Alum Jen Schradie on Hashtag Solidarity and the Paris Attacks

13 Nov, 2017

Alum Jen Schradie on Hashtag Solidarity and the Paris Attacks

As a researcher specializing in social media, activism and politics, BCNM alum and sociologist Jen Schradie immediately noticed the widespread usage of disparate hashtags during the Paris Attacks of November 13, 2015. On Twitter, she saw #ParisAttacks, #AttaqueParis (Paris Attack), #PorteOuverte (Open Door), and #RechercheParis (Search Paris), striking a stark contrast against the unified #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) that swept through social media in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo HQ shootings seven months before.

For Dr. Schradie, "the lack of a central hashtag reflect[ed] a complex set of responses that are much more divided." She writes,

The latest attacks affected the core of French social life: restaurants, bars, music, and soccer. In other words, we all are targets and can be at any time anywhere, not only journalists. This is the point of terrorism. So no longer are the French defending only freedom of expression, but they’re also questioning how to live on an everyday level — and what to do next. These broader targets have resulted in more general hashtags such as #attentats (bombing) or the location of the most publicized and deadly target, the #Bataclan music club.

Divided hashtags also began to emerge to express the conflicting views of the attacks in a global context. In calling out the contradictions in (social)/news media coverage of Paris versus Beirut bombings the day before, hashtags emerged such as #PrayForBeirut or the extra-long #PrayForBeirutAndParis. But none of these counter-hashtags have become universal, like #JeNeSuisPasCharlie did to challenge Islamophobia or the reactionary #AllLivesMatter to counter #BlackLivesMatter. However, other hashtags proliferated to oppose the religious connection to the bombings, such as #TerrorismHasNoReligion or #NotInMyName, in which Muslims post photos of themselves with the hashtag. And one of my colleagues told me today, “I am confused. Are we the victim or the ultimate cause of this crisis?”

As the world struggles to confront the ever-growing threat of terrorism, Twitter manifests as an investigative tool in times of crisis. Yet hashtag solidarity has its limits, as Schradie remarks has happened in France.

Read her entire article on Medium here.