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Recently, George Will and the folks at Fox News thought it would be a clever rebuttal to Michele Obama to mock the effectiveness of a hashtag. In typical Fox fashion, they're faux pas could have been avoided with a cursory interest in history.

Will argued,

“It’s an exercise in self-esteem. I don’t know how adults stand there, facing a camera, and say, ‘Bring back our girls.’ Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say ‘Uh-oh, Michelle Obama is very cross with us, we better change our behavior.’”
Typically, this was either a case of the right-wing media either missing the point or trying to create a red herring. The point of #bringbackourgirls wasn't to reach the "barbarians in the wild of Nigeria." It was to reach the world. And the very fact that they were ridiculing on Fox proves it worked.

And the interesting thing here is that there actually is a history that suggests that raising international awareness has helped bring children home.

In Argentina, form 1976 to 1983, so-called "dissidents" were being disappeared by the despotic government, known as the "Junta."

Anyone who was suspected of speaking out against the government was being rounded up and taken away. Then they "disappeared." They were often tortured and executed and then dumped into mass, unmarked graves.

First, 14 "Mothers of the Disappeared" begin to gather in the Plaza de Mayo, showing pictures of their children to raise awareness. The Junta tried to dismiss them as crazy women, but the movement grew.

The government also had their hands tied a bit. The World Cup was in 1978 and to disappear the suddenly public Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo would not do them any favors. Since they couldn't get rid of the women, they tried  to discredit them, calling them "crazy."  

The main weapon the women had was international awareness. As quoted here by Lester Kurtz of, Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVal, in their book A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, it worked.

International attention to the movement was cultivated as a strategy, facilitated by Argentina’s hosting of the World Cup in 1978, where the international press corps covered the Plaza demonstrations as a corollary to the sporting events, aided by the appearance of players from several European teams at the Plaza in a show of solidarity. Similarly, an international health conference in Buenos Aires was met by the Mothers and witnessed by the international media that broadcast their new slogan: “They took them away alive, we want them returned alive”
The women would gather in the Plaza, wearing white scarves as a sign of solidarity. And the women kept coming back and the awareness grew. The military government tried to fire back, but by then even the soldiers were seemingly reluctant to carry out orders.
As the resistance escalated, so did the public repression of the movement. In the city of Mendoza, for example, as the Mothers demonstrated, police fired on the demonstrators with machine guns, with one fatality and a reported ten injuries. The incident backfired, according to Else de Becerra (Fisher 1989: 114) but the question remains as to why the police were only able to kill and injure so few firing a short distance into a crowd with machine guns unless they were somehow failing to carry out their orders. After the Malvinas-Falkland defeat, the emboldened resistance saw thousands joining the Mothers for a 24-hour “March of Resistance” on the plaza on 10 December 1982. The regime’s legitimacy had collapsed.
Part of the reason for the movement's success was that, because of the awareness that was raised, the Mothers were able to receive help in proceeding.
Although the Mothers of the Plaza were the most visible aspect of the movement, especially in the beginning, other groups were mobilizing support for the resistance, notably SERPAJ, which provided financial support and strategic advice to the movement comprised primarily of women with no prior political activist experience.
Raising international awareness, historically has been proven to be effective. To ask if a "hashtag" is going to convince the "barbarians in the wilds" is akin to asking if "white scarves" are going to convince "military despots"to step down.

The whole point was never to reach the captors, but to captivate the attention of the world. The fact that the world is waking up and paying attention to what would have otherwise gone ignored proves it works.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, LinSea

    Discourse is better served if we can stick to the rules of logic.

    by backell on Wed May 14, 2014 at 08:49:26 AM PDT

  •  Sadly, no. (0+ / 0-)

    First, the Argentine junta was a government, and was therefore to some extent susceptible to pressure, from its own people and from other governments.  Boko Haram is a non-state actor, as the political scientists say, and is not susceptible to those pressures.

    Second, the Argentina junta killed and disappeared people until it decided that it didn't have to, according to whatever depraved rationale they had for what they did.  They were intensely annoyed by the Mothers and the Grandmothers, but they didn't change their repressive behavior one bit because of their activities.  In the end the Argentina military left power only because they lost the Falklands War.  

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Wed May 14, 2014 at 09:01:56 AM PDT

    •  Actually, Yes. (0+ / 0-)

      Yes, it was a government, and susceptible to pressure. That doesn't mean that pressure ONLY works on governments.

      And "until it decided it didn't have to" is "until they caved ot the public pressure. To say they didn't change their behavior one bit because of what they did is not entirely accurate.

      The Falklands war played a part in it, but even that was influenced by the actions of the mothers. There was international support for the war, in part because of the awareness of the cruelties of the Junta raised by the mothers.

      I'm sorry, but no to you. No, you don't get to diminish the importance of these women or what they did.

      Discourse is better served if we can stick to the rules of logic.

      by backell on Wed May 14, 2014 at 09:09:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I should add (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That the main reason Argentina even invaded the Falklands int he first place was that they were trying to gain public support, i.e. it was the pressure ramped up by the mothers which they were responding to.

      Discourse is better served if we can stick to the rules of logic.

      by backell on Wed May 14, 2014 at 09:13:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know how effective the solidarity action (0+ / 0-)

    in and of itself will be in freeing anyone. The act of solidarity is in and of itself a good act though. The fact that the parents in Nigeria know that they have the support of the world means a lot.

    No War but Class War

    by AoT on Wed May 14, 2014 at 09:45:42 AM PDT

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