I think of it as "Willsplaining" for obvious reasons.
So I shrugged off his kind of "Hey, kid president, get off my White House lawn" column of a few weeks back because--why yes, I did think it was pretty insulting to basically call the president childish, but on the other hand, I don't yet know what it's like to have a president who is younger than me, and I guess that might feel weird, huh? I mean, if Marco Rubio became president, he'd still be a whole year and a half older than me. Maybe that is kind of a mindscrew. Who is this punk who uses the slang and has smoked the marijuana and thinks he is the boss of the country anyway, the whippersnapper? It's a generation gap thing. Maybe Will can't, like, relate.
But this thing here about putting down hashtag activism is pretty awkward in more than a few ways:
CHRIS WALLACE: I want to turn back to the kidnapping, the terrible kidnapping of these Nigerian schoolgirls in the little bit of time we have left in this segment. Because this week Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai joined the Bring Back Our Girls movement. More than 2 million people have now tweeted the hash tag. And George, I'm just curious. Because I'm not saying I was that familiar with this phenomenon. It's even got a name, #activism. And I'm curious what you make of it. Do you think that this is significant and helpful? And can make progress? Or do you think it's really about helping the people who tweet the hash tag feel better about themselves?
GEORGE WILL: Exactly that. It's an exercise in self-esteem. I do not know how adults stand there facing a camera and say, bring back our girls. Are these barbarians in the wild of Nigeria are supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, oh, Michelle Obama is very crossed with us, we better change our behavior.
WALLACE: It's trending on Twitter.
WILL: Power is the ability to achieve intended effects. And this is not intended to have any effect on the real world. It's a little bit like environmentalism has become. But the incandescent light bulb becomes the enemy. It has no effect whatever on the planet, but it makes people feel good about themselves.
I'm just going to start with "barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria" if you don't mind--WTF? I get that he is calling Boko Haram barbarians and not the average Nigerian, but, I hate to break it to Will, over the last two decades, the cell phone has kind of become a thing. It's internet-capable and people all over the world have used them to stage demonstrations and plan things. Yes, I think they are aware of Twitter. No, I don't think hashtag activism necessarily influences what they will do, but it might inspire heads of state and legislators who do have power to act. Because in a functioning democracy, citizens petition their representatives with their concerns. It isn't about "feeling good"--activism doesn't always get one the desired goal and there are only so many things regular people can do. But is is better than nothing. And what does he think about "letters to the editor" or "writing one's congressperson" or "signing a petition" (many of which are basically about mailing-list trolling anyway)? Could it be hashtag activism is such a waste of time in his estimation because he has no concept of the technology, and maybe it's about "self-esteem" because (shaking fist) "these kids these days think they're so hot"?
But comparing sympathizing and wanting to do something about these children who are in a terrifying situation and light bulbs is a special kind of assholery. Okay, we get it. Old Grumpy Grampy Wills doesn't care for the tree-hugging hippies who are trying to take his old reliable Edison-era volt-hogs away. And there is probably some overlap between folks who love the new-fangled lower-energy devices and also think girls should not be stolen from their families and sold. But I would very much like to think the default setting on our morality should be that we do not like the idea of girls being kidnapped and sold and whether we care for new-fangled things like the Twitter-box or those swirly-bulbs is besides the point. Because pompously putting people down for giving a basic human shit about other people is kind of awful.
So I'm saying George Will is awful, and I do not know how one as an adult gets in front of a camera and compares kidnapped children to light bulbs.