The Politics of Context and Hashtagtivism
In the age of hashtags, context has become the new form of political correctness. The politics of context determines where the lines are drawn. Today, the logic behind #notallmuslims is different that of #notallgunowners even though the implied premise is the same: the minority don't represent the majority. But when have you seen #notallLGBT or #notallChristians? The lines of this cultural coloring book are invisible at best. Discerning how to exploit the politics of context is something skillful politicians do. As citizens, we should be diligent about how our own context informs our desires, and realize that deployment of hashtags does not change hearts and minds.
In light of the tragedy of Orlando, discerning political context has become somewhat difficult. If the shooter, Omar Mateen, was gay, does the anti-LGBT framing still matter? Can it be rationalized through religious oppression and internal resentment? Was Mateen a singular actor radicalized through the internet or part of a larger network bent on destruction?
The beautifully terrifying thing about context is that it changes. It's not like a form of identification like gender or sexuality, although the ability of those to change is also up for debate. No matter what the truth of the situation around the Orlando shooting, each side will contextualize it in the to their own narrative.
If he was gay, then it was self-hate.
If he was a radical Islamist, then it was militant Islam.
If he or someone who helped him was here legally, then we need a wall.
If he bought those guns legally, then we need to take them away.
Each of these statements has a converse that can equally benefit the narrative of the right or left.
If he wasn't gay, then it was a hate crime.
If he wasn't a radical Islamist, then it's a mental health issue.
If he and all parties were here legally, ban muslim immigration.
If he bought those guns illegally, then we need more gun control legislation.
For the left, it seems the most effective formulation was a self-loathing individual driven to a hate crime by the oppression built into religion who should never have had guns in the first place.
For the right, it seems that the most effective formulation is a radical Islamic straight man who illegally purchased guns in order to murder Americans because our immigration system is broken and lets threats in.
We forget that many of these categories are not mutually exclusive. You can be a self-loathing gay radical Islamist who was here and purchased guns legally and had mental health issues. It doesnt fit a narrative, but that doesn't mean that it's not a potential truth. When you boil down truth to hashtags, we reduce our thoughts to the most basic level. This linguistic and concept reduction, something we are seeing metastasize on college campuses and social media, is dangerous in a world where accepted plurality leads to happiness and prosperity. We're not going to get anywhere with hashtags; they are great for pushing people's buttons but not so good at changing hearts and minds.