Unit 6: Antiwar Movements, Internet Analysis and Final Paper « The Socjournal

In this unit, we conclude our introductory look at social movements by looking at current anti-war movements, and by examining the Internet and the WWW as potential resources for those interested in initiating social change. Recall that we started our journey in Unit 1 with a definition of a social movement as group of people who organize to make some sort of change (i.e., to make things right in their eyes) to social, political or economic arrangements. We continued our examination by looking at how social movements are formed. In particular, we considered the importance of ideas, ideology and indoctrination in the mobilization of resources, and looked at how parents, teachers and especially the media play a role in the indoctrination of the population into mind sets that discourage the organization of social movements. A particular focus on the media left us with a better understanding of how we are all subjected to public relations (cum propaganda), and the significance of PR in the generation of ideas and mobilization (or demobilization) of resources. We saw public relations used to increase tolerance for an addictive behaviour (smoking), and also how it was used against workers’ movement, anti-war movements, etc.

Even though this is an introductory course, our understanding of social movements has become fairly sophisticated. By the end of the analysis of media, we saw quite clearly that battle to define “what is right” takes place first in the realm of ideas. Give a population a certain set of ideas (e.g., “women are weaker and therefore shouldn’t vote”), and make the population believe these ideas are natural and inevitable, and you make the formation of a social movement (e.g., around women’s right to vote) well nigh impossible. On the other hand, if you change ideas, if you undermine biological arguments about women’s inferiority, if you make arguments for their inclusion and reject all justifications for their exclusion, in short if you change people’s ideas about gender, then you have created the basis for a social movement which, if nurtured properly, may eventually become the basis for social, political or economic change.

We saw some examples of this process in Unit 5, when we examined Vandana Shiva’s book on social movements that emerge around issues relevant to Third World nations. We looked at issues of biopiracy, abuse of water resources and so on. These were practical examples of how individuals distributed information, organized and resisted the incursion of western corporations into their public spaces. They are interesting examples, but what is most intriguing for me is the way the social movements are organized. India has a dense population and farmers and others who are threatened by the exploitation are parts of communities that communicate and rub shoulders every day. The situation is different in the West, where we rarely form communities around productive activities and where the very media that purport to connect and inform us actually separate and divide us, and control our thinking. We’ve seen that Western corporations sometimes engage in ethically reprehensible business activities, yet we find no media play of these issues. Consider, for example, the war in Iraq. All we get through our mainstream media is a sanitized version that encourages us to believe in the magnanimous quality of the Western military intervention. We find no critical analysis and, what is more shocking, and absolute silence on anything that might cause us (the general population of North America) to question our role this tragedy.

And there are things that might cause us to question our role. Consider the case studies of resistance provided by Radical Peace, or the release, on the WikiLeaks site (http://www.wikileaks.org/ see also http://www.collateralmurder.com/) of shocking video of US soldiers firing on children and news reporters. Perhaps, considering how our media in the West is concentrated and corporate owned, the lack of attention to US activities is not surprising. In this course, we have learned the importance of ideas to the formation of social movements, and the people who own the media are aware of the significance. The key fact is, news papers, television, radio, these are all owned by wealthy individuals. Since many of the social and economic issues identified in this course that might lead to social movements are basically class, gender or even ethnic issues, and since these class issues often go against financial and political interests of the rich who own the media, it is not surprising that the traditional media refused to cover, in an unbiased fashion, issues that might otherwise challenge their position and prerogative. Under conditions like this, where the media is concentrated and the flow of information tightly controlled, the formation and mobilization of social movements becomes problematic.

Or so it has been in the past. Since 2001 however the Internet and the World Wide Web have emerged as a possible alternative, in the struggle to define what is right and wrong, to the mainstream media. As just about everybody is probably aware now, the Internet is an amazing repository of information. From ease with which individuals can put up their own websites, to the growing significance of the blogosphere, to the proliferation of social media and social sites, the Internet is revolutionizing the way we connect with each other. No longer are we dependent up on what the mainstream media will tell us, now we have the Internet and the World Wide Web and in his unit we are going to pick up on this and examine the Internet as a possible alternative to corporate owned media for the mobilization of social movements. In this unit you are going to apply what we’ve you’ve learned so far in this class and turn it towards a detailed examination of a social of your choice. You are going to pick a social movement, examine its issues, its history, take a look at its ideas, examine the struggle to change people’s ideas about things, and follow that to the actual transformation of reality that occurred.

