Protests Make Noise, But Who’s Hearing Us? A Defense of Online Activism

Carlos Cruz Mosquera

BY CARLOS CRUZ MOSQUERA

Historically, marches and rallies have been the most common form of protest. For the Latin American and Caribbean diaspora in particular, they have played an important role in how we apply pressure on right-wing and fascist governments in our homelands. Over the decades, they have become the primary way we demonstrate our solidarity with the struggles and revolutionary movements in the region.

Acknowledging that we now live in the era of the internet and social media, however, we must now rethink the effectiveness of marches and rallies and ask: is it time we redirected our energies to newer forms of tangible solidarity?

As someone who was raised going to these marches and rallies with my parents, I have always felt like they are an obligation, a duty to those back home who are struggling to transform society. Yet one cannot help but question the effectiveness of picketing outside an empty embassy in a capital city’s backstreet or rallying in a main square to passing tourists. We’re making noise, but nobody is actually hearing us.

Perhaps the most effective protest that can be organized by those of us in the diaspora would be outside a seat of power, like congress or parliament, but even then the effectiveness of this is unproven. After all, Western governments are the most interested in the continuation of the status quo.

Protests in Latin America, on the other hand, have historically been and continue to be a source of tangible political, economic, and social change. Bolivia, to give just one example, has recently witnessed the unseating of the illegitimate right-wing government and this was in no small part thanks to the power of street mobilizations. The most effective way to do our part as a diaspora is to form direct links with the revolutionary organizations and offer them material support in the form of funds.

Marching and rallying to bring attention to our region’s struggles, as honorable as it is, is quickly becoming out of date as an effective form of protest. It has come to be seen as almost an end on itself rather than a political tactic. Why put so much effort into the logistics of a physical gathering when an online campaign gives us better results? Why spend money and energy printing and handing out leaflets when you can accurately target a larger audience on social media platforms at the click of a button? These protest methods served a valuable purpose two decades ago, but we can’t continue them simply because they’re tradition.

Though we have to come to terms with the increasing limits of rallies to raise awareness and solidarity for the struggles back home, we must also be aware of the challenges and limits of online activism. Just like performative activism at rallies, where outdated forms of protest mixed with liberal activism encourages cosplay and passionate speeches where we preach to the choir, social media activism can also be a dead end.

The inherent nature of social media gives rise to an individualist and ego-driven activist culture that perfectly coincides with stagnant liberal forms of protest. This is in sharp contrast to the revolutionary activism of movements in the Global South, and Latin America and the Caribbean in particular, where the focus is on advancing the objectives of the collective rather than the individual.

This call to transform solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean from the old methods to the new, to be clear, is not about replacing it with mere “clicktivism.” Writing an edgy tweet, liking a post, sharing an article, or signing a petition is simply not enough.

The most effective and tangible things we can do to show solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean in our communities is the production and dissemination of informative content like posters, articles and videos, creating and sharing petitions, and, most importantly, raising funds for revolutionary organizations on the frontlines.

We must get with the times and advance the struggle for revolutionary change in Latin America and the Caribbean, always thinking of the collective and not the individual, just like our diasporic elders have done for decades. It’s time we take the baton from them and use our expertise of the cyber world to support the movement towards socialism.

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