The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism
From one of the comments posted at the bottom of the article: "Best Education Piece of Online Activism : This one post has put together a bunch of the best examples of online hacktivism and activism I have ever seen! The loose threads that were dangling in my head from all the Internet theory books I have been reading lately just all got nicely woven together! Thanks Mr. Zuckerman!"
Sami and Astrubal posted the video on their personal blogs… but as known activists, their blogs have been blocked in Tunisia for years. They also posted it on DailyMotion, a video site popular in the French-speaking world. Shortly after, the Tunisian government blocked access to DailyMotion.
This is a good thing if you’re an activist. Most Tunisians don’t identify as activists and might not be engaged with politics. But, like Americans and Europeans, they’re interested in seeing cute cats being adorable online. When the government blocks DailyMotion, it impacts a much wider swath of Tunisians than those who are politicially active. Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites. And even those who could care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they’re willing to censor the millions of banal videos on DailyMotion to block a few political ones.
Blocking banal content on the internet is a self-defeating proposition. It teaches people how to become dissidents - they learn to find and use anonymous proxies, which happens to be a key first step in learning how to blog anonymously. Every time you force a government to block a web 2.0 site - cutting off people’s access to cute cats - you spend political capital. Our job as online advocates is to raise that cost of censorship as high as possible.