An article on student activism in the September/October issue of Mother Jones won’t surprise many people with this factoid: campus movers and shakers are moving and shaking a lot less than they did a generation ago. Of course, the ‘60s gave us such global concerns as civil rights, the Vietnam War, labor reform, women’s rights and part of the presidency of Richard Nixon. There was a lot to be angry about.
“So where have all the hellraisers gone?” asks the article, titled “Survey Course.” “Many are online. Nearly half of current college students told us that the future of activism is digital. But nearly two-thirds also said the future is on campus. Flesh-and-blood action is far from an anachronism, but it’s becoming unthinkable without social networking tools.”
No surprise there, either.
Though the graphic in the magazine depicts a PETA demonstrator, only 1 percent of students surveyed identified animal rights as an important issue to them. (The number-one issue? Human rights.) While unfortunate, that statistic is aligned with the percentage of people in our society who identify themselves as vegan.
The Internet has revolutionized all kinds of activism, of course, and animal activism seems to be riding the techno wave as high as anyone. Activists are going online to locate factory farms. They’re blogging about veganism and podcasting about animal rights. They’re posting undercover video footage on sites like YouTube. Emailing has become this generation’s phone tree – or at least it was until 5 minutes ago when it was replaced by text messaging, which will soon be replaced by some higher-tech mode of communication, possibly involving the aid of a strange alien life form.
Is all this a good thing? Yes, I think so. Nothing in the animal activist’s toolkit is as powerful as the sight of a biomedical researcher, circus hand, fur farmer, poultry processor or puppy mill owner abusing animals, and with the Internet, we have the ability to put these images online in seconds, lifting the veil for anyone with broadband access.
Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, meanwhile, allow activists to connect like never before to share ideas, organize campaigns and generally engage in cyberactivism.
Animal exploitation is probably just as important to us as any of the issues of the ‘60s were to our parents. Instead of burning draft cards, we can ignite the rage of consumers by showing them – really showing them – how their choices affect the suffering of animals.
After all, we have a lot to be angry about too.