#IfTheyGunnedMeDown and What Hashtag Activism Does Right

August 11, 2014 9:21 PM

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This portrayal of Brown, who is African American, recalled the quasi-trial-by-photo of Trayvon Martin, another young black man shot to death. It became another racially charged statement in a controversial killing, as outlets illustrated their stories with pictures that–rather than show the dead teen smiling or in a family context–led commenters to call him a “thug” and thus to suggest that he brought his death on himself.

The term “hashtag activism” has become a kind of putdown lately, with the connotation that it’s substituting gestures for action, as if getting something trending is a substitute for actually going out and engaging with the world. And sometimes the criticism is justified: no amount of social-media R...

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