Podcast Episode by Kerem Sac & Sharlee Palmer.
Episode Focuses on;
- Political Opportunity
- Social Movements
- Social Media Tactics (hashtag campaigns, hashtag hijacks, identity correction, media jacking, app flooding, and spoof websites)
Kerem Sac, is a third year Political Science and Communication student at uOttawa, Sharlee Palmer is a fourth year Political Science student at uOttawa.
Kerem: Hello everyone, welcome to the once-in-a-lifetime episode of Learn by Teaching for the class POL3177, Social Movements and Globalization.
Kerem: I’m your host Kerem Sac,
Sharlee: And I’m your co-host Sharlee Palmer,
Sharlee: We are both currently undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa, I’m a fourth-year political science student ready to graduate very soon,
Kerem: I am a third-year Political Science and Communication student who is not ready to graduate just yet! Today we are taking you on a journey to better understand social movements theory and giving an in-depth analysis of how the globalization of social media has impacted the ways in which social movements operate. More specifically, we will be exploring some useful social media tactics/strategies that you can use to gain more media attention, globalize your movement, and gain more support.
Sharlee: So with our outline complete, I’m going to ask Kerem a very complex question: what do you know about social movements?
Kerem: I’ve been taking a class about this topic for a few months, but there’s nothing wrong with refreshing my memory! Would you like to help me?
Sharlee: I’d be happy to!
Sharlee: Social movements can be defined as organized informal networks, made up of various actors such as individuals, communities, or organizations, which all share a common goal of producing social change. This social change can be political or cultural in nature and can take many forms. Social movements are typically organized internationally and obtain recognition and support on a more global scale, in contrast to protests. Some examples of prominent social movements include; Indigenous rights, BLM, the feminist movement, or even, MADD. All social movements have different end goals, thus, cannot necessarily be grouped together into one unitary category. Later on in this podcast, we will be using the Body Positivity Movement (focusing directly on reform movements) to address certain media strategies that can be used to push your campaign forward.
Sharlee: Before handing it off to Kerem, I think it will be useful to explain what a political opportunity is, and how it works. As discussed in class, political opportunities are “dimensions of the political environment or of change in that environment that provide incentives for collective action by affecting expectations for success or failure” (Week 3 Lecture, 2022). In other words, social movement activists must look for political opportunities/openings that can provide them with the opportunity to produce meaningful change. Sometimes these opportunities are not visible to all. So how exactly can we as activists spot a political opportunity? Well, first, we want to see the “relative openness of closure of the institutionalized political system”(Week 3 Lecture, 2022). It may be easier to obtain political opportunities when the political system is more open. Second, we need to measure the “stability or instability of the broad set of elite alignments that typically undergird a polity”(Week 3 Lecture, 2022). Third, we need to weigh how opportunity is affected by the “presence or absence of elite allies”(Week 3 Lecture, 2022). In other words, can elite allies help you seize a political opportunity or will elite allies suppress your political opportunity? And finally, you must look for the “state’s capacity and propensity for repression”(Week 3 Lecture, 2022). Therefore, the way the state is formed, its regime, government, institutions, and social construction will affect your political opportunities to achieve your goals. All of these factors are important to consider when thinking about starting a social movement. Look for your political openings and strategize ways in which you can achieve your goals.
Kerem: Sharlee, do you know anything about globalization’s impact on social movements and its unique history?
Sharlee: I’m familiar with the concept of globalization but I’m truly intrigued, tell me more!
Kerem: Well, let me explain what globalization is. According to the Oxford Dictionary; “Globalization, in a general sense, is the increasing worldwide integration of economic, cultural, political, religious and social systems” in our society. (oxfordreference.com, 2022). As technology evolves, the systems that connect people to each other also evolve, making it possible to reach thousands of people just in seconds. Furthermore, it also helps people share and interact with other cultures.
