Social and political “activism is the cornerstone of democracy”
2017). Its actions are democratic revolutions aimed at re-shifting the balance of power. Mastering their organisation and communication is key to drive social changes.
Current social and political trends have prompted a new era of activism. As a matter of fact, a Gallup survey conducted in August 2018, shows that 1 in 3 Americans feel the urge to protest. However, as social and political activism actions multiply and intertwine, often their identities become ambiguous and their message is lost in the communication overload. Showing engagement and expressing indignation about social issues and political matters in large numbers is no longer enough for actions to stand out and generate transformative social changes. Today, it is critical to give social