Modern activism makes a lot of noise but doesn’t get a lot of results

by John Ciulla, Contributor

Activism is no longer limited to marches and sit-ins. With social media’s meteoric rise as a news medium, rallying people to a cause is only as difficult as clicking send. Modern activism has become more about being provocative than pursuing tangible results. This type of provocative activism is arbitrary and ineffective in the face of real-world issues.

Two examples of these modern provocateurs are Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart tech editor and alt-right media personality, and Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback. Yiannopoulos, a proponent of “political incorrectness,” uses his platform as a Breitbart columnist and his speeches on campuses around the country to attack feminism and modern progressive culture. Kaepernick gained notoriety by sitting in protest of the national anthem.

Yiannopoulos is widely considered to be the face of the alt-right movement. On his speaking tours and on, Yiannopoulos contests the necessity of politically correct culture. Political correctness is seen by many to be a means of censorship or “doublespeak” to control the opinion of the general population. To combat political correctness, Yiannopoulos has become a provocateur intent on breaching the boundaries of civil discourse. Simply talking about politically correct culture and feminism critically might be well and good, but Yiannopoulos does not stop there. He goes out of his way to offend those that disagree with him. He can do whatever he wants as far as his rhetoric is concerned, but what does that accomplish?

Yiannopoulos and many of those who agree with him are upset with what they say are the left’s efforts to silence viewpoints from the right. While understandable, by going out of his way to offend liberals Yiannopoulos provides them a super villain. If a group has the power to suppress your views in the way Yiannopoulos and his proponents believe, then why give them just cause to do so? The shock value of his statements may be enough to rally a crowd, but if that crowd is made up of people who already agree with him, what has he accomplished? What happens is conservative speakers with an actual message are unable to speak on college campuses because administrators associate them with Yiannopoulos’ vitriolic rhetoric.

Being provocative for provacation’s sake does nothing to broaden conservative ideology and he proves that point every day.

Kaepernick sat during the national anthem to protest what he sees as the oppression of minority groups in the United States. Did everyone take what he said into consideration and begin a national conversation about race?


Instead of talking about race, the entire nation was swept into a heated debate over the first amendment and the merits of standing for the national anthem. There is nothing wrong with this discussion and it is actually an interesting debate, but it becomes a problem when it overshadows the intended message to the point where it is unrecognizable.

If Kaepernick had just raised the topic during an interview or in a social media post he would have been able to adequately convey his message. Perhaps he would not have sparked a national debate, but what is the point of starting a conversation if the conversation is not about the issue you raised? If the method of protest overshadows the intended message, then the protest failed.

There is no longer a need to create awareness for a cause. One tweet is all it takes to let everyone know that there is an issue. Awareness does nothing to solve real-world problems. When activists start unnecessary arguments and gain notoriety, their causes suffer and nothing changes. If people think that all that is needed to solve problems are “likes” and “shares,” nothing gets done. To stand up for a cause, do not be provocative just for the sake of being provocative. Do something that will lead to tangible results and solve real-world issues.