In Defense of Hashtag Campaigns

 

justsayin-376x330Let me get something out of the way: Hashtag campaigns are stupid. That being said, those who are complaining that this is a weak response to the Nigeria situation are off base. Yes, its asinine. Yes, it’s unseemly. Yes, it’s inappropriate for a First Lady to get caught up in it. And yes, it’s a really bad idea to create a blank slate like the one above an release it on the Internet. But you’re missing the value of the thing.

The way a republic works is:

1. There is some dramatic event or an ongoing situation.

2. Groups of people cry out in a hysterical voice to “Do something!” (Often with an appeal about the children.)

3. Politicians, wanting to remain in office and having a keen understanding of the incentive structure of electoral politics, respond.

This response comes in two forms:

1. Actually doing something.

2. Looking like you’re doing something.

It should be noted that the second option is often more powerful than the first, although they’re not mutually exclusive (see the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990).

The hashtag campaign for the Nigerian situation is a classic example of option #2. They look like they’re doing something without actually acting. In the most recent Ricochet Flagship podcast, Rob Long thought this was extremely cynical.  Perhaps it is, but it’s just misdirection, like a magician distracting you attention from a trick.

This misses the value of the campaign: the inaction. This “weak response” is as far as it’ll go. And I’m okay with that. I must recall at this point my favorite Winston Churchill quote “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

If they want to have their stupid little hashtag campaign, I’m okay with that. That’s just jaw-jaw. It’s mostly harmless. The potential danger isn’t from the jaw-jaw.

When people cry out “Do something!”, especially when it involves children, I’ll take a hashtag campaign over US military action. The former costs me nothing. The latter is very expensive.

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  1. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Jason Rudert:

    Albert Arthur: Boko Haram is a jihadist organization that is funded and armed in part by al Qaeda. We have a national interest in destroying Boko Haram.

    But why are we going to be any better at that than we were at destroying the Taliban or any of al-Qaeda’s other branches?

    Even if destruction proves impossible, some might argue that disruption and inhibition has been achieved.

    • #31
  2. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    Fred, you seem to be channeling Charles Krauthammer or perhaps he was channeling you?

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/378102/sound-and-fury-and-tweet-charles-krauthammer

    • #32
  3. MisterSirius Member
    MisterSirius
    @MisterSirius

    As for whom the hashtag is aimed at, I’ve read/heard that it isn’t the low-information voter, nor, heaven forbid, the White House, but rather the elected democratic government of Nigeria. See, it is all the fault of the Nigerian government. Makes sense, don’t it? Boko Haram is only responding to oppression. Etc.

    • #33
  4. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    For Whom the Hashtag Tolls.

    • #34
  5. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Jason Rudert:

    Albert Arthur: Boko Haram is a jihadist organization that is funded and armed in part by al Qaeda. We have a national interest in destroying Boko Haram.

    But why are we going to be any better at that than we were at destroying the Taliban or any of al-Qaeda’s other branches?

    Whether or not we have previously been successful in destroying the Taliban is irrelevant to whether or not we can destroy Boko Haram. Under the current administration, though, I am sure that we can not; or rather, will not even make the attempt.

    • #35
  6. user_525137 Inactive
    user_525137
    @AdrianaHarris

    Years of empty threats, blustering and impotence is what got us to this point. No one is afraid to poke us with a stick because they know nothing will happen (unless you are an “ally” perhaps). I am not in favor of any military action at this time because I believe it will be misdirected and ineffectual. Even if the military managed to succeed in their mission, Pres. Obama would probably identify the unit and turn them into a target the following week. I’m afraid the Obama administration has doomed the U.S. to be a door mat for the next 2+ years. The only action taken will be cynical liberals trying to make political capital out of every situation that comes their way.

    • #36
  7. AR Inactive
    AR
    @AR

    Frank Soto: As it stands we just seem weak.  Perceived weakness is weakness when it comes to world powers.

     Correction: We are weak. America is only as strong as it’s citizens and there are few of those left.

    • #37
  8. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Liz:

    Winston Churchill quote “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

    He could say that because he was fearless and neither hesitated nor quit when action was required. From the mouth of those who would never act, it sounds very different.

     Right. It’s worth remembering that Churchill was one of the most belligerent politicians Britain has ever had. He was partially responsible for bringing the Ottomans into the First World War against the allies, and it was only a combination of civil servant sabotage of his plans and Hitler getting there first that stopped him from invading Norway. He set up the Black and Tans in Ireland and advocated bloody, brutal, repression at the drop of a hat on other occasions, generally being in the minority. 

