Slaktivists Are The New Activists

The election of 2008 seems to have made the slacker generation less politically apathetic. Now we're seeing slaktivists — a hybrid of a slacker and activist.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with Day to Day and What's the New What?

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

We have one of these stories for you every week from Youth Radio. We're tracking trends among the young people. Hope is the new rebellion, inner city the new in-crowd.

CHADWICK: And with the latest fad, here's Nico Savidge.

NICO SAVIDGE: What's the new what? I say slacktivism is the new apathy. Everyone knows the old stereotypes about the so-called apathetic teenagers of Generations X and Y. We couldn't care less about politics. We'd rather rock out on "Guitar Hero" than learn about issues affecting our community. We're apathetic. We're tuned out. We're uninformed. But now, my peers are finding a new way to get involved in politics, slacktivism.

Mr. MIKE DICENZO (Assistant Editor, The Onion): (Reading) For years, government-backed Arab forces known as the Janjaweed militia had attempted to wipe out black farmers in Sudan's western Darfur region.

SAVIDGE: That's Mike DiCenzo, senior writer at The Onion, reading from the satirical atlas, "Our Dumb World."

Mr. DICENZO: (Reading) However, just as they were about to set fire to another village, word reached them that an American teenager thought that what was happening in Sudan, quote, "sucked." After learning that all her friends agreed, they immediately called off the whole genocide.

SAVIDGE: DiCenzo was mocking slacktivism, the hybrid of slackers and activists.

CAITLIN GREY: I get at least five emails a day asking me to either sign a petition, send a letter, call a congressman...

SAVIDGE: Sixteen-year-old Caitlin Grey is a classic slacktivist.

GREY: Would be that I always type in my name and email address when they ask me to sign a petition. When they ask me to call a congressman? Never done it once.

SAVIDGE: You won't see slacktivists marching the street for their beliefs, but you will see their passive forms of protest on blogs and Facebook pages. Here, Caitlin reads off some of the causes she supports online.

GREY: End the Seal Hunt, Stop Global Warming, Rebirth the Earth, Trees for Tomorrow - didn't even know I was on that one - PETA...

SAVIDGE: While Caitlin is realistic that her Facebook support doesn't affect those causes, some people think that these symbolic acts create real change. Slacktivism may have replaced out right apathy, but often the only thing it changes is how active people think they are. However, organizations like Product Red have turned slacktivism into action. So far, proceeds from Red-branded MP3 players, t-shirts and laptops have raised more than 110 million dollars for HIV/AIDS treatment and education in Africa. Although examples of effective slacktivism are rare, it's great that my peers have found a way to educate themselves about major issues in the world. Even if our political dedication stops when we leave the Internet, awareness is often the first step in creating real change. It is just like those old GI Joe PSAs.

(Soundbite of GI Joe Public Service Announcement)

Unidentified Child: Now I know.

Unidentified Man: And knowing is half the battle.

Unidentified Man and SAVIDGE: (Singing) GI Joe.

SAVIDGE: Oh, that's embarrassing.

(Soundbite of song "Slacker")

Mr. TECH N9NE: (Singing) (I'm a slacker) Never did I have a lotta dough. (I'm a slacker) Smoking pot and watching videos. (I'm a slacker) Go whichever way the wind blows...

BRAND: Nico Savidge on slacktivism. What's the New What? is Youth Radio and Day to Day's weekly series on cultural trends.

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