Staying Politically Woke
Social Media, ‘Staying Politically Woke’, and Gun Laws Reforms
How to end gun related violence on innocent civilians has dominated debate on gun reforms for many years now. In the wake of continued mass shooting in America that has brought untold suffering, social media activism has spurred with calls for radical reforms on gun laws (Spitzer 23). This brings to the fore the role of social media as a platform for instigating change on issues of public interest. While the social media increase awareness on the need to have stricter gun laws, its effectiveness in instigating real change in gun laws has been questioned by critics. This paper evaluates the roles of US former President Barrack Obama and his use of powerful oration on social media speak for stricter gun reforms. His latest assertions on the ineffectiveness the ‘woke culture’ forms the backdrop of this debate. It is evident that ‘calling out’ the wrongs by others only serves to validate ones feel-good desires with little effect on bringing actual change. Thus, the social media activism that is based on ‘staying woke’ and the ‘cancel culture’ has done nothing to stop gun violence.
The Americas gun culture in America can be traced back to America’s war history as well as sports ethos. America has a rich history of armed conflict involving firearms, which is epitomized in the American Civil War (Spitzer 12). Bearing arms has therefore been seen as one of the fundamental rights of every American to protect themselves and their country in the face of danger. It appears that the gun culture is built on a deep sense of nationalism, and as such it cannot be wished away. So important is this right to bear arms that it is enshrined in the United States Bill of Rights (Spitzer 31). In addition, America’s culture is rich in recreational sports ethos that involves shooting. In view of this, bearing arms is also seen as a recreational right of every American.
“The gun culture effects” has been a rising debate in the public and political realms for many years now (Cramer 103). America’s long standing affection for guns is seen as a national heritage. In the wake of increasing insecurity in the domestic front, owning guns such as “hand guns, assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols” is a way of safeguarding personal security (Cramer 111). National security is a larger than life agenda in America. As such, possession of guns is seen as a way to augment national security. In spite of these advantages, the rising mortality rates related to gun violence is a major cause of concern for American families. Ironically, it is evident that guns have been a major cause of insecurity in public places includes schools. Fatal mass shootings carried by people holding extremist views are a common occurrence in America. This has spurred debate on the urgent need for gun reforms that protects that Second Amendment rights as well as the American public against gun violence.
The role of various social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others) in advocating for gun safety issues has been questioned in the wake of continued gun violence amid social media activism that calls for enforcement of gun safety laws. One the one hand, social media gun safety activism has peeked in the last few years leading for increased call for ending gun violence. There is an increase in the number of Americans on social media (including celebrities) calling for end to gun violence. On the other hand, it appears that gun violence continues unabated. Extremist groups and individuals holding extremist philosophies continue to use guns to commit atrocities on innocent civilians Tweeter: (@BarackObama). Families have lost loved ones through gun related violence committed by individuals holding guns legally. Due to this, the social media activities has drawn attention to the ethics of gun laws, most of them rejecting the utilitarianism as a justification for gun ownership. Instead, much of the social media is judgmental and assumes that the world strictly operates on good/bad, black/ white dichotomy, adds Cummings (para 3).
This approached has been criticized by immediate US former President Barack Obama during a recently held Obama Foundation Summit. Obama avers that the belief that critical issues can be perceived in the light of black versus white or good versus bad mentality is far removed from the actual realities of life (Cummings para 2). This creates the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ illusionary dichotomy that is based on good versus evil. Instead, Obama insists that the world is full of ambiguities and as such good people have inherent flaws that must not be used as a basis of forming judgment against them. The idea of calling out on wrongs – the so called cancel culture/ staying woke – is redundant as far as causing real change (Cummings para 6). Staying woke is a culture of calling out people on social media on account of instances of wrong doing. It presupposes that ‘others’ are inherently evil and bent on wrong doing (causing offense against ‘us’). It positions the ‘woke person’ as an innocent victim and as such calling out the offender is capable of stopping wrong doing. In other words, it amounts to cancelling out wrong doing through calling out on the wrongs. It is only effective in making the critics feel good about them. Such a purist approach does not fit with the ambiguities and realities of the real world that requires a lot of compromise; it is being “ideologically too rigid” (Cummings para 2 – 6). In view of this, there are a multitude of opportunities for consensus building that most of the social media activists have failed to pursue.
The above assertions can be brought to bear in light of the ongoing social media activism on gun safety especially by celebrity activism. The input of former president Obama shall be brought to the fore in light of the assertion that mere social media activism on gun safety that is based on the ‘being politically woke’ has done little to stop gun violence. According to Besley and Peters, only “the positive non-partisan and supportive leadership” will bring the real change in gun reforms (para 2). These sentiments are embodied on Obama’s response to the problem of gun violence in the US. Barack Obama is a gifted orator. He has used his powerful eloquence to make well-reasoned persuasions on sensitive matters. On the subject of gun safety, Obama has the social media effectively as a platform to drive real change through strong, persuasive, well-reasoned, posting.
