Guest Post: Uzogh’s Rant against Slacktivism

I hate Facebook mostly because of the way they fuck my brains there. And the people who do this are people, whom I know, respect and enjoy talking to in real life, people, who are very pleasant and nice personalities around a table, in various life-events and generally in life. But for some reason, when they login to Facebook – they undergo a transformation.

They get an erection of the organ which stands for fighting against something and they start fighting, as much as their strength, sharpness of brains, typing speed and availability of free time permits.

They fight against the destruction of Moscow Cinema’s Summer Hall, against the Dolphinarium, against building boutiques in the park next to Mashtots avenue, against mining of something in Teghut, building of something else in Jermuk, destruction of the Closed market, hazing in the Armenian Army, soap operas, homosexuals, nationalists, red apples, posters of “Mek Azg”, firing of Zolyan, murder of Vahe Avetyan.

Once everyone has shared their precious opinion (I haven’t seen an Armenia who hasn’t got an opinion about everything: a taxi driver recently told me, that the Higgs boson was invented by Russians to make American nuclear weapons useless), the question arises –  “What do we do now?” The answer to this (thanks to Zuckerberg) is ready: create a group. Preferably a private one. Because in the open group sound ideas might actually be born, while in a private one pathological idiotism is guaranteed.

After one week of beating the air, some 50-100-200 people will draw up posters and hold a protest, shout some slogans and return home with a sense of accomplishment to write status messages, upload photos, count “likes” and speak about panic among the authorities and how they won’t be able to get away with this one… This process will go on in cycles until someone decides to fight against something else.

This is probably where I should stop and uncover a little secret to you: I wrote such a nasty text on purpose in order to touch upon as many people as possible. And I hope, that you will forgive me for that.

The thing is, I see satisfaction of personal egos in those Facebook protests. I see a hunt for likes, a desire to show oneself as smart.

The problem, however, is that after Gigabytes of Facebook statuses Ruben Hairapetian won’t lose his wealth, his bodyguards won’t become civilized and films won’t be screened in the Summer Hall of Moscow Cinema Theatre.

Why don’t these environmental activists organize an action to collect the garbage in Mashtots park? Why didn’t we stop shopping in Yerevan City supermarkets? Why did everyone forget about the two other beaten up officers in Harsnakar? Why doesn’t anyone think about collecting assistance to the family of Vahe Avetian?

In this lies the problem – our society is ready to write statuses, but doesn’t want to do anything. Professional Facebook activists care about “likes”, not actions. Let’s stop shoping in Yerevan City (I have done so already). Let’s reject invites to Harsnaqar (I haven’t had the opportunity yet – but I will). Let’s help the family of Vahe Avetian (I would be interested to know how).

Most importantly – let’s not write yet another status, once we do it.

About the Author

Ruben Muradian (aka Uzogh) – is an IT oriented knife collector. Tries to find the black cat in a dark room common sense in Armenian politics.

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24 thoughts on “Guest Post: Uzogh’s Rant against Slacktivism

  1. It is amazing I wrote about the same thing, at the same time, with the same level of sarcasm. http://armenia.im/2012/07/12/from-zero-to-hero/

    I really do not understand rioting against foreign language schools but doing nothing to improve Armenian schools. Rioting against the Armenian apostolic church, but never for including the Summer Hall back in the list of protected monuments. I do not understand the meaning of posting Vahe’s picture on the profile but never calling his family, never trying to help that family.

    This all is a waste of energy for gaining cheap, quick authority.

  2. Երկուսդ էլ ճիշտ եք: Այն միջավայրը որ կա, դա ամենալավն է, ինչին հայ ազգը ի վիճակի է հասնել: Պետք է այդ փաստը ընդունել, ինչպես երկուսդ եք հասկացել, իսկ չհավանելու դեպքում ապրելու ուրիշ տեղ գտնել՝ աշխարհը Հայաստանով չի վերջանում:

    Ինձ ուրախացնում է, որ ձեզ պես պրագմատիկ մարդիկ դեռ մնացել են ու լռելով ու հարմարվելով, առաջ են տանում Հայաստանը:

    1. Ես չհասկացա ինչի պետկա Հայաստանից բացի այլ տեղ գնամ ապրեմ այս խնդիրների պատճառով: Իհարկե աշխարհը Հայաստանով չի վերջանում, բայց every country has its own problems.