Kerem: For this episode, we will be focusing on social relationships and the social structures that are created by globalization and this has changed social media movements. To begin, there are two concepts I would like to introduce. First I will discuss ‘Globalization from Above,’ and second, I will discuss ‘Globalization from Below.’
Kerem: According to Ritzer and Dean, ‘Globalization from Above’ can be explained as a“process that is created and controlled by centralized and powerful actors, such as wealthy elites or Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) (especially in the North), and imposing on broader society”. (Ritzer & Dean, 2014, p. 44). Contrastingly, ‘Globalization from Below’ focuses on “marginalized groups and social movements that struggle to make globalization benefit more people and for global processes to be more democratic” (Ritzer & Dean, 2014, p. 44). In this podcast, I will be focusing on globalization from below, as its purpose is to create and share awareness.
Kerem: In our modern society, the technological evolutions and the integration of the internet and its devices have become really important tools for activists and social movements around the world. According to Ritzer and Dean, “One of the most important uses of the Internet and social media for social movements is to link various movements and networks together to coordinate activities and help activists develop a collective identity” (Ritzer & Dean, 2014, p. 259). This enables users online to use the quick and efficient internet “to spread information and mobilize action” (Ritzer & Dean, 2014, p. 259).
Kerem: Before jumping into the current and modern adaptation of globalization, we feel that it is important to understand how social movements operated when social media platforms such as Twitter first started to pop up. The term Twitter-Revolution, according to Ritzer and Dean, “originated amidst mass protest in Moldova in 2009 and was popularized through the subsequent wave of popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. It refers not only to the use of Twitter on computers and mobile devices but also to the broader use of social media in social movements” (Ritzer & Dean, 2014, p. 259). In 2009, another big event took place in Iran. After government re-election, the public’s reaction caused the government to shut down traditional media outlets. This shifted people towards using online and anonymous platforms such as Twitter. The role of social media continued to grow as years went by. Starting with 2010, people started to use Facebook groups to organize mass protests and connect with each other, and as other platforms started to pop-up new ways of movements and protests started to take place.
Kerem: Now, let us move forward and talk about some media tactics that social movement activists can use to better represent their movement, reach more people, and create social change. However, first, we will need to define exactly what a media tactic is. Media tactics are used in social movement theory to help the movement reach a larger audience, which will, in turn, have a lasting impact. An important detail to remember about social movements is that they need to produce long-lasting change. Therefore, media tactics such as identity correction, spoof websites, hashtag hijacks, hashtag campaigns, app flooding and media jacking are useful tools to push forward the agenda/the goals of the social movement and reach larger populations of people.
Sharlee: The first media tactic that you can use to further your social movement goals/agendas is identity correction. Identity correction as defined is the “exposing [of] an entity’s inner workings to public scrutiny” (beautifultrouble.org, Identity Correction, 2022). When using this tactic, your movement will be trying to catch the entity/organization/institution off guard by impersonating them or “speaking on their behalf about [the] wonderful things they should do” (beautifultrouble.org, Identity Correction, 2022). In reality, however, this company will likely never do these things which momentarily “expose[s] them to public scrutiny”(beautifultrouble.org, Identity Correction, 2022). To execute this properly, you first need to know what you are looking to change. Let’s say, for example, you are creating a social movement that supports local farmers instead of slaughterhouses. You choose to identity-correct a big MNC like McDonald’s and assume their power by pretending to be them. Once you have this figured out, you can propose a public statement that is either negative or positive. A positive statement (called an honest proposal) typically works better (beautifultrouble.org, Identity Correction, 2022). So, your movement could release a statement that Mcdonald’s will now be supporting local farmers (your movement) by not buying meat from slaughterhouses. McDonald’s would never say this. If Mcdonald’s refutes this comment, they will look very bad because the banning of slaughterhouses is a socially accepted idea. If they acknowledge their faults and do nothing to fix it, it will also look bad for the company. If Mcdonald’s decides to change its meat distributor, then this tactic will work to promote your platform. Ultimately, this media tactic will increase engagement for your platform and take away the pressure of fighting against big corporations by simply assuming their identity.
