**Content Warning: Police Brutality Civil disobedience has long been utilized as a tool to enact substantial social and political change. As time progresses, the platform through which civil disobedience is conducted changes. It was first expressed in Sophocles’ play Antigone, where Antigone gave a speech urging people to listen to morality rather than legality. Since then, civil disobedience has taken many different forms, from the iconoclastic writing of Thoreau to the bombastic revolutionary tactics of Malcom X, from the organized strikes of the Pullman workers to the immensely loud voices of dissent during the anti-war movement of the 60s, civil disobedience has undoubtedly changed the world. But this raises the question, how will protests change as a result of the shift towards the digital era? The digital era has ushered in a wave of progressivism. Dissenting voices have been amplified, and those who have been victimized are given a platform. Progressive ideologies are having a resurgence due to this amplification. Teenagers and children who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to the “radical” and subversive ideas of reform and abolition without social media are now able to access these sources of information. This is crucial in two key ways- First, the rebirth of progressivism strengthens movements, and second, the rebirth of progressivism allows for streamlined organization, and subsequent survival of movements Social media has emboldened movements in a truly unprecedented way. The most recent movements have gained traction, and through social media, were able to enact substantial and immeasurable change. The George Floyd Protests in the summer of 2020 ushered criminal justice reform in 25 states, and made significant headway towards ending qualified immunity. Through the ability to reach literally millions of people, the message of Black Lives Matter was spread around the world almost instantly. In the days following George Floyd’s lynching, protests exploded across America. Within weeks, protests were happening around the globe. Arguably even more integral to the movement was the aestheticization of revolution. Civil disobedience and revolution is always cast in a negative light, which overall harms the efficacy of movements. People felt alienated by the iconography of BLM when it first came to notoriety in 2013. People felt threatened by the narrative and notions assigned to the prison abolition movement spurred by Angela Davis, despite the ideas of both movements being popular. Only through a focused and concise change in optics was the BLM movement of 2020 and the like able to garner such immense success. Making leftist theory and petitions and information about the ideologies of the movement easily accessible wasn’t enough, but making it cool was. And this has historical backing, the protests of Martin Luther King and the anti-war movement of the 60s was reliant on branding and nomenclature, the support of celebrities and the establishment of events such as Woodstock lended to their success immensely. Working “ACAB” into the media zeitgeist, amplifying songs like “Fuck Donald Trump”, “Be Free”, “Alright”, and “Black Parade”, lifting up black owned business, and countless other measures ensured that the message surrounding the BLM movement would be felt, not just heard. The digital age has made protests even easier to organize, as well. Through the ability to reach millions, movements can spread the world. Arab Spring, a 2011 revolution against authoritarian regimes, was orchestrated almost entirely online. BLM gained incredible traction due to the internet. Revolutions are also able to stay afloat online, incubated by the aforementioned aestheticization. When movements are given the platform to survive, the understanding of the message of the movement expands. The grasp on the true meaning of BLM became a subcutaneous push, an outcry against a flawed criminal justice system, which necessitates structural change. The cries for change were only heard two or three weeks into the protests, when “Defund the Police” and ACAB assumed its position in the consciousness of the protest, even far after the majority of movements die. As calls to defund the police continue, as declarations of ACAB continue, the epidural packaging strips away as well, it is no longer understood as a call to strictly cut the funding that goes to the police, it signifies a larger ere of recalictrance against the policing system as an institution. The power social media has to embolden and legitimize movements cannot be understated. Social media allows for movements to be heard widely and provides the proper cushioning for them to accomplish the type of change they wish to achieve. Only through a shift in optics and allowing them to breathe are movements able to enact substantial change.
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