      Նաև չհասկացա թե մենք ոնց ենք “լռում ու հարմարվում”, երբ այսքան ասում ենք, գրում ու պայքարում ու բողոքում ու առաջարկում:

      Anyways, the post is about specific group of people, specific phenomenon.

  3. Friends – I have to disagree with a lot of things said above.

    Firstly, let’s separate problems.

    Among the above mentioned cases, we have issues, which are a part of themwider problem of bad governance, deficiency of rule of law in the country, corruption and lack of accountability, whichncan only be solved by the state and only ifmthe state is forced to address those issues because of public pressure. Good examples of this are cases of hazing in the army, the issue of bodyguards, who operate without proper licenses (including training, civilized manners), powerful olygarchs who think they can get away with everything and corrupt decision making by municipal authorities, who don’t operate transparently and in accordance of proper city planning procedures, including consulting citizens.

    We also have issues, which need more specific and concrete solutions: providing moral and financial support to the families of soldiers and officers killed because of hazing in the army or beating by an olygarch’s or president’s bodyguard, staging public boycotte of supermarkets belonging to an olygarch who destroys an architectural monumet for his private gain.

    So in this regard, i see that you both are accusing protesters, because they are tarying to address the systemic, larger issue and not doing enough about the consequencies.

    1. Art, while there are systemic problems, they must be solved by political measures, not by writing a facebook statuses. Those problems must be addressed by political parties, not by individuals. But look in your today’s FB friendfeed, and just count how many statuses are “human” and how many are political spam? Moreover – the more noise is created, less people are heard. So what’s the point of writing all this staff? For me answer is clear – to satisfy egos of Facebook douchebags.
      I can understand such an activity in Arab countries, in China, in other countries where free speech is under attack. But in Armenia there’s more than enough freedom of speech, and more than enough different medias. So please explain me what’s the difference between email with subject “Enlarge your penis in 14 days” and slacktivism? I reckon, that they are the same.
      Why have I posted a point about actions? Because this kind of actions must be run by citizens, not by parties. You don’t like Market story? Great – then boycott Yerevan City supermarkets. Those actions can, will and must be organized in social networks.

      1. The thing is – there are very different people involved in those actions as well as writing statuses. See my next comment, which I was writing while you were writing this one.

        1. So, please, show me the real job, besides protest and [mostly rhetoric] demands, that those different people have done. I mean, that they are only protesting. Sometimes it’s a question of fundraising (and I’m ok with that – it’s just a business, like selling fake viagra over the Internet), sometimes it’ personal (like someone’s brother, committed suicide in army, and that someone is building a conspiracy theories), sometimes it’s political struggle.
          I have an easy way to find those slacktivists. Look on real results of their activity. If activity is forgotten, and no one is working on it – then you have another douchebag in your friends.

    2. […]Among the above mentioned cases, we have issues, which are a part of themwider problem of bad governance, deficiency of rule of law in the country, corruption and lack of accountability, whichncan only be solved by the state and only ifmthe state is forced to address those issues because of public pressure.[…]

      When the populace do not have faith in the traditional methods of change in governance (elections, resignations, appointments, etc.) and are unwilling or unable to use less traditional methods such as riots, revolts or revolutions, they will express their opinions in different ways. The modern equivalent are online bulletin boards, facebook, etc. It is no surprise that in a country like China you have a vibrant civic activist online scene and in Europe the online scene is geared towards cat videos. It’s because in an authoritarian country like China a citizen has no chance of change through traditional methods but in a democracy they do.

      The puzzling thing about uzogh’s rant is his contempt for people who post opinions. I understand that what he rants about are things that the government doesn’t like so automatically he doesn’t like them either. But even in places like China or Russia a certain degree of public dissent is tolerated. So I would advise him to see this as a venting valve that lets people talk without getting too upset and doing unpredictable things. it’s not all that bad — none of this talk will threaten the jobs of his KVNshik buddies in the government.