Sharlee: Spoof Websites, another form of identity correction, can also be useful for the promotion of your social movement. This tactic involves “creating near-identical websites to those of our targets, but altering them to illustrate our target taking a certain action, such as announcing a new initiative that supports our campaign goals”(beautifultrouble.org, Spoof Website, 2022). The spoof website will be portrayed as an authentic website, essentially impersonating the original website by using a similar name and web design, “often with a press release” coming from the target “or with the support of spoofed news coverage” (beautifultrouble.org, Spoof Website, 2022). The idea is that this website will spread very quickly, become viral for a certain period of time, and obtain major news coverage, gaining attraction and support for your movement. An important part of this tactic is the reveal. The reveal must happen before the website you are impersonating finds out. Typically, you will publish a reveal press release that “takes credit for the spoof website and ties it into the larger campaign message” (beautifultrouble.org, Spoof Website, 2022). Again, it is much more effective to use a positive approach for this media tactic to work effectively. This tactic is also a way in which prefigurative politics performs. Prefigurative politics argues that it is more effective to “show the world how easy it would be for [the company] to do what you want them to do and how much public support they would get for it” rather than “pressuring your obstinate target into taking positive action” (beautifultrouble.org, Spoof Website, 2022). Pressure alone is not going to always produce change, so this tactic can be used as a way to “create that alternative reality” by “rewriting the story and getting the public to believe, at least for a moment, that it’s real”(beautifultrouble.org, Spoof Website, 2022).
Kerem: I have a similar tactic to yours. It is called ‘hashtag hijack’. As the name suggests, all you have to do is hijack a hashtag! As you may know, hashtags can be used to categorize posts and trending topics on social media platforms such as Twitter or Tik Tok. Hashtags are also used to highlight trending topics or to find things that interest you. Hashtag hijacking means that one exploits an existing popular hashtag, taking it in a different direction to promote your cause. For this tactic to work, people should keep in mind that numbers matter! The hashtag already needs to have attraction and should already be quite visible in the feed algorithm. Therefore, when a hijack happens, people will be able to see it a lot faster. According to one user on Twitter, an example of this can be “When Donald Trump told armed white supremacist group Proud Boys to “stand by” during a presidential debate, the alt-right took to Twitter to display their bigotry, only to be overwhelmed by LGBTQ Twitter users sharing photos of #ProudBoys making out, and making ‘this hashtag about love, not hate’” (beautifultrouble.org, Hashtag Hijack, 2022).
Kerem: Speaking of hashtags, let’s backtrack a little bit and also talk about hashtag campaigns as well. As we just mentioned, hashtags can be used to categorize posts on social media platforms. For movements and activists, the use of hashtags is “to strategically frame, convene, and drive key conversations” (beautifultrouble.org, Hashtag Campaign, 2022). Hashtags are used to “convene and drive conversations” and as a “framing device that helps set the terms of the debate and clarify what’s at stake. A well-chosen hashtag will positively define the values associated with your political position and draw more people to your side of the debate” (beautifultrouble.org, Hashtag Campaign, 2022). Activists can create their own hashtags to promote their ideas and frame them for consumers of online media. A couple of examples are the #MeToo Movement, #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) Movement, etc.
Sharlee: App flooding is another media tactic that social movement activists can use to promote their platform/message. This tactic may be useful for social movements that are looking to make reformative changes to social media apps, such as Twitter, Instagram, Tik-T, or even Facebook. With the globalization of social media and technology, individuals now have the world at their fingertips. The ability for individuals, groups and communities to organize has become easier with the globalization of smartphones. Individuals now, more than ever, look to their smartphones and apps to “solve basic day-to-day problems’ ‘ such as dating, finding directions, or even ordering food. App flooding, in its simplest term, is when a social movement “reappropriate[s] a popular app” as a channel for protesting (beautifultrouble.org, App Flooding, 2022). The website beautifultrouble.org gives an example of Russian people flooding an app that monitored road traffic to “protest their government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 Pandemic” (beautifultrouble.org, App Flooding, 2022). This can be done on any app that allows for free speech to occur. For example, you can use Tik-Tok as a channel to promote your cause, such as protecting children from online predators. Tik Tok does have certain guidelines and rules regarding this, but these guidelines could always be improved upon. Therefore, you are no longer using Tik Tok for its intended purpose, which is to make funny videos. You are now protesting its age requirement, its applicability, and its structure.
