Social Media Networks so far from God and yet so close to Empire!
On the surface, the rise of Social Media Networks (SMN), including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, amongst others, have helped connect long-distanced families, friends and communities in various social activities ranging from family get-togethers, social-group reunions, activist collectives, and even entertainment extravaganzas across the globe.
Undoubtedly, SMN have connected the globe more so than radio, television, and print could ever imagine. Yet all four mediums are one and the same in that their sole purpose is to maintain the status quo.
If you actually dig deep, you’ll notice that social media is not some innocuous network where one passively updates their status, or shares a picture, rather SMN are conceived as elaborate technical mechanisms to maximize corporate profitability through mass consumption of products/brands. The more Wall Street knows about you, and it knows more than you think, the better it can integrate product placement into your social media experience as well as disrupting your emotional well-being.
Social Media as the New Colonization
In Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Linda Tuhiwai Smith has contextualized imperialism and colonialism as interconnected projects that devastated Indigenous societies and communities, and which left permanent wounds that have not yet completely healed.
Tuhiwai Smith writes: “Imperialism was the system of control which secured the markets and capital investments. Colonialism facilitated this expansion by ensuring that there was European control, which necessarily meant securing and subjugating the indigenous populations.”
Since the mid-1990s, the emerging market needing to be fully secured is the Internet and various governmental legislation bills to control it have been proposed in recent years, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).
While those bills have been temporarily defeated, Wall Street has nonetheless continued to lobby to end what is commonly known as “net neutrality.” Additionally, Wall Street has embarked on several capital investment campaigns within ethnic/racial communities that for all intent and purposes mirror their traditional product placement forays via television and radio commercials.
Although the Internet, and especially SMN, have not been entirely secured, the end purpose of Wall Street remains the same; that is through information technology, communities are looked upon as “markets” and “consumers” that are to be essentially colonized, while being strongly encouraged to identify with a particular product/brand. Thus, leading to the growth of a customer base who will consume products out of loyalty and empathy to the brand. What better way to accomplish this than through social media?
As in classic colonialism whereby war and disease devastated Indigenous populations, the new colonization that is devastating communities is consumer credit card debt in which people are unable to make payments on their purchases. This is rooted in the Me Generation of the 1980s. Through SMN, Wall Street has easy access to millions of end-users meta-data. Big Brother is not just governmental but corporate as well.
SMN have influenced how information is packaged, distributed and consumed, while shaping public opinion on various issues of the day. All one needs to do is check what is “trending” on Twitter to glimpse at the way we are forced to discuss irrelevant topics that have nothing to do with our self-determination. 1984 has been digitized.
Although it is subject to debate, SMN have not necessarily changed the structural dynamics between the one-percent and the people. For starters, how many times has social media genuinely risen to the occasion to demand justice for a cause? Yet it never fails that an entertainment story of sex, drugs, and death suddenly props up to kill any noteworthy social justice struggle.
The pattern that emerges in social media circles is that today’s social justice cause is not even relevant after a week as end-users move on from one tweet to another.
Clay Shirky has shown in The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change that SMN have fueled several worldwide demonstrations against several iron-fisted regimes even leading to their downfall. Somehow the United States is usually spared from this phenomenon.
If looked at more closely in the context of the United States, other than occasionally forcing an individual “racist” (usually an entertainer, rarely, if ever, a politician) out of some occupation, the white supremacist structure remains fully intact because the nature of SMN is to battle individuals rather than the whole structure.
Twitter is known to have given birth to a whole generation of “activist” superstars who have padded their “followers” numbers by participating in online “activism” against entertainers who make racist comments.
Think about it: is going after Paula Deen, like social media did not so long ago, really going to alter the structural dynamics of social inequality in the United States? The answer is obviously NO!
But within the framework of corporate controlled and manipulated SMN topics, this is what social media users are allowed to discuss incessantly; SMN have conditioned users to identify racism as an “individual” problem while protecting the whole damn capitalist system from being critiqued.
After all, we are led to believe that if we remove an individual racist from their pedestal, we will achieve equality for all.
