Based on Habib Battah‘s lecture about digital accountability held at AUB a few weeks back, those three are the topics that get attention here in Lebanon. Naturally, I threw them in my headline to make sure people pause when scrolling down their timelines. After MTV’s banana song stunt, there is some truth in our tendency to be attracted to the dangerous, the trivial, or the naked. However, I refuse to believe that all of us are that easily distracted or amused. I know there are others out there worrying about the most fundamental issues that we face every day.
We have enough societal woes to satisfy a stadium full of talented problem solvers. What we don’t have are concrete records of what is going on, what is and isn’t being done, or who is to blame/thank. Lebanon should be an investigative journalist’s wet dream. It’s also that for social workers, policy makers, or anyone interested in urban development, public space, or civil innovation. Unfortunately, when it comes to information and presentation of facts, there is a gap.
In come the activists that have been carrying out intense research on their causes, coming to the field armed with information and ready to tackle the “bad guys” who are usurping land, rights, property, and heritage. Funnily enough, this has pushed journalists to do their homework properly. Activists, bloggers, and anyone with an Internet connection have challenged the media to keep up because they’re bringing expertise, research, and documentation to the table. Booyah.
Habib’s talk focused on the various movements that actually made a difference through online activism. Dalieh, #STOPLIRA, Fouad Boutros Highway, Jesuit Garden in Geitawi, etc. All these projects were disrupted or put on hold in some way. It would be a half-truth to say that these efforts were purely online, Facebook-page avec hashtag-frenzy. All effective groups had grassroots: there was a physical leg to what they were trying to achieve. But the alliances that formed online, the buzz that is created as a result, and the noise that it makes internationally cannot be ignored.They coordinated, organized, and mobilized toward a common goal. The key is to have a very clear issue as a group’s main focus. Baby steps.
Digital accountability has been a useful tool when it comes to exposing wrongdoings and has resulted in officials now seeking the approval of their audiences. Via this digital accountability, a form of digital citizenship has begun because the people feel empowered, like their connection to this country is being valued and their opinions matter.
With all the new ways of communicating, broadcasting, and existence of platforms for public debate, maybe we’ve underestimated our digital voices. We share, post, connect. We tell the world when there is an injustice occurring. We’re not only making noise, we’re being heard.