Kerem: Another tactic activists can use is Media-Jacking. According to a source, media jacking is
“when you subvert your opponent’s spectacle for your own purposes. Politicians, corporations, and lobbyists have much bigger public relations (PR) budgets and name-brands draw to attract press to their staged media events. Through well-planned creative interventions, however, you can refocus things and highlight a different side of the story” (beautifultrouble.org, Media Jacking, 2022)
This method is mostly used on someone else’s prepared event, where they have an audience and/or technologies where they can share the event with online platforms (live or pre-planned), and take-over it. This tactic allows you to use “your target’s own story against them, undermining them at the point of assumption” (beautifultrouble.org, Media Jacking, 2022). Therefore, you can share your own perspective with others, without actually planning a way to reach audiences. An example of this can be the PETA activists crashing Fashion week and walking on the runway with signs mentioning “Fur Shame” (Oliver, 2022) . According to PETA, they have started using media jacking tactics since 1991. During runways shows such as Oscar De La Renta, Victoria Secret, Valentino, Versace, and Burberry, PETA has been able to effectively share its message (Oliver, 2022)
Sharlee: So can these media tactics actually be used to promote your social movement in a way that creates long-lasting changes?
Kerem: The simple answer is of course! We will put these tactics to the test by talking a bit about the feminist social movement, more specifically body positivity and inclusivity as an example.
Sharlee: An offspring of the feminist movement, the body positivity movement has become popular somewhat recently in social media discourse. The main premise of the body positivity movement is that every ‘body’ is beautiful, thus, “celebrating beyond the thin ideal” (Aniulis, 2020). The globalization of social media has made the thin ideal ever more pressing, exposing women directly to the western ideal of what bodies should look like (Aniulis, 2020). This overexposure of the perfect, thin, western body has “demonstrated a small to medium negative impact on women’s body image,” producing forms of body dissatisfaction and other problems including eating disorders (Aniulis, 2020).
Kerem: The origins of the body positivity movement stem from “black, queer, and fat activists during the civil rights movement” (Aniulis, 2020). The movement has primarily “increased prevalence and promotion of diverse bodies” including racially diverse bodies, bodies of all sizes, disabled bodies, and bodies that fight against gender stereotyping (Aniulis, 2020). Since the body positivity movement has been driven through social media platforms, Sharlee and I thought it would be interesting to discuss media tactics that this social movement has used to hold Victoria Secret (the lingerie company) accountable for their actions.
Sharlee: According to ABC News, Victoria Secret encountered major lash back in 2014 due to its “Perfect Body” marketing campaign (Brown, 2014). Victoria Secret released an ad campaign that pictured 10 models with the same slim body with the words “The Perfect Body, Perfect fit, perfect comfort, perfectly soft” (Victoria Secret, 2014). People protested by starting a social media uproar, including starting a petition on Change.org and creating a new slogan for Victoria Secret to better represent the average body. The new slogan read “A Body for Every Body,” encouraging a more healthy and realistic representation of body positivity (Brown, 2014).
Sharlee: When doing research about this Victoria Secret scandal, it became clear that the protesters could have used social media even more effectively by using media tactics. Although the body positivity movement ultimately made Victoria Secret change their ad, the new campaign still depicted the same models in the image. Therefore, only adding the slogan “A Body for Every Body” to a picture of very thin models did not truly change much.
