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What Rush Limbaugh Doesn't Understand About Hashtag Activism

The Republican pundit has recently lashed out at Michelle Obama's contribution to the #BringBackOurGirls movement.

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Only Rush Limbaugh would make the movement to save the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls a party issue. Limbaugh's latest harangue involves a photo of Michelle Obama holding a sign that reads "Bring Back our Girls."

For someone who blathers on and on about the perils of big government, Rush Limbaugh foams at the mouth at any chance to blame the Obama administration for weakening American government power, even if that chance involves hijacking a movement to save 300 schoolgirls from becoming commodities for the terrorist sociopaths who abducted them. For Rush, this global outpouring of support that even the First Lady has taken part in is a sign of Barack Obama's weakness, the weakness of the American government and the ridiculousness of Liberals.

"I was aghast. I mean, it's embarrassing that a Twitter hashtag is all we've got. And, in fact, I was further embarrassed that a Twitter hashtag is assumed to be enough because all we have to do is show that we're concerned. All we have to do is exhibit our proper intentions, and that covers it. We don't have to actually do anything. It's perfect liberalism." –Rush Limbaugh

An Instagram photo and a hashtag by themselves will not save these young girls. But powerless? No. We are not powerless. This is peer pressure at work on the global stage. Around the world, women, men and children have come together across racial, ethnic, religious, national and even political lines to say that the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls by a religious sociopath is not tolerable.

Of course, there are people who will jump at the chance to insincerely join something that's trending on Twitter. And regardless of intent, social media movements cannot storm the jungles of Nigeria. They have no power to negotiate with the hostage-takers, to return the girls to their parents, to provide them with the medical and psychological care that they will undoubtedly need if they survive this ordeal.

But while we mere citizens lack that power, the corrupt Nigerian government, whose responsibility it is to protect its citizens, has been nothing but impotent – first denying the scope of the kidnapping, then falsely purporting to have rescued the girls. Clearly, the sovereign state of Nigeria is more interested in saving face than taking action. But what exactly is the US supposed to do, Rush? What else have we got? People like Rush who equate national "power" with the machismo of military might may suggest we invade a sovereign nation, risking the lives of our men and women in uniform (surely the Nigerian military would not take kindly to such a humiliating invasion) right on the heels of the end of longest war in American history. Would Boko Haram stand and fight? Doubtful. But the Nigerian army, the largest in the region, would if we invaded their territory.

And what would be the goal of American action, Rush? While we fought our way through the Nigerian military and into the unknown jungles of West Africa, Boko Haram could just sell the girls and disappear deeper into the jungles. Or to enslave the girls (if they haven't already) and cross the border into Cameroon. Then shall we invade Cameroon as well?

But what social media can do, Rush, is raise the voice of the people. The millions of people around the world to whom governments are responsible. Even in non-democratic countries, governments have an interest in being favorably regarded by their populace. #BringBackOurGirls is not a movement by the American government. It's the voice of the people. It's the thousands of people who have shown up on sidewalks around the world to show their solidarity. Since #BringBackOurGirls, Nigeria has accepted the assistance from other countries, including the U.S. that it once rejected to help the Nigerian authorities locate and save the missing girls. Even if it's just for show, it's a start that we didn't have before.

A hashtag going viral makes it popular for elected officials to act. It makes it popular for individuals to take a public stand. It makes it popular to speak out. It's peer pressure on steroids. It's a nagging voice you can't drown out. And long after this incident is resolved, the people will remember that power.

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