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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the commitment to non-violence, and what that means when squared with the idea that oppression is violent. I think it’s very easy to point to the successes of non-violent movements, and I think that it’s also really wonderful that non-violent resistance to oppression has worked in the past. However, I also have mixed feelings about how resistance to oppression has changed tactically since the advent of social media.

On the one hand, social media enables non-violent protesters to circumvent institutional media, thereby allowing them to depict, say, police brutality at a protest from their own point of view. However, these points of view often only get picked up by people who support them in the first place. They are merely preaching to the choir.

Which is to say nothing of the fact that non-violent protest seems to be losing traction in many ways. People are jaded with the format of most protests — although this does offer exciting opportunities for people working on social media projects to use their technologies to respond to this need — and very little is sensational about people with signs marching on anything these days. On the other hand, many experiments with using social media to intervene in situations has been largely very ephemeral, which is a big complaint about social media-related justice work in general. And the internet in general.

So what are we to do? I think it’s a many-faceted problem, but I also don’t know about ruling out a certain degree of militancy in responding to certain situations. I don’t think armed conflict or violent aggression is, in fact, the solution to every problem, nor am I advocating meaningless violence. However, in cases where all legal and civil resistances have failed, sometimes you have to raise your fist. Stonewall was a riot, not a candlelight vigil.

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