Kerem: One way that people can better promote their social movement is by using media tactics. As mentioned before, Hashtag Campaigns can be used to categorize posts and connect people together. As the Victoria Secret event started to unfold, people started to use their slogan #PerfectBody to shame Victoria Secret on media platforms. People started sharing pictures of their bodies, and took a jab at the Victoria’s Secret models’ unattainable body standards. As the hashtag started to trend in the media platforms, people who were unhappy with the slogan decided to hijack Victoria Secret’s own hashtags to protest.
Kerem: Looking back at Victoria Secrets’ past, people have used many media tactics to express their concerns and opinions about the brand’s controversial advertisement tactics. One way the public approached to showcase their disagreement with Victoria Secret by using media jacking as a tactic. Back in 2002, PETA activists took over the runway show, with poster boards that had opposed both the brand and models who were using/wearing fur. Like PETA, the body positivity movement can also use Media Jacking as a tool. For example, the activists could crash the runway shows and media events by using an already existing audience (plus media tactics) to expand their reach. (Oliver, 2022)
Sharlee: For the body positivity movement to broaden their audience even further, they should have used other media tactics as tools to create a larger impact on the socıal environment. As mentioned before, activists can use identity correction to assume the image of Victoria Secret, with their own ad campaign. The picture could feature diverse bodies, diverse races, and diversity outside of the able-bodied community (overall an intersectionality of models) with the slogan, A Body for Every Body. This puts the activists in a powerful position because they
put Victoria Secret in a difficult position. By assuming their identity instead of fighting against the MNC, the movement assumes the power and the dynamic shifts. If Victoria Secret were to continue using their original models, the company would look bad. If they don’t change the slogan, they look bad. If they change one and not the other, they look bad. If they change nothing, they’re toast. Since this was not exactly the case, Victoria Secret was able to retain support for their company whilst only making a minor change, renaming their marketing campaign.
Sharlee: Spoof websites are also another way in which the body positivity movement could obtain more support and reach. The body positivity campaign could have very easily created a spoof website, almost identical to the Victoria Secret website, while using the positive change framework to push their agenda. This spoof website could include new models, such as LGBTQ+ models, plus-size models, models of different races, and models with disabilities. The website would depict the marketing campaign with brand new models and the new slogan. Additionally, this website could be used to promote other forms of body positivity that the body positivity movement is fighting for. This would put Victoria Secret in a tough situation, possibly encouraging the company (indirectly) to change for the better.
Kerem: If the Body positivity movement were to use app flooding as a tactic, lets say on Twitter, releasing tweets from a spoof Victoria Secret account about the wonderful changes they are implementing to support their new campaign, a Body for Every Body, we believe that the social movement could have had a bigger and more widespread impact.
Kerem: So what exactly does this mean for you and your social movement?
Sharlee: Use social media tactics to your advantage. Media tactics can globalize your social movement, allow for deeper networking to occur, and can produce the long-lasting change that your movement is striving for.
Sharlee: To make all of this information easier to grasp, we have created some steps/tips to help you in the creation of your social movement. First, you need a cause, in other terms, what are you looking to change (in this stage you can use social media to network and form a cohesive community that is fighting for the same goal)? Second, find your target (is this a corporation, social issue, an institution, a political entity? etc). Third, think about where your political opportunities are and where your openings lie within the social/political environment. Fourth, think about how modern social movements operate in the modern world due to globalization (maybe there are different tactics that can be used apart from the media tactics we have discussed today that would push your movement forward). Fifth, think about media tactics that would be beneficial to your social movement. Finally, use these tactics to your advantage to gain widespread support and produce a globalized movement.
Sharlee: We want to end this podcast by thanking our viewers for listening and joining us today. We truly hope that you have learned something new today because we definitely have! We hope that going forward in your activism that you can employ some of these techniques we discussed today and feel confident in the endeavors that you already are, or will be partaking in. Again, thank you for your attention and time! This is Sharlee Palmer signing off,
Kerem: And this is Kerem Sac signing off.