Saturday, September 24, 2011

Politics in the Age of Social Media

The BBC has a story that asks why social media couldn't save Troy Davis? Despite the outcry on social media, in particular--Twitter--Troy Davis was still executed. Celebrities such as Martha Plimpton and Alec Baldwin tweeted about the case, and Outkast artist Big Boi posted photos from outside the jail to his TwitPic account. "Troy Davis", "Letter to Georgia" and NO EVIDENCE were all trending topics in the US throughout the night on social media. Yet all the angry tweets and online petitions did nothing to prevent Davis being executed at 23:08 local time in an Atlanta, Georgia prison.

The inability to turn the digital outrage over Davis into real-life action served as a stark contrast to the new realities of much of the digital world. "We are living in a 21st Century communications infrastructure, but we are still governed by a 20th Century political system," says Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Media, which focuses on the intersection of politics and internet culture. In an age when movies and music can be accessed instantly and a customer service issue can be resolved with a quick tweet, social media has already been cited in the success of the Arab Spring revolutions.

But the case of Troy Davis showed its limits. "I'm not sure that 1,000 twfeets or Facebook posts have the same power as one phone call," says Brian Southwell, a professor at the University of North Carolina. "We've lowered the bar for activism. Now it's a click away."

One factor could have been that all the activity on social media happened too late. Instead of starting the momentum toward clemency earlier in the process, the activity happened far too late to have any effect. One tweeter asked, "To the people yelling injustice for Troy Davis, where were you last month, six months, years ago & not just the week prior to his execution?"

Another factor, is that the action doesn't come from the force of public will, registered online or otherwise. America's execution rate has dropped by 50% since 1999 due to reduced concern about crime, a lower level of homicide, and fiscal austerity, since death penalty cases are more expensive to prosecute. Another factor is the Judges, prosecutors, and American Legal Institute, the "elites" who decided about how the death penalty functions and wrote the guidelines for death penalty legislation, publicly denounced those guidelines in 2010.

On the other hand, overall public opinion for the death penalty remains strong. A 2010 Gallup poll shows that 64% of Americans support the death penalty for someone convicted of murder, down from 65% in 2006 and 68% in 2001.

So, Social media gave the case added publicity, but there was little effect in the outcome for various reasons. Does that mean that Social media is worthless for activism? Not really, it can be used to raise awareness of an issue--particularly issues that are ignored by the Main Stream Media. Maybe people didn't know about the case and weren't involved in the efforts to save Troy Davis, but a lot more people now know what happened. Perhaps the increased awareness of the circumstances of the Troy Davis will help erode support for the death penalty.

The real bottom line is that we are not sure how Social Media will effect activism. Will it raise issues and debate to change public attitude toward social issues? Social media is yet in its infancy where activism is concerned.


  1. I was much involved in that 'protest', in the hastag #TroyDavis; I was one of the few who went against the thoughtless tweeters who had no clue as to the facts of the case.

    In 1989, when Mr. Davis shot and killed Officer Mark MacPhail, the evidence presented convinced a jury of 7 blacks and 5 whites very quickly that he was guilty. It wasn't until years later that witnesses began to recant, due to heave pressure applied to them from anti-Death Penalty advocates.

    These witnesses were under oath and gave convincing, corroborating evidence that resulted in a speedy verdict. Then, for 22 years, advocates for weakening justice filed motion after motion to attempt to find a chink in the case; none was ever found. The case was solid, airtight, and the end result was justified.

    The only problem I have with it is that the deterrence offered by the DP is weakened by the years and years of delayed executions.

    Oh, and the very same day, in Texas, another man was executed; a White Supremacist who dragged James Bryd Jr. to his death. There was no hue and cry about that; I'll warrant you never knew he was even executed, did you?

    Both men were guilty and deserved what they got. The whiners like Alec Baldwin should do what they do best: act. Dance, you singer-actor monkeys, just sing, act and dance!

  2. As I said before, Nathan Beford Forrest would be too obvious.

  3. Anyway, Serr8d, Are you claiming the evidence was persuasive?


    No murder weapon, neither the gun owned by Cole nor that said to be owned by Davis, was ever recovered. A ballistics expert testified that the .38 caliber bullet that killed MacPhail could have been fired from the same gun that wounded Cooper at the Cloverdale pool party, though he admitted doubt about this.

    Although, the ballistics expert was confident that .38 casings found at Cloverdale matched one allegedly later found by a homeless man near the scene of MacPhail's shooting.

    We can get into discrepancies in the testimony of eye witnesses to the shootings as well.

