Social Media’s New Activism
I recently stopped in a Stockholm city park and decided to talk to a World Wildlife Fund representative, asking him where their advertising had gone – to me they were no longer in my field of vision, either on TV or in print. His reply was short, “it’s online now.” Activism is in an entirely new phase of communication, and it is with this in mind that the latest story of a recent hoax by Greenpeace becomes more of a confirmation of the aforementioned notion.
To protest oil drilling in the Artic, Greenpeace cleverly set up a hoax website aimed at the oil company Shell – complete with dubious captions and potentially libelous gaffes. CNN writer, Paul Wolpe, covered the case and suggested this was a new era of ‘culture jamming’ (the idea of media subversion, previously coined in the 1980s) and went on to question the ethics of Greenpeace. I would agree that with social media now at the forefront of our collective lives, this form of protest is becoming increasingly commonplace, and necessary. As for ethics ? Indeed, satire is hard to quantify (and that is what this campaign was), but isn’t Greenpeace just using advertising tactics in a similar way to the big corporations (and who would suggest that companies like Shell are ‘on the level’ with their promotions)?
Whether Shell will press charges and call Greenpeace out for slander is unclear. They certainly don’t need the money and they would look even more like the corporate ogre depicted in the campaign. Regardless of the fallout, it’s once again evident that this new YouTube epoch we’re living in has rapidly changed the rules of ‘the game.’ Now, the cleverest campaign wins, and it’s an open field for anyone to get their message out.