The Spectacle Blog

The Stupidity of Hash Tag Activism

By on 7.30.14 | 4:00PM

The World Cup ended weeks ago, but the next competition that has captured the spirit of voyeurism is midway through another round—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict!

It's convenient, in a way, this affair with Gaza coming so close on the heels of the World Cup. Soccer and football fans alike had a few days to rest their vocal chords with some hot tea and lemon before the bellowing started up again. A few reporters probably relocated from South America to the south of Israel, but most viewers didn't even have to change the news channel to get​ near-continuous coverage of the next international contest. 

For those without front-row seats, media fall-out awaits, and with it comes #hashtagactivism. During the World Cup, #USA was automatically followed with an American flag on Twitter. Perhaps we could do the same thing now, using Israeli and Palestinian flags. That way, even the illiterate could decide which team to support. Better yet, this quick system of icons would make it easier to check which side your favorite celebrity is on. Here are a few to get us started.

The singer Rihanna, who is always my first stop on complex foreign policy issues, tweeted #freepalestine. Eight minutes later, she replaced this well-considered foreign policy decision with, "Let's pray for peace and a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! Is there any hope?" Who knew that Rihanna put such stock in daily communication with the Almighty?

Fans of One Direction can keep their music preferences, regardless of which side their coin toss comes down on. Harry Styles is pro-Israel, while his bandmate Zayn Malik tweeted #freepalestine.

When Joan Rivers was asked her opinion by a reporter, she came down hard on Israel's side. She also poked not-so-gentle fun at the "pray for Gaza" Instagram post by Selena Gomez.

In other words, the death toll is rising—Palestinians, Israelis, Syrians, and Iraqis alike live in daily fear of death—and the Western world is boldly responding with partially constructed sentences on Twitter!

In all seriousness, a few points go to Joan Rivers because she 1) defended her opinion in complete sentences and 2) freely pointed out the absurdity of the query, which is an insult to the people living on both sides of the "pre-1967 borders." Does the American public really plan to gather virtually on the war-torn shores of the Mediterranean and pick which side to root for like a crowd at a sports bar? Gaza is one of the poorest, most densely populated places on earth. And our coddled celebrities think they have something meaningful to contribute to its situation? Israelis draft nearly their entire population—men and women—into the armed services with the expectation that they may face combat. And some minor with a smartphone wants to talk military strategy using a tweet with an incomplete grammatical construction? 

When the real World Cup swings back around, the most ignorant of fair-weather enthusiasts should feel free to pick their sides based on flag design, bicep size, or style of play, and tweet their #hearts out. For now, get your #gooddeedoftheday outside the virtual world.

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