A political activist is a fairly broad term that can be applied to people campaigning on a single issue, a limited cause such as a local environmental concern, all the way through to those who have waged lifelong campaigns against injustice or for human rights and dignity. The idea itself goes back as far as the Suffragettes, whose political activism meant the cause of women’s rights could no longer be ignored. In the end, the Suffragettes’ brand of activism was highly visible and relied upon this. However, today’s activists can be unseen, the so-called keyboard warriors.
Modern activism often takes a more multi-faceted approach to achieve its goals. An online campaign may be combined with lobbying and events such as snap protests, sit-ins or visible blockades. While online campaigns are in some ways the inheritors of the political pamphlets that circulated in various causes a hundred years ago, they are far more persistent in their effect and scope, reaching a very large social media audience that those early political pamphleteers could only dream of.
Does Political activism work?
In many cases, yes. The number of causes that were once seen as fringe and are now mainstream are numerous. Non-discrimination on the basis of race and sexuality are two of the most visible. Hard as it may be to believe, these took many years to achieve by various groups committed to the cause. One of the goals of political activism was always to get politicians to take up their cause as well as the public. In this way, a campaign can build momentum.
These days politicians and their advisors, such as Alastair Campbell, are often political activists in themselves. The various causes he takes up can be seen here www.theneweuropean.co.uk/contributor/alastair-campbell. Many Politicians enter politics because of a cause or causes that inspired them when young.
The Future of activism
As we enter the complex world of artificial intelligence and chatbots, it is easy to be pessimistic about the future of activism. Some believe that people faced with a deluge of often false information and the increasing use of deep fake media, will turn their backs on many campaigns for justice and equality. There is no doubt this will need to be carefully navigated but most activism that is successful has at its core some truth, some concept that people instinctively understand. This will not change.