‘Black Lives Matter’ and Postmodernism

To quote Fredric Jameson’s ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ in Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks, “Technology is, however, on the Marxist view the result of the development of capital, rather than some primal cause in its own right.” (pg 423) The thing about the #BlackLivesMatter movement is that it became huge as a result of the internet. Whilst its true that the pioneers of this movement tweeted the hashtag in light of the murder of Trayvon Martin, an argument can be made as to whether or not the movement truly would have had an impact without the availability and accessibility of the internet and, more specifically, social media. 

According to a report published on August 15th 2016 on pewinternet.com, “…from its initial appearance in mid-2013 through March 2016, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has appeared on Twitter almost 11.8 million times.” [1] To say that the hashtag alone has been successful in its existence would be an understatement, and with the further advancements of technology, trends are becoming viral worldwide almost on a daily basis. Jameson offers the reader his opinion that he was “very far from feeling that all cultural production today is postmodern”, however I would disagree with this opinion, especially in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

In terms of what Jameson is talking about in his reading, the media are at a stage where different parts of the industry are ‘re-inventing’ productions that have already been made. An example of this would be something like Star Wars. However, in relation to the Black Lives Matter, we should look at not whether a particular form of media has been reproduced, but whether another movement in time is being reproduced instead, in particular, the Civil Rights Movement that occurred in America through the 50’s and 60’s. Now it is definitely up for debate as to whether or not the movements are similar or not, but there are certain elements that favour both sides of the argument.

The most obvious differences between the two movements is the way in which the the message was spread. The Civil Rights Movement as mentioned was a movement that occurred in the USA during the 50s and 60s, as an uprising against the oppression of black people in the United States, eventually culminating with the Civil Rights Act being passed in 1964 under the presidential reign of Lyndon Johnson. The #BlackLivesMatter movement arose on Twitter as a trending hashtag in 2013, and was made into an actual organisation by three women, namely Patricia Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alica Garza. Interestingly however, they do have some similarities. One comparison that does stand out is the fact that both movements involve murder as almost a ‘catalyst’ towards advancement in their campaigns respectively. For the Civil Rights Movement, there was a well documented murder of a black man named Emmett Till, which was one of the most horrific murders recorded in history. He was lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman, but his murderers were actually acquitted for his death and Till subsequently came an icon of the movement. Similarly, the #BlackLivesMatter movement came about as a way of publicising the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the police officer responsible. 

In terms of Jameson’s argument about technology and postmodernism, it can be said that the Black Lives Matter movement flourished as a result of social media and technological advancements that were not seen during the Civil Rights Movements of the 50s and 60s. It would have been very interesting to see how the Civil Rights Movement would have benefitted from the same technology of the present day, i.e. twitter, Facebook, etc.

Anderson, M and Hitlin, P. (2016). The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter emerges: Social activism on Twitter. Available: http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/08/15/the-hashtag-blacklivesmatter-emerges-social-activism-on-twitter/. Last accessed 28th March 2017.

Haki Creatives. (2017). Her Story. Available: http://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/. Last accessed 28th March 2017.

Jameson, F. (2012). Postmodernism, of the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism . In: Durham, M and Kellner, D Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks. 2nd ed. UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 407-433.

 

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