  4. Another matter, that we have to look at, is the difference in motives of the people who take part in the protests.

    Here we have people, who have faced tremendous injustice against them by the state and are moved by almost blind desire to take revange. My good friend Tsovinar Nazaryan is an example of this and I fully support most of what she does in her fight against injustice.

    Another group is that of the ‘green’ activists, who have been active even before there were any social networks. But the social networks have given then new tools, more media exposure and they have become overexcited: this group includes people like Inga Zarafyan, Mariam Sukhudian.

    We have another category – ‘good samarItan’ – yound middle class people who believe they need to do something to change this country for the better: these are often the unknown people, who don’t seek media exposure and we seldom see them.

    We have civil society, who see a chance to reach their organizational goals through such actions but also find a way to justify funding to their donors. Most prominent in this category are Artur Sakunts, Levon Barseghyan, Sona Ayvazyan. I guess I fall into this group as well with my NGO.

    There are political figures, artists and parties, who find an easy way to do PR here: tigran Khzmalyan, Zarouhi Postanjian, Vardges Gaspari are all in this group.

    There are also sheer Facebook-slavktivists, like collectors, who become, like armenia.im says, from ‘zero to hero’ by taking part in all this. A brilliant exmple is Bayandur who became a hero by staging a 1 day hunger strike.

    This is rather simplistic, but a close categorisation I believe.

    1. Art, I’m sorry, I cannot discuss intentions, moreover, I would not like to discuss anyone’s person and/or personal activity, unless he/she is being paid from my taxes.

      1. Uzogh, your claim to fame is your attempt to rehabilitate Serj Sargsyan through a blog blitz after March 1. How dare you criticize people who are trying to accomplish something good instead of propping up evil?

        1. Guest – you’re destructing the conversation by attacking Uzogh, instead of contributing to the discussion meaningfully.

          If you have something meaningful to say, please do so.

  5. Enlarge your penis in 14 days? Why have I taken 3-weeks option then? I receive the wrong kind of spam. Damn.

    On a serious note, yes, categorization is super important. I believe this post was about just one category of people, but not about everyone involved in the history of modern Armenian protests. At least my article was about one category.

    But I also have to say that people with true, right and honest intentions sometimes may be unintentionally involved in a wrong category, wrong demand and wrong deeds.

    For example, I personally know Sona Ayvazyan and I consider her one of the icons of Armenian social protests, freedom fighters, fair, honest and intelligent girl. But, if one day Sona marches to Ruben Hairapetyan’s house and shouts “oligarxi vostikan” to police – I will consider this a waste of energy. This will mean to me that Sona (for this particular case) is not in a right category of demanders. Because this is a category of Facebook spammers.

    If Sona is in the club of fair investigation demanders, club of people who try to find Harsnaqar camera records, club of more witness searchers, etc. – I will say she is in a right category.

    Now about separating problems. Yes, absolutely. This social protest is vital. And I do not accuse protesters, neither the protest itself. And I believe Uzogh doesn’t blame the protesters as well. But it is important to protest against the problem, but not against whoever is in your view, be it the police, wedding people, Hairapetyan’s family., etc.

    Eventually, I do not believe in revolution, but I strongly believe in a properly managed, directed, effectively and progressively forwarded, pragmatic and smart social protest.

    1. One of the most effective ways of protest is boycott. When you hit someone’s profits, they suddenly become attentive.

      I don’t know if the citizens of Armenia have any interest or discipline to boycott the “robber barons” of the Armenian economy. I can understand that a wedding would still go on after Vahe Avetyan’s murder (such things require a long planning period and cannot be easily changed). But fireworks was a little too much.

  6. Uzogh, Aren’t you one of the writers? The difference is that you prefer LJ (probably because it is Russian).

    1. I’m pretty sure – I am not.
      I’ve stopped my activity in LJ in 2011, but even at that time, I was avoiding to write activist posts.