    On the Soviet issue, though, Churchill was much more ambiguous. Sometimes he’d condemn them strongly, other times he’d speak kindly about Stalin and other Soviet leaders. Advocating moderation in the Cold War was something he did almost as often as condemning moderation in the Cold War. 

    All this said, I don’t think the pithy form of the quote is Churchill’s

    • #38
  9. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Fred, is it your view that Nigerian government intervention is justified to free the girls? If the Nigerian government wants US involvement and the girls cannot be freed without foreign involvement, on what principle would you oppose foreign involvement? 

    Albert Arthur:  Exactly. We paid ransoms to the Barbary states for 20 years, and all along they were kidnapping our sailors. It wasn’t until we sent the Marines to Tripoli that they stopped.

    The Marines to Tripoli thing was in 1804, and was helpful in ensuring a temporary halt in payments. The US permanently stopped paying tribute in 1815 with the Second Barbary War. That cessation was permanent because Britain shelled Algiers in 1816 and made them give the American tribute back, and France took over Algeria in 1830. America was not always a superpower. 

    • #39
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Fred Cole: When people cry out “Do something!”, especially when it involves children, I’ll take a hashtag campaign over US military action. The former costs me nothing. The latter is very expensive.

     In case the basis for my question is unclear, I find the statement “I support liberty for humans, and I believe that liberty is best served by letting people enslave each other so long as it’s not in my back yard” to be somewhat confusing. If it’s just Americans who deserve life and liberty, then that makes some sense, but it seems hard to combine that with the whole state of nature sort of position in which you claim that people have rights as humans rather than rights that derive from their governments. 

    • #40
  11. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    James Of England:


    Albert Arthur
    : Exactly. We paid ransoms to the Barbary states for 20 years, and all along they were kidnapping our sailors. It wasn’t until we sent the Marines to Tripoli that they stopped.

    The Marines to Tripoli thing was in 1804, and was helpful in ensuring a temporary halt in payments. The US permanently stopped paying tribute in 1815 with the Second Barbary War. That cessation was permanent because Britain shelled Algiers in 1816 and made them give the American tribute back, and France took over Algeria in 1830. America was not always a superpower.

     James,

    What Albert and I are referring to are more recent events in piracy.

    “Ransom payments to Somali pirates are estimated to have been between $339 million and $413 million in the period 2005-2012, according to a report issued Monday by the International Criminal Police Organization, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank. In addition to Somalia, the study focused on Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Seychelles.”

    I am unsure why the block quote feature is not working for me.

    • #41
  12. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Frank Soto:

    James Of England:

    Albert Arthur: Exactly. We paid ransoms to the Barbary states for 20 years, and all along they were kidnapping our sailors. It wasn’t until we sent the Marines to Tripoli that they stopped.

    James,
    What Albert and I are referring to are more recent events in piracy.

    “Ransom payments to Somali pirates are estimated to have been between $339 million and $413 million in the period 2005-2012, according to a report issued Monday by the International Criminal Police Organization, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank. In addition to Somalia, the study focused on Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Seychelles.”

    I am unsure why the block quote feature is not working for me.

     I think that that is what you were referring to, but Albert’s reference to “Tripoli” and “Barbary states” sound to me as if he was referring to Tripoli, in Libya, and the Barbary States along the Mediterranean coast, and not to Somalia, Ethiopia, Dijibouti, Kenya, or the Seychelles, which had barbarous, but not Barbary, elements.  

    • #42
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Misthiocracy:

    Chinese investment in Nigeria is currently around $1.7 billion. (US investment in Nigeria is around $5 billion.)

    Where’s the hashtag campaign to get China to “do something” about Boko Haram?

    Let’s say that China sent its special forces in to Nigeria and miraculously somehow managed to rescue all 200 girls with zero loss of innocent life.

    How do you think the US federal government would react to such an action? Applause for a job well done, or condemnation for violating Nigeria’s sovereignty?

     If China did this, it would likely do it through bribes; the PLA’s ability to project force at a distance is minimal. 

    The payment of bribes should be condemned, and would be a violation of Nigerian sovereignty if it were done without the agreement of the Nigerian government; funding organizations like Boko is not a pleasant thing to do to an ally. 

    If, by some miracle, China were able to organize a military force and, with the agreement of the Nigerian government, were to free the hostages, I imagine American reactions would be largely positive towards the white knights (albeit negative towards the US government; it would be a Sputnik moment).

