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Links 1 through 7 of 7 by Shaun Green tagged engagement

Two things occurred to me following that workshop. First, there's the commonly-voiced opinion of 21st century kids as a bunch of spoiled, easy exam-taking, low attention span, glazed, Minecraft-addled, cultureless saps who wear Ramones t-shirts without knowing who the band are and are generally of more pallid stock than their parents and grandparents' generation ("We gave the world Hendrix, The Clash and The Sex Pistols. What have you given us? One Direction and Olly Murs? Gold help us if there's a rock festival" etc.) Forget it. As happens frequently when I talk to teens, I'm impressed by their articulacy, their consciousness of the world on whose threshold they stand. When I think of myself at that age, pulling hair, eating dirt and reading the Beano, I'm chastened. Secondly, these kids are going to learn all about being dumped on when they emerge into the world of work and find that rents have risen way out of proportion to any wages they might earn for their services, that owning a house is probably out of the question for 20 years minimum and that they're generally saddled with a debt accrued by a previous baby boomer generation so fond of looking down on them smugly. And then you will see a real return to levels of disaffection that we haven't seen the 1980s.

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Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.

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But by documenting the abuse of these trolls, we also seem to have inadvertently ceded the internet to them. So now, instead of reading the witty, insightful tweets from a journalist or woman activist while I’m browsing online, what I’ll increasingly see all day is them retweeting or responding to snarky comments, outright trolling, assholes, and derailers. They’ve given over their entire megaphone, the blog or the Twitter or the Facebook account they’ve worked so hard to build, to airing the views of terrible people. By seeking visibility and transparency they’ve given trolls exactly what they wanted – an audience.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about gamergate and power and silence lately. Mostly from a desperate desire to do something about this whole mess that is seeing a roving, angry mob pick out and violently attack one great women developer/critic after another for well over a month now. Well over a month. The anti-gg crowd (what I like to call “normal human beings capable of empathy”) is pretty fairly split, I think, between those who don’t want the fuel the fire and think gg is something best ignored (certainly, it doesn’t deserve our time or effort) and those who think it need to be actively countered.

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On her Tumblr, Flavia frequently discusses feminist ethics and praxis; she talks about the transformation of theory, ideas, and dreams into concrete action. She also touches upon the critical importance of accountability among the feminist leadership, and feminists in general, and her coverage of these matters always brings me back to the critical dividing line between words and action. Not just within feminism but generally, as a society, as human beings; we owe each other not just theory but also praxis, and accountability.

Turning words into action can be immensely challenging, but it’s a key part of behaving ethically, and responsibly. A case study in exactly why praxis is just as important as theory unfolded in Sweden on 15 April at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. Five ‘birthday cakes’ were commissioned to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Swedish Artists Association and world art day.

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To say that humans are fond of self-delusion would be something of an understatement. Lacking the sort of all-encompassing social meta-narrative that delivers us a pre-packaged sense of place and identity, many of us choose to define ourselves through what we do. Some of us sing, some of us paint, some of us write and some of us have anonymous sex with multiple partners. We define ourselves not merely by doing these things but through a process of emotional investment whereby how well we are doing as individuals becomes intimately tied to how well we are doing at a particular activity.  This process of emotional investment offers us some respite from the postmodern condition but it is also a minefield of self-delusion.

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The radical left has a terrible image problem. It has little ability to communicate in a way that resonates with ‘ordinary’ people. As it has been swept aside by the onward march of the right, this is a problem that has only got worse.

So I want to set out a few ideas for how the left could improve its PR setup. Before I’m drowned in accusations of cockiness, these are just my suggestions. Please, add your own. And yes, I’m sure I’ve violated every single one. But this is how I think that I, and other lefties, can improve.

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