What has the internet brought us? Lolcats, the crazy frog and countless autotune remixes? Most well-known internet viral phenomena ranges from the banal to the irritating. But recently, more people than ever are starting to see social media as more than just a means to waste time at work. We are beginning to discover just how effectively we can use the web to push for social change and justice.
One such viral campaign I have stumbled upon recently is the call to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), the controversial US law which bans gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving in the military
President Barack Obama pledged to repeal the law as part of his presidential campaign but moves have been consistently blocked by republican senetors, in particular John McCain. But campaigners have not given up, and the online push to repeal the law has spread like wildfire over the internet.
You Tube has become awash with ‘My DADT story’ videos, in which ex-servicemen who have been discharged for being gay or lesbian speak to the camera about their experiences.
One of the most shared is by is ex-Sailor Jared Mcintosh. On 3rd August he posted a video explaining how he took a mobile phone containing pictures of him and his boyfriend on to a restricted submarine. The official reason for his dismissal was given as both taking banned equipment in to a restricted area, and for being gay.
The video soon racked up over 60,000 hits and Jared posted several follow-ups. The beauty of the internet is that it allows us to share stories such as this which would otherise pass by unheard. In this case, these young peoples’ stories have brought the injustice of DADT to the attention of people who perhaps would never have considered its implications.
Even Lady Gaga has joined in the online campaigning. In the past she would have had to go through traditional media to broadcast such a message – unlikely given its content.
But has any of this acheived anything? Last week saw the publication of a US Pentagon study which found over 70% of military personnel don’t believe openly gay soldiers serving in the army would lower morale in any way, and public support for a repeal is at roughly 65%.
With stats like this, holding off a repeal is looking tougher than ever for the seante.