Final Paper

For your final paper, you are expected to research a social movement of your choice. You can either use the social movement you researched in the last unit, or pick a new one (use the same list in the last unit). You may also provide your own choice though if you do, make sure you discuss it with your tutor first. The social movement must have some Internet/WWW presence.

In your paper, I want you to provide a history and analysis of a social movement. You want to provide an explanation of its issues and ideas. What is the reality that the social movement is confronting? Is it engaged in an effort to change people’s ideas about things (to define right from wrong), and if so how? For example, the Alberta-grown Little Warriors movement spends time educating people about the prevalence of child sexual abuse. People have to understand that child sexual abuse is a serious issue and a prevalent problem before they even consider the possibility of joining in solidarity against it. Beyond a look at the ideas and issues of the social movement, and any education and information dissemination they engage in, I also want you to look at the activities of the group (the sorts of things they do to resist injustice or change reality), and any successes they have had. In some cases, when you cannot find the information by examining their web presence, or doing additional research, this may require you to actually contact organizations and ask questions, but please feel free to do so.

Before you write you paper, have another look at this course’s introductory text. It provides concepts and ideas useful to your analysis. Also, when you conduct your analysis, I want you to pay particular attention to the movements use of the Internet and WWW. What are they doing on the Internet? What strategies are they using? What difficulties are they having? Read their websites carefully and look for successes or failures.

Keep in mind that this is an academic paper, and you do want to do additional research. Contact the library and scan the catalogues and databases for articles on “social movements and the World Wide Web.” In your academic analysis, you should cover issues relevant to this course. Also, be sure to take a critical look at the Internet and the World Wide Web as a possible locus for social movement activity. Ask yourself the following questions. Do you feel that the Internet and the World Wide web provide a viable alternative to the mainstream media? In what ways does the WWW as an alternative information source challenge the domination of corporate media and provide space for a more democratic definition of right and wrong? Are there particular challenges that social movement organizers face when using the WWW as an alternative? If you feel that the WWW does have potential, what are some things that you feel could undermine that potential and weaken the impact?

To summarize, the paper should be between 10 and 12 double-spaced, typed pages. Use 11 point, Times New Roman or an equivalent font. You need a minimum of ten references, five of which should be journal articles. Your paper should focus on outlining the history of the social movement, identifying the issues the movement is concerned with, its accomplishments, and any challenges (ideological, political, economic) that it has faced. Be sure to include an analysis of how the movement emerged, how it mobilized resources, what obstacles it faced, its use of social networks, and its use of the Internet (if appropriate) Use Chapter 3 of the Social Movements text, the information on ideology, and the examples used in our analysis of homework, competition and the media to help frame your analysis. Also, be sure to have a second look at the assessment rubric, provide in the Student Manual.


On completing this unit, you should be able to

  1. identify the positive potentials of the Internet and the WWW for the mobilization of social movements
  2. identify some of the downsides or difficulties associated with Internet communication technologies.

Reading Assignment

Read the textbook identified below; it is included in your course package.

Hathaway, W. (2010). Radical peace: People refusing war. Walterville, OR: Trine Day LLC.

Go to the Digital Reading Room for Sociology 288 and read the articles below.

Atton, C. (2003, April 1). Reshaping Social Movement for a New Millenium. Social Movement Studies, 2 (3-15). http://mediaresearchhub.ssrc.org/resource.2006-07-15.062143-1/resource_view

Hsu, C. (2003). The Internet and social movements: An exploratory study of a Taiwanese virtual vobilization” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/1/2/0/0/p112008_index.html#get_document

Petit, C. (2004). Social movement networks in Internet discourse. Paper presented ant the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, San Francisco, August 17, 2004. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from http://www.irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows25/irows25.htm

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