  7. All,

    I recently returned from Armenia and have just written two pieces about my impressions and opinion about civic activism and bringing about change in Armenia. You can read about them here: http://hourigmayis.wordpress.com/

    I do not go into the level of detail that you have discussed here and I actually live in Sydney, not Armenia, so will not know as much as you guys do about the phenomenon. However, just a couple of notes on what was said above:

    1. Uzogh, I understand your frustration with what you see as much action on Facebook and no action or change in reality. I disagree with your assessment however. Isn’t it better to have 50 people say ‘No’ than have no one do anything and let things slide? Isn’t that how it starts? Yes, more than protest is needed, but I think this form of activism, as long as it is carried out peacefully and in a civilised manner, plays a vital role in the overall development of civic activism in the country, in raising awareness among more apathetic citizens, in inspiring others to do their own bit.

    2. I am not in a position to express an informed opinion about the motivation of some of these activists for posting statuses on Facebook. But I will say two things in this regard: First, while it can be annoying to some, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if some activists like a few ‘likes’ on their facebook to help them sleep better at night or even to boost their ego. Is it really such a bad thing to make them feel encouraged and supported for doing something they believe in? Second, and this is very important to me as a Diasporan, don’t forget that activists who publicize what they do on Facebook, twitter, blogs, etc etc help keep those of us who do not live in Armenia informed about what’s happening on many human rights issues that we may not hear about from traditional media.

    Finally, I will express one concern. Fighting against injustice is very important but it’s most effective if it’s done in a planned and coordinated manner. At the moment, I am not sure if this is the case in Armenia – if activists are picking their fights or if at least some of them are simply ready and willing to fight against anything and everything.

    I think the most important thing to secure long-term results is educating people, changing mentalities. As I’ve said in my blog, to democratise Armenia as a country, we must first demicratise it as a society. I think civic activism in Armenia is yet to reach this level of maturity but I am hopeful for the future.

  8. Houri,
    1. In my post I’ve mentioned some cases, in which civic activists were involved, but nothing happens, mostly because they have found another “Like”-generating activity.
    In one of your posts (btw they are really frank and touchy) I’ve read, that you’ve see a march against deaths in army.
    Let’s look on it closer: have those protesters proposed any kind of institutional changes to the Ministry of Defense? Have they tried to visit military bases and understand what is the situation there? Have they tried to establish a cooperation civic activists and any other official bodies (like political parties, prosecutor’s office, military police, etc)?
    The answer is “No”. On the other hand there’s Զինվորի Մայր NGO, that works with military, visit military bases, etc. Why there’s no cooperation between protesters and this NGO? My answer to this question is clearly written in my post – protesters want to protest, not to work. My point is, that when people protest, and do not work, it’s an issue of inflated vanity. They are focused on the process, and not a result. And while protesters are not result-oriented – society will not change, and those people will be protesting perpetually. :)

    2. Ok, there’s no danger in liking this slacktivist statuses on FB. The problem is, that more likes they get, less motivation they have for real action.

    I cannot say more, on more coordinated and planned actions, than you did. But let’s focus on actions, not words.

  9. Thanks for your reply Uzogh and for your kind comment on my posts. I understand what you’re saying about the lack of coordination in the example you’ve given. Where I’m coming from is in previous years, even this didn’t happen but yes we should not fall in the danger of being satisfied just with having protested. I still chose to view these people in a favorable light. I think we shouldn’t overlook the fact that civic activism is a new phenomenon in Armenia and many of these people may not even have the know-how to do more.

    In any case, solving a problem starts with understanding it. I would encourage you to write more of your thoughts on issues such as these. Maybe that debate will help us get somewhere.

    Let’s focus on actions, not words. Absolutely, we’re on the same page :)

  10. People use FB to pass information (not necessarily political) and their opinion on things. It is easy, convenient, fast and efficient.

    It is the modern way of standing in the middle of a forum and speaking. It is still missing some of the key components of effective communication but some of it will be fulfilled soon.
    It is another question that in Armenia the public opinion has no influence on the governance of the country. Simply because the country is not democratic even by 20%.

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