Obama has used Tweeter as a tool to offer leadership on the direction that the US as well as the world needs to take in terms of gun rights. Unlike other celebrities involved in the calling out and staying politically woke, Obama uses the social media activism not to call out but to offer practical and realistic solutions to issues affecting the world. In a recent tweet, Obama called for a multivariate approach to ending gun violence in the world. He calls for tougher gun laws, which he acknowledges that might not stop all gun related deaths but will definitely stop some deaths. In addition to this, Obama uses Twitter to show the relationship between gun violence and poor mental health, which requires tougher gun laws. Obama acknowledges that poor mental health is a significant contributor the persistent gun related violence. He insists that gun laws must expand to controlling the online activities by radical groups who use the internet to prey on mentally unstable individuals, and radicalize them (@BarackObama).
A critical discourse underlying the subject of gun reforms underscores the need for tolerance and respect to diversity. Downs cites an analysis of multiple journalistic articles, newspaper editorials, as well as reader responses to newspaper editors, revealing “the presence of a cosmopolitan worldview-frame” on the subject of gun reforms (34). Downs ideologies are hugely reflected in Obama’s social media activism against gun violence. Obama proposes that the in a world full of differing cultures, there is need for tolerance and reliance on others, the need to promote risk avoidance, and finally the ultimate responsibility by the government to reduce risks related to gun violence through pro-active strategies. Those using the calling out / cancel culture activism on gun violence ultimately lock out gun owners’ ideologies and as such silencing some valid claims from them.
The social media cancel culture has in the past frozen out pro-NRA sentiments especially at the apex of every gun related incident, according Ducharme (para 4). As such, the ‘being politically woke’ has stifled debate on the culture has stifled the NRAs engagement in gun reforms debate at the height of gun violence crisis, adds Ducharme (para 4, 5). Downs explains that the coverage of gun related violence on social media silence the real participants (in this case the NRA), which inadvertently hamper efforts to “find common ground on those issues” (37). The NRA is condemned as inherently evil. Attempts by NRA to engage in debate are met by outright judgment by leading anti-NRA influencers. This is what Obama refers as ineffective activism that does not bring any real change. It goes against the need for open, open educative, and progress debate in the public domain that is likely to bring real change.
According to Besley and Peters, the social media has been a critical tool for spreading hatred and intolerance by racist and supremacist groups. It has been used to “recruit and propagandize extremism” as well as elevating violence (para 13). Ironically, the ‘cancel culturists’ also use the social media to spread thinly veiled hatred against those in support of gun rights. In the wake of the Christchurch terrorism attack on Muslims, Besley and Peters aver that social media reaction carries concealed hate speech on “Christians and civil society in the West” (para 13). Such hatred and intolerance emanate from the conflict between dealing with the trauma of losing loved ones and coping with personal feelings against the perpetrators of gun violence. As Obama explains, such hatred is characteristic of staying woke and calling out against perpetrators of gun violence on social media. It does not lead to any change whatsoever.
In conclusion, based on the recent assertions on the effectiveness of the ‘being politically woke, the debate on the role of social media in agitating for gun reforms should be refocused, Barack Obama calls for a common-sense approach that underpins tolerance and accommodating other people’s worldviews on this subject. There are a lot of common areas that presents multiple opportunities for consensus building and a progressive approach that will result to stricter gun reforms. For this to be attained, the ‘cancel culturists’ must take a back seat.
@BarackObama (Barack Obama). 4 Aug 2019, 12.01 pm Twitter. https://twitter.com/BarackObama/status/1158453079035002881
Besley, Tina & Michael A. Peters. Terrorism, trauma, tolerance: Bearing witness to white supremacist attack on Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. Taylor & Francis Online, 22 April 2019, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00131857.2019.1602891. Accessed 10, Nov 2019
Cramer, Clayton Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie. Thomas Nelson Inc., 2009.
Cummings, William ‘That’s not bringing about change’: Obama advises ‘woke’ young people not to be so judgmental. USA Today, 30 Oct. 2019, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/30/barack-obama-tells-woke- youth-get-over-quickly/4095362002/. Accessed 10, Nov 2019
Downs, Douglas. Representing Gun Owners: Frame Identification as Social Responsibility in News Media Discourse. Sage, 01, Jan 2012 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/074108830201900103 Accessed 10, Nov 2019
Spitzer, Robert. The Politics of Gun Control. Chatham House, 2014
Writing this paper has been an enduring experience in patience, discovery, and knowing. It involved a lot of research and reading through a lot of materials that included newspaper articles, books, journals, and social media content. I had to select a number of suitable sources and sort them according to importance and relevance. Each of the source had a role in the completing the paper. That helped me to organize my ideas within my essay based on the sources that I had. It was also a highly analytical activity as I was engaged on analyzing the above mentioned resources seeing which fit in the gist of my paper’s argument.
Having read through these materials, I embarked on formulating the thesis statement for my paper. This was the most difficult part of my paper as I had to try and identify gaps and relationships in the information contained in the sources I had chosen. However, since the sources had been organized it enabled me to come up with an argument from where the thesis statement was formulated.
Writing the essay took three steps. The first step was to develop the main points while showing relationships. Secondly, the points were merged into an essay. At this point, the points were organized in a logical format. Having a draft allowed me to edit and proof read the essay eliminating common errors. The whole process took two weeks.
I would give this paper a 2/10 score, based on the content and the argument. The missing 2 marks are to accommodate the tutor’s feedback for improvement. The tutor might give it a very good score but point out a few issues that might need improving