    • #43
  14. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    James Of England: The Marines to Tripoli thing was in 1804, and was helpful in ensuring a temporary halt in payments. The US permanently stopped paying tribute in 1815 with the Second Barbary War. That cessation was permanent because Britain shelled Algiers in 1816 and made them give the American tribute back, and France took over Algeria in 1830. America was not always a superpower.

     Yeah, OK:-P My point being, military action was what stopped the Barbary states. :-)

    • #44
  15. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    James Of England: I think that that is what you were referring to, but Albert’s reference to “Tripoli” and “Barbary states” sound to me as if he was referring to Tripoli, in Libya, and the Barbary States along the Mediterranean coast, and not to Somalia, Ethiopia, Dijibouti, Kenya, or the Seychelles, which had barbarous, but not Barbary, elements.

     I was referring to the early 19th century. But my solution to the piracy off the coast of Somalia would be to execute as many pirates as possible, when captured at sea. There must be a way to find out where the pirates have their bases of operation on land, as well, and I would be in favor of bombing those.

    • #45
  16. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Albert Arthur:

    James Of England: I think that that is what you were referring to, but Albert’s reference to “Tripoli” and “Barbary states” sound to me as if he was referring to Tripoli, in Libya, and the Barbary States along the Mediterranean coast, and not to Somalia, Ethiopia, Dijibouti, Kenya, or the Seychelles, which had barbarous, but not Barbary, elements.

    I was referring to the early 19th century. But my solution to the piracy off the coast of Somalia would be to execute as many pirates as possible, when captured at sea. There must be a way to find out where the pirates have their bases of operation on land, as well, and I would be in favor of bombing those.

     It’s somewhat more effective to have boots on the ground. Happily, the war in Somalia is going exceptionally well, with Ethiopian, Somaliland, and Somali troops controlling the overwhelming bulk of the country. One of the few areas I’d give Obama full marks. 

    • #46
  17. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Mike H:

    How many innocent people are you willing to kill to save these innocent people? Saying, “lets go get them” doesn’t mean you only get to shoot the bad guys and save the good guys.

     I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for people who give shelter to violent Islamists. If somebody like that catches a stray piece of shrapnel, or gets vaporized by a direct hit with a JDAM, it doesn’t bother me. If it became common knowledge that harboring terrorists might get your village hit with an arc light strike, people might stop doing it. 

    • #47
  18. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    One of the horrible things about Islam is that it encourages things like this. Wherever there is a slave trade, Muslims will be involved if there are Muslims in the vicinity. And by in the vicinity, I mean anywhere in the same hemisphere.

    • #48
  19. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Albert Arthur:

    I was referring to the early 19th century. But my solution to the piracy off the coast of Somalia would be to execute as many pirates as possible, when captured at sea. There must be a way to find out where the pirates have their bases of operation on land, as well, and I would be in favor of bombing those.

    We should get some better RADAR coverage in the area. If a boat is operating in a manner inconsistent with a legitimate fishing boat (too fast, operating near commercial sea lanes, etc.) have a Navy vessel give them a “health and safety” inspection. If they’re equipped for piracy, either try them, or if there’s insufficient evidence, just sink the boat and dump the crew on the coast a couple of hundred miles from home, in their skivvies. Let’em walk home.

    We could also put a few armed Predators up over the area and, if they see an attack in progress or can respond to a distress call, put a Hellfire missile in the pirates’ engines. That should at least slow them down until a Navy ship can come finish them off.

    • #49
  20. Pete EE Member
    Pete EE
    @PeteEE

    Frank Soto: I am unsure why the block quote feature is not working for me.

     I was having trouble with block quote earlier. It would either indent both my words and the other guy’s or neither. The solution was to separate the paragraphs with a <shift-enter>, instead of just <enter>.

    • #50
  21. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    I'm With Stupid
    Thank you Ms Obama for an endless source of amusement…

    • #51
  22. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Kozak:

    Thank you Ms Obama for an endless source of amusement…

     This may be the best parody fodder since Downfall (Der Untergang)

    • #52
  23. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Carey J.:

    Kozak:

    Thank you Ms Obama for an endless source of amusement…

    This may be the best parody fodder since Downfall (Der Untergang).

     Considering your avatar you might like this gif….

    http://technochitlins.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Che_Tickle.gif

    I think of it and smile every time I see one of those loathsome Che T shirts…

    • #53
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