    A friend of the earlier victim Michael Cooper, Benjamin Gordon, stated that the man who shot Cooper was wearing a white T-shirt and blue shorts, though on cross-examination he stated he did not know Davis and had not seen the person who shot Cooper. Air force personnel Robert Grizzard and Steven Sanders also testified; Sanders identified Davis as MacPhail's murderer while Grizzard stated he could not identify the gunman. That among many other discrepancies.

    Not to mention there were numerous witnesses that should have been interviewed, but the PD lacked the resources to do so.

    And, FYI, clemency would mean that Davis would serve life in prison. I know in one US jusdiction that means he would die on the inside. I believe that's the case in Georgia.

    Serr8d, I've noticed that facts don't cloud your view of reality.

  4. Your version of the 'facts' couldn't convince the Georgia Supreme Court or SCOTUS or any of the other 'professional' legal structures put in place to change a thing, now could they? If you thought they could, why did you not argue the case in a more timely fashion?

    Remember, this has been going on for over 20 years. All this stuff has been rehashed countless times. Efforts to chip away at the conviction didn't work. In the end, there was a long-awaited and deserved reckoning.

    As long as the DP is the law of the land, you'll personally have chances to save a few, for whatever reason; to attack the 'facts', make them more to your liking, but, as I tweeted to @ProfBanks, his (and your) time spent trying to save these known societal failures might better be spent working with youth, to stop these crimes and murders before they even happen.

    Let Troy Davis go. Go find and teach a child some respect, some methods of learning how to live in a decaying society, and how not to fail and become a criminal in the first place.

  5. I am already doing what I can to make the world a better place, rather than you who work to ensure that it is a decaying place.

    The problem is that "some of these societal failures" have had quite a bit of help. Try the case of Kurtis Graves featured in the documentary First Person. His father was a Philadelphia Firefighter and his mother a nurse. As the write up said, he was "guided by his family’s emphasis on faith, service, and personal responsibility, he dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and changing the conditions in his North Philadelphia community".

    He was on all sorts of services due to his involvement with the juvenile justice system.

    But, it was his easy ability to get a gun that ruined his life. In places without guns, he would probably have had a fight with the victim. Instead, one person is dead and another's life is ruined.

    Serr8d, you can tweet to your hearts content and blanket the internet your idiotic and ignorant opinions. The only thing you do is firm up our belief that you are an asshole.

    Your solutions are simplistic and far more airy-fairy than those you decry.

  6. As long as the DP is the law of the land

    Serr8d, can you say something that isn't complete bullshit?

    Michaigan has never had the death penalty. Alaska and Hawaii both abolished the death penalty prior to statehood. As of March 2011, the following U.S. states have fully abolished the death penalty: Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia has also abolished the death penalty.

    Hardly, the law of the land.

    I have to admit that the reason I let your comments through, serr8d is that its fun to see you make an idiot of yourself.

    What's even more fun is that you are ignorant of what an asshole you are.

    Keep spouting bullshit because you're always good for a laugh.

  7. Serr8 wrote:"to attack the 'facts', make them more to your liking,"

    Silly Serr8, facts are impervious to what you describe as 'attack'; they exist to be challenged, and if they can't be successfully challenged with intellectual integrity, then they aren't really facts in thefirst place. Laci is perfectly comfortable with facts and reality; he doesn't need to make shit up the way you do.

    The case is far from air tight,and there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to take your advice; you don't have either facts or reason behind it.

    Serr8, you confuse revenge with justice. You wanted to see someone punished, and you're cavalier about who it is. That is very different from justice.

    You do a poor job of judging people; you don't know anything about the people about whom you make these statements. Those assumptions are wrong, they are vicious and bigoted.

    There are plenty of instances where courts should have intervened or ruled differently in history.

    Does Dredd Scott ring a bell?

  8. Serr8d, one of the aspects of intelligence is to be able to recognise the limits of your knowledge.

    This is something you are incapable of doing.

    First off, you misuse the term "Law of the Land". Probably because it sounds hifalutin' and intelligent. But, the phrase law of the land is a legal term, equivalent to the Latin lex terrae (or legem terrae in the accusative case). It refers to all of the laws in force within a country or region, including both statute law and common law.

    Since not all jurisdictions apply the death penalty, and others have various applications of it--the death penalty hardly can be considered "The Law of the Land".

    Furthermore, this is a vastly complex subject, which I have some minimal knowledge.

    But, your understanding of this topic is so incredibly limited from your statements here. Not just in the scope of the application of the death penalty amongst the various states, but in the depth of issues surrounding it.

    There is a Chinese proverb that "it is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are an idiot, then to speak and confirm that fact."

