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Jesse Larner Headshot

Twitter Won't #BringBackOurGirls

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MICHELLE OBAMA
Michelle Obama

Sorry, but I have to say this: Am I the only left-leaning person who finds Michelle Obama's ‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬ tweet (and the whole Twitter approach to the outrage of the Boko Haram kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Nigeria) to be smug, opportunistic and worse than useless?

Worse than useless because it gives us all the illusion that we're doing something meaningful, and therefore makes us subtly less inclined to actually do anything. This vague plea to (addressed to whom? Boko Haram? The governments of the region? The U.S. and Europe? Our social media friends?) takes the focus away from the real actions—actions that Michelle Obama is in a position to advocate for, but which her husband has many constraints on pursuing—that might help end such horrors in the long run. Things such as:


  • Pursuing real green energy efficiency (which, contrary to the Koch Brothers' propaganda, is both doable and necessary), which would then enable us to treat Saudi Arabia, the hidden hand behind Boko Haram and much other evil, as the enemy it is.


  • Banning American oil companies, and oil companies that wish to do business with the U.S., from operating in Nigeria until that country makes a serious effort to confront corruption and honor international treaty obligations relating to women's rights.


  • Making trade, investment, banking services and access to American higher education for the children of Nigerian elites conditional upon the same things.


  • Investing in secular, accessible education programs in countries like Nigeria and Pakistan, a more effective and cheaper approach to destroying Islamic militancy than a constant state of low-level war (although it would of course beg the question: If we can educate Pakistanis and Nigerians, why can't we educate Americans?)

These things might actually have some effect. Taking to Twitter has no effect except to increase our own sense of righteousness. It is action by slogan: "I stand with ___ !" "We are all ___ !" But we are not standing beside the Nigerian schoolgirls, and our life experience could not be more different. If we are unable or unwilling to really help, it is unseemly to attempt to make ourselves feel better with hollow expressions of solidarity.