Beyond Slackivism

I don’t know if he coined the term, but Dana Milbank has fun today with mocking the tendency of Americans to engage civically via “slacktivism,” gestures that require no real effort, much less sacrifice. He’s playing off the ridiculous idea of going to see The Interview as an act of patriotism, but he’s right–it goes a lot deeper, and its patron saint is none other than George W. Bush:

The Slacktivist gets icy water over the head to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease, or tweets out hashtags to fight kidnapping in Nigeria (#BringBackOurGirls). The Slacktivist wears color-coded bracelets for causes, “likes” causes on Facebook — and goes to see a Seth Rogen film to defy North Korea.

This can be traced back to September 2001, when President George W. Bush launched wars without calling for sacrifice from Americans — other than to spend money. “Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots,” he said. “Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” He also asked Americans to “hug your children” and to pray for those in uniform.

Like me, Milbank wishes there were more abundant opportunities for genuine (voluntary) national service, and notes in passing that Republican hostility to Obama’s funding requests for AmeriCorps–doubly suspect on the Right because it’s closely associated with Bill Clinton–has stymied what really ought to be bipartisan support for this cause.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.