When politicians and celebrities use national tragedies to boost their profile, we call it shameless self-promotion. When civilians do it, we call it activism. Hashtag activism is emblematic of this generation’s insatiable narcissistic hunger for identity and meaning. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, you can read about a tragedy, post an inane Tweet in response, and make the whole thing about you within seconds.
I’ll never forget watching “Teens React to Newtown shootings” on YouTube and feeling sick to my stomach when one of the first contributors—a weepy blonde girl with oversized glasses and facial piercings—said in response to Obama’s suggestion that the massacre should prompt America’s parents to hug their children—“My parents didn’t do that, they were like ‘Oh, see you later’”—as if that was somehow going to crystallize everything and bring about the gun-law revisions that the video purported to favor. If I were in a shopping mall or public library when a gunman burst in and started blowing people away, I genuinely believe that my first thought would be “Holy shit, I hope I make it out of here so some idiot can’t use my death to expand their follower base.” It’s almost a scary a prospect as actually being gunned down.
Given that this vulgar trend of disingenuous exploitation has been around ever since hashtags themselves have existed, it should come as surprise to no one that before the family members of Elliot Rodger’s killing spree have even had time to make funeral plans for their deceased loved ones, a clamoring throng of solipsistic ninnies has taken to social media to fight for their right to not be horribly killed. Technopedia defines hashtag activism as “the act of fighting for or supporting a cause that people are advocating through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networking websites,” but I don’t see where the fighting part comes in.
After all, you can’t “fight” the existence of unstable weirdos such as Elliot Rodger by Tweeting about his crimes after the fact any more than you can stop a hurricane by yelling at it. In truth, you can’t stop a hurricane at all, and while there is undoubtedly more that people could be doing to prevent further spree killings in America, proselytizing via the Internet in a way that is exclusively about your feelings and how the issue affects you has got to be at the bottom of the list, right under “hoping for the best” and “checking for homicidal virgins under the bed at night.”
Naturally you could argue that the benefit to #YesAllWomen is that it “raises awareness,” but if you listen to forensic psychiatrists’ opinions on the subject, more exhibitionistic awareness-raising is the last thing America needs. Letter-writing campaigns regarding gun laws would be far more productive and effective, but they lack the opportunity for open self-aggrandizing that microblogging possesses. Elliot Rodger wanted female attention, and thanks to the #YesAllWomen contributors, he’s getting more of it than he could have ever imagined.
Dr. Park Dietz, one of the world’s leading forensic psychiatrists, has repeatedly warned America’s news broadcasters that depicting mass shooters as anti-heroes will only create a narrative through which potentially murderous frustrated weirdos who identify with the killer can justify their actions to themselves before taking their fantasies that final important step into the real world. Then again, the news doesn’t listen, so why should anyone else? And yes, #YesAllWomen, I am saying that you’re asking for it. Fucking Tweet about me and see if that does anything, you egomaniacal clams.
Andrea Dworkin said of Marc Lépine, the shooter behind the 1989 Montreal Massacre who killed in the name of opposing feminism, “It is incumbent upon each of us to be the woman that Marc Lépine wanted to kill,” thereby granting his agenda a genuine political gravitas instead of simply writing it off as an afterthought, the ravings of a lunatic. It’s funny, because nobody ever claims Munchausen syndrome as a men’s-rights issue, despite the fact that it has claimed more lives than Elliot Rodger could have done in a hundred lifetimes.
And yes, I’m aware that Munchausen kills women as well as men. So did Lépine and Rodger. If the Tweeters behind #YesAllWomen really cared about the legacies of the victims, their own dignity, or the lives of women everywhere, they would drop their pointless campaign immediately. But they won’t, because they only care about their precious little digital selves. It’s truly amazing how much human stupidity can be condensed into one hundred and forty characters.