trial…the internet says they are guilty!”
The idea behind this post first started with the claims around carrageenan, a food additive often found in almond milk being a carcinogen and how it had me avoiding it like the plague. I use almond milk daily in my protein shakes, so why would I want to put a known carcinogen into my body if I could easily avoid it. Then one day I found myself channel surfing and came across a show talking about almond milk and the topic of carrageenan came up. It was discussed that there are in fact 2 forms of carrageenan; the first is edible, used as a food additive which some people report having some indigestion from it, but generally nothing more. The second form of carrageenan, is not edible, not used as a food additive and is a known carcinogen. My take on the situation is that someone learned that carrageenan is bad for you, saw it in their almond milk and decided they needed to reveal this truth to the world before the death toll became epidemic. No research was done to actually understand the facts and they proceeded to spread inaccurate information. I also lump BPA, aspartame and the anti-vaxxers into the same situation. The science is there to support both BPA and aspartame being bad for you, but until I start drinking 2000 cans of diet pop a day, I am not likely to see any negative effects. I’m not defending the fact that these chemicals are used, I’d rather they not be, but I do love me a Diet Coke and the research doesn’t show it to be as bad as we are made to believe. Enter the social activist and their half-science. The cries about BPA forced a market shift, that may or may not have had any impacts to our health, especially since there appears to be far more worse chemicals still remaining in plastic. We have yet to see the science behind the anti-vaxxers, other than opinion and a falsified study by a now discredited doctor suggesting that vaccines cause autism. I’m not a scientist and I do agree that some vaccines can have side-effects, but there is nothing to suggest autism is one of them.
Social Activism has also turned the internet into the judge, jury and executioner in many cases where someone has done something the internet doesn’t like. Hysterics pursue, facts are omitted / ignored and a case is tried in the court of public opinion; guilty until proven innocent. We all know the story of Cecil the lion. I’m not here to say whether or not the dentist did knowingly poach, I have no idea. Sure, he was caught poaching before and its very possible he knew what he was doing. But, that’s the beside the point. The internet didn’t care, there’s no time for facts or the truth. They didn’t care that game farms do exist as a revenue stream for many countries with little to export. Tourists pay big $ to hunt an animal grown for the specific purpose of being hunted. The internet didn’t care that meat from these game farms is kept to feed the local community, it also didn’t care about the employment to locals who work on these game farms. This guy may be innocent and his life has been forever impacted, without trial, without an opportunity to defend his actions. Here in Canada, we have game farms… where is the public outcry? We often see pictures of the “mighty big game hunter”, who shot what we consider a large exotic animal and the internet goes crazy, lynch parties are formed without bothering to find out any of the details behind said hunt. I suppose that much of the world thinks that the hamburger they had for supper grows on trees or that the cow was held in a deep loving embrace until it drew its last breath. Rest assured, most farm animals suffer a great deal of stress when their time to be processed arrives. An animal taken by a hunter has little clue as to what is going on; if you are going to get mad about a Lion, you better get mad about all animals!
Another area of concern for me is not so much social activism per say, but I will lump it in there as it is relative to my message of checking your facts first. Many corporations employ bloggers / social media experts to spread their message; use this supplement or drug, this fertilizer isn’t harmful and this product will help better the world. I’ve never met a corporation you can trust fully and now they are leveraging the public’s inability to question the internet for financial gain. If its written it must be true. When so-called studies have been done, its important to look at who performed the study, who requested the study and if studies were posted in a scientific journal, did someone pay to have it printed.
In closing, all I ask is that you question everything you read before you reach for your protest weaponry. Find out who the author is, what motivates them, who do they work for. Do your research, look at studies that a social activist cites, verify the presented facts. Once you have done your due diligence and you can support the case with facts… then by all means, take up the call! There has been an injustice and you are here to see it avenged!!!
/pushes soap box away