    You do your best, at every opportunity, to show that you have no idea of what you are talking about.

    There is an upcoming post on this topic which surveys the issues surrounding the death penalty on this blog. I doubt you will make an intelligent contribution to the discussion of that.

    By profBanks, I am assuming that you contacted Professor Ralph Richard Banks, the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Professor. I should add that Stanford is one of the US's top ranking law Schools.

    I'm sure that Professor Banks was as impressed by your knowledge on this subject as I am.

  9. Since you failed to publish my last comment, I've nothing further to say to any of you.

    This thread is dead to me. Learn that for future reference; if you fail to publish a comment, you'll be talking amongst yourselves, the echo chamber you so desire, and I won't know of it because I'm unsubscribing to follow-up comments.

    You cannot unfairly control the narrative, srry.

  10. Great post and great comments, also those from Serr8d.

    I don't think the "facts" of the case as described in the first comment are that simple and convincing. There seems to have been more than enough room for reasonable doubt. And the fact that a jury in Georgia convicted the guy and the higher courts remained unmoved hardly convinves me of much.

    Injustices happen in the death penalty and I think this was one of them.

  11. "Great post and great comments, also those from Serr8d."

    So good, that you didn't even post them all. Didn't you use to pride yourself on being one on the few anti-gun blogs not to censor comments?

  12. Actually, anonymous, all four of us use our discretion to moderate comments - what you call censorship.

    If those comments were not posted, how do YOU know what they were?

    A segment of our comments are simply rude personal attacks lacking any merit or contribution to the content / discussion at hand.

    I've suggested to MikeB a technical change, but overall I still expect him to give his co-bloggers significant discretion.

    If the comments that were omitted had such excellent merit, I would suggest they be resubmitted.

  13. "A segment of our comments are simply rude personal attacks lacking any merit or contribution to the content / discussion at hand."

    Good. The first step is admitting you have a problem. Now maybe you guys can work on your name calling and personal attacks.

  14. Touche, FWM...with one distinction.

    The posts on which you comment don't write themselves. As the 'job', er, 'post creators', as well as the comment moderators, we're doing more of the work, if you will.

    I think that gives us a little bit of license, of entitlement, if you will, because as the content providers we are also a very different kind of target.

    So, while we may get cranky and snarky now and again, we do try to be consistently civil, and to stay on topic. We are not perfect in that regard, but we do make the effort more than you might realize. Yes, we occasionally give in to frustration or irritation, and we do sometimes use that option of moderation more aggressively than other times. After researching topics for posts, researching our responses, and dealing with the spam crap, etc., I find deleting someone making a stupid or insulting comment no big deal. If we get too snarky, MikeB will bring it to our attention privately by email (so, yes, there is behind the scenes exchanges between us all, for those who were wondering).

    We don't all agree all the time about our individual responses as co-bloggers.

    But we DO allmutually support the efforts of each other here, presenting a more united front, and I think that is as it should be.

  15. Yes, indeed, I give my co-bloggers "significant discretion" to do whatever they like.

  16. "So good, that you didn't even post them all. Didn't you use to pride yourself on being one on the few anti-gun blogs not to censor comments?

    September 25, 2011 12:52 AM"

    Slight correction, moron. This blog is "Anti-shitheadzwitgunz", not anti-gun. Maybe that's one of the reasons that idiots like you have so much of a problem with reality, you don't recognize it.

    Too sad.

  17. Serr8d sez:
    Since you failed to publish my last comment, I've nothing further to say to any of you.

    Wow, if only I had known how easy it would be to get rid of you, I would have moderated your comments long ago.

    Here are the reasons that post was not published:
    1) It was reptitive
    2) It repeated assertions that had already been shot down
    3) You couldn't address the issues and did what every poorly trained
    debater does in such circimstances--resorted to the ad hominem.
    4)I did it to protect you from making an idiot of yourself

    Serr8d, you enjoy demonstrating that you have no idea of what you are talking about, even when this has been pointed out to you. Instead, you prefer to add further evidence to the fact that you are a buffoon with an extremely hyperinflated valuation of his own baseless opinions. I could get into how wrong you are and how far you had gone off topic as well.

    Your ego is so huge that you would lecture university professors with far more expertise on a topic than you have despite your lack of knowledge on the topic.

    Blog owners have no obligation whatsoever to approve all comments. That's not censorship--it's moderation. Moderation is intended to keep the dialogue under control and on topic.

    This blog is not to give you an ego feed, Serr8d.

    As for insults, I have no problem adding an insult to my critique when it is so obvious that the other person is clearly not understanding me.