Yet, try changing social media’s narrative from an individual racist to dismantling white supremacy and see what happens? SMN will be censored and shut down before you can hit tweet.
Follow the Money
But where do Chicanas/os fit into this SMN phenomenon? There are a number of articles that can easily be found online that speak of a generic “Latino” participation in SMN, but these accounts are generally framed within market economics, that is Wall Street views “Latinos” as “markets” and “consumers” to be penetrated (conjuring up images of another Euroamerican phallocentric conquest) while devoid of any call for true authentic civil and human rights.
Nobody ever asks one fundamental question: who in the so-called “Latino” community is Wall Street penetrating? Failure to ask this question gives academics and end-users the false impression that there is this monolithic homogenous “Latino” community actively using social media.
Yet it is the Mexican community, who make up 63% of the so-called “Latino” in the United States, who are being courted and penetrated. And as history has shown this penetration has not been beneficial or advantageous to us.
There is an estimated $1.38 trillion in so-called “Latino” purchasing power that Wall Street is thirsting with greed for, while, at the same time, desperately trying to figure how to maximize its corporate ventures through their partnerships with what I call the Hispanic Factorship.
Wall Street knows full well that there are “147 new consumers born every hour that are Latino” as Monica Gil of the Nielsen Company recently stated.
You can then see why Wall Street salivates at the profits to be made, and which explains why they fund so-called “Latino” projects on television, radio, print, and social media. One of the better known projects is LATISM. LATISM’s tentacles are spread far and wide.
There is this perception that the “Latino” presence on social media is growing. Yet a couple of years ago, I made an accidental discovery that showed this was not necessarily true when I was bombarded by at least twenty “different” Twitter accounts who “tweeted” me the same exact message. When I confronted said accounts about their manipulative propaganda, there was utter silence in return. LATISM is a Lie!
Most importantly, I realized that “Latino” social media is controlled and manipulated by a very few well-organized tech-savvy individuals. In fact, most who do so-called “Latino” social media disguise themselves as Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os to control not only the narratives that will be discussed and how but also the purse strings of SMN.
Xicano author and independent publisher Santino Rivera and I have been discussing and following the patterns that have emerged on social media. Wall Street, under the guise of “Latino” entrepreneurship, namely in the form of LATISM, all have one thing in common, easy access to power and money. We have found the old adage to be true: follow the money.
The webpage no longer exists, but for some time an astro-turf online organization touted its foundation, and the people involved in the project were not mere simpletons, but rather those with a vested interest to secure profits in the so-called “Latino” community.
So once you begin to see the excess of the money trail, you’ll see why astro-turf “Latino” organizations exist and why they are so intent on integrating (re: assimilating) Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os into the American polity.
“There’s Gold in Thar Hills”
José Alamillo in Latino/as and Corporate Mestizaje writes that “corporate spending and advertising directed at Latino/as have grown at an annual rate of more than 10 percent since 1998 and will continue to grow as census numbers reveal that Latinos now constitute the largest minority ethnic group (U.S. Census, 2012).”
Wall Street’s intention is to sell its brand for materialistic consumption of its products not for the liberation of our people. This has been clearly demonstrated at all of LATISM’s events with their corporate sponsored functions.
Alamillo points out that “marketing officials are developing more sophisticated approaches to reach the Latino/a consumer…” Alamillo further adds that “the American marketplace has recently developed its own ideas about mestizaje and hybridity with the purpose of selling products, images, and ideologies to mainstream American audiences.” Hence, the creation of “Latinidad” to sell commercialized products at the expense of the total erasure of a people’s history and culture. In this case the Chicana/o-Mexicana/o.
The number of sponsors attending the recent “Latino” technology panel at SXSW 2015 should be a wake-up call to us all.
Chicanas/os Must Fight Back
Xicano author Santino Rivera says that “despite some of the shortcomings of the Occupy Movement, the movement scared the shit out of the Establishment even if they balked at it.”
In fact, the Establishment used a coordinated network of various federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies to crush the movement. A declassified document shows that the coordination between Wall Street and the Government included the call to assassinate Occupy leaders.
As history has shown, having purchasing power has not equated to Chicana/o-Mexicana/o self-determination. The only difference between the Manifest Destiny of 1836 and the Manifest Destiny of 2015 is that rather than our people being warred upon on a traditional battlefield, the new terrain is the Internet.
There is a lot at stake, especially since so-called “Latino” Millenials have grown up with a smartphone or tablet in their hands that basically tracks their every tweet and like on social media.
Wall Street knows this. Wall Street controls the message and ultimately structures its product placement based on individualizing a community and erasing a community’s history and culture through the invention of a pan-Latin identity that has nothing to do with our people.
Yet, too many Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os are not paying attention to what is taking place and are “innocently” giving legitimacy to Wall Street created astro-turf organizations, such as LATISM.
As Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os, we must begin to recognize and understand that Wall Street through its corporate funding of so-called “Latino” think tanks and networks have been propped up as a new form of social media divide and conquer in what is a historical and cultural erasure of our people’s history and identity.
Again I ask where do we as Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os fit into this SMN phenomenon? If current trends are any indication, other than as consumers, we don’t fit within the SMN mold. And we shouldn’t be stumbling amongst ourselves to do so either. We must fight back. This is not a call to disengage ourselves from SMN. On the contrary, this is a call to use SMN as a tool to organize communities that will challenge American Exceptionalism.
Where is #Chicana/oTwitter?
Similar to the Pan-Latina/o identity labels that have been violently forced upon us, the creation of astro-turf online organizations like LATISM have created a false sense of identity, power, and unity amongst our people throughout social media.
After 30 years or so of “Latino/Hispanic” identity, Chicanas/os have nothing to show for it politically and economically. We must begin to let go of this false notion of what “Latino/Hispanic” preaches. Real life powerlessness is now spilling over into social media powerlessness.
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os represent around 63% of the so-called “pan-Hispanic/Latino” population. Participation in social media reveals that the experiences, history, and culture of Chicanas/os is consistently white-washed by the “Latino/Hispanic” element that currently controls “Latino” social media.
Our history is distorted on SMN. A quick check of the posts and exchanges on social media regarding the origins of the Olmecs, for example, show how far certain people have gone to create an anti-Indigenous narrative. We must challenge the strong anti-Indigenous rhetoric that runs rampant across social media.
As things exist now, there is no Chicana/o Twitter or Chicana/o Facebook that one can speak of. Although there are a substantial number Chicanas/os who participate in social media, there is no united front on social justice issues. We must stop allowing non-Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os to speak (write) for and about us on social media.
Whenever there is any sense of Chicana/o unity, it is usually for irrelevant topics, such as when some in our community ludicrously demanded that Chipotle include our people’s poetry on their cups.
There is mass surveillance, incarceration, criminalization, and deportation of our people, yet some decided that poetry on a Chipotle cup was an urgent matter that needed addressing and so behold a Facebook page was created.
The Chipotle “struggle” only illuminated our social media powerlessness, which was enhanced by our social media segregation.
Most Chicanas-Mexicanas/os that participate in social media do so as individuals rather than as a collective. If there was even a glimmer of online unity, we could easily neutralize the imperialistic messages of colonization that are pushed online by Wall Street and LATISM.
We do need a Chicana/o social media revolution that can challenge both Wall Street’s and LATISM’s messages of consumption, assimilation, and distortion of who we are as a people. We need to reclaim our sovereignty and autonomy in the midst of a corporate assault that is dehumanizing and continues the vicious cycle of imperialism and colonialism.
We need to create our own Chicana/o-Mexicana/o “blogs” that challenge racism and sexism, for example, and that speak from our own perspective. I have created a blog-roll on this site to link to several sites that use a non-Eurocentric framework to dismantle white supremacy and challenge LATISM.
We must also begin taking to task “Latino/Hispanic” narratives that work towards homogenizing and erasing our history and culture. On Twitter, a few have challenged not only white supremacy but also the tentacles of LATISM. Both white supremacy and LATISM are connected.
If you think we are powerless in “real life,” we are even more powerless on social media.
— by D. Cid