A Tale of Two Hashtags

I was half-way through a post about the hashtag wars; just another reminder that I need to spend more time writing and less time lurking through reddit for funny dog videos. The post read like this.

“Children are being kidnapped; still, in 2014. When I see kidnapping, I think of the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the creepy Dickensian-dressed villain who threw children into his horse-drawn buggy. It’s a cartoonish crime meant for cartoonish characters and not flesh and blood adults in a modern age. Yet, it happens; a lot it would appear. In our age children are a front in wars; perhaps because they represent the future. Yet, in the age of such passé villainy, it is the battle of the dueling hashtag which have captured the attention of most.”

I discussed the difference between the two hashtags, #bringbackourgirls and #bringbackourboys. Many in Jewish social media and blogs lashed out at people like Michelle Obama, who displayed the former hashtag in solidarity with the nearly-300 Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, a Muslim Jihadi group operating in that country. I would have argued that the preference of the hashtag championing the return of the girls, did not necessarily represent an underhanded anti-semitism.

But, just before I was able to finish, the news we are all now familiar with, filtered through. The boys Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, have likely been found dead, buried in shallow grave near a Palestinian town. In spite of reason, I had been trying to optimistically look forward to a joyous reunion; similar to the one we had with Gilad Shalit. But it was not meant to be. Sad as it is, I will now continue my thoughts on the matter.

Yes. The hashtag #bringbackourgirls got more play. In fact, it got the attention the First Lady of the United States, but no #bringbackourboys sign from FLOTUS. Leading to accusations of ant-Semitism from some; and the satirical “it’s only three Jews” hashtag from others. However, the critics ignored some basic facts about the two different cases. In the case of the Nigerian girls, there were 276 girls missing; and it was clear that the intent was to forcibly convert the girls, sell them into marriage, rape etc. Despite this, the Nigerian gov’t was basically inactive in the fifteen days following the abductions. It wasn’t until after the highly-successful social media campaign started by two of the girls’ fathers that did the Nigerian government start to make earnest efforts to find the captives. Even foreign governments got involved, including Israel and to date several dozen girls have been returned.

Israel however did not wait fifteen days before mounting rescue efforts. Within thirteen hours, an alert had been issued and security forces were looking for he boy and the perpetrators of the abduction.This is where the difference is.

Israel holds the life of all of its people sacred and doesn’t need a social media campaign to galvanize itself into taking the most obvious action when faced with a clear attack.

“What good does a hashtag do?” said many naysayers. I was always a bit annoyed at this, but social media is 100% voluntary, no need to answer back. No, the boys did not come back. They are lost, but the hashtag didn’t fail. For three weeks a nation an a people were unified behind the banner of three youths, may that be a central to their eternal legacy.

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About Ben Faulding

Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. I found my way to Judaism during my twenties. I'm currently a direct care worker for adults with special needs and I live in Crown Heights.
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