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We don’t all fight for trees and peace May 13, 2009

Posted by Farzana Rasool in Uncategorized.


It’s been a while since hooded members of the Ku Klux Clan were seen walking around freely or standing around a campfire singing Kumbaya.

This does not mean that racist groups no longer exist or that activism for negative causes like racism is dead. The world would, admittedly, be much happier if hate groups had all died along with the little man with the small moustache (no, I don’t mean Mugabe, although…) who killed millions just because of their Semitic heritage, but this is not the case.

Not all types of activism are positive or progressive. There are many instances, on the digital platform as well, of prejudiced groups. There are many examples, specifically, of sexist and racist groups. These are just two types of negative activism themes.

The digital platform may actually be making the existence of these groups easier than it would have been without it. The main reason for this is the considerable softening or altogether disappearance of fear.

A study conducted by Kathleen Blee (1998) on racist activism groups in America suggested fear is a dominating factor. There is fear on both sides of the activism. Hate activists are afraid of the authorities and police coming after them, and the people they targeted with their messages or as subjects of their messages, both had to fear the actions of the activists.

On the internet this fear dries up because users of blogs and forums can choose to be anonymous or use avatars. Hate activists can air their views and publicly display their messages without worrying about being tracked by authorities. In the same way, users wishing to oppose these views can leave anonymous comments on blogs and websites without worrying about being targeted and physically harmed. The digital age then provides a simple platform for ‘alternative’ activist groups.

Racist activism is prominent on the internet. There are the usual websites and blogs that are created by one or a few people and then gain support by means of comments. There is also the instance of racist Facebook groups that gain support by other users actually signing up as members of these groups.

This type of activism can be seen retrogade, the case where progression is not just stopped but counteracted. In South Africa especially, where the issue of race is so salient and where it is so important for citizens to try and move past race as a dividing factor, this type of activism becomes problematic.

The general idea that it is the older citizens who have experienced apartheid and its horrors is not necessarily the case. Some of the racist groups on Facebook are created by high-school students, the very people that are arguably supposed to be moving beyond race. This is an example of retrogade activism then, where users mobilise towards a morally repugnant goal like racism, xenophobia, hate crime, religious persecution etc.

In response to the growing rise of hate groups on social websites, organisations like Facebook have reacted by shutting down groups in support of the KKK and its ideals. Google has taken the opposing stance and refuses to shut down racist blogs, citing the right to freedom of speech.



1. Z.khan - May 15, 2009

your writing keeps getting better and better. keep it up xxx

2. Nazmeera - May 25, 2009

i agree i agree 🙂 its really interesting cuz thats just the whole dilemma, that people are allowed their own opinions, whether it affects another or not. what can be done if people are still so close minded, and imprisoned in their own racist and prejudiced beliefs? well.. exactly what you’re doing i guess 🙂 blogging it, and opposing it in your own skilled way!

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