Social Networking–the Counter-Organizing Challenge

The Center for New Community’s Building Democracy Initiative is a leading source for information about organized hate groups operating in the United States–their leaders, their donors, their messages, their tactics. When I was working actively in the immigrant rights movement, I consulted them frequently for help discrediting the anti-immigrant organizations that descended on Kansas to fight our legislative agenda or counter-protest our events.

Today, while I’m no longer on the front lines of immigrant rights advocacy, I still receive the Building Democracy reports and alerts, including content from their relatively new Imagine 2050 blog (2050 being the year that Caucasians will no longer be a majority in the U.S.–I don’t like the name, because you know how I feel about the whole ‘demographic imperative’ argument). This recent post really caught my attention–a review of the use policies of social networking sites, their penetration by white nationalist and other hate groups, and the implications of the adoption by organized bigots of this new technology.

It makes a lot of sense, really, that anti-Semite and racist organizations would have success recruiting members on social networking sites; their relatively anonymity and ability to spread an uncontested ideology play into the strategies of these groups. For more details on how sites are trying to prevent being used as tools of racist propaganda, you should read the post. But my thoughts immediately turned to concern that progressive organizations and causes may be ‘out-organized’ in the social networking arena, and worry about the long-term consequences if we don’t adequately exploit these technologies to advance our agendas.

I know that time is limited for every social work advocate working on any cause critical to the well-being of vulnerable populations. I know that there’s always more to do than we can possibly do. And yet here I am urging us to all add more to our plates. But the truth is that news like this should serve as wake-up calls or, for those who are already tuned in to the organizing potential of social networking, more of a gentle reminder prod. We can’t ignore these new avenues, and we can’t cross our fingers and hope that those who stand opposed to every value we hold dear haven’t caught on to them either. We have to present a strong, coherent, progressive, alternative in every arena, and we have to expose organized hatred for what it is, everywhere and every time. And that means we’ve got to be there, making sure we have more ‘friends’ than they do.

Social Networking: A Place for Hate (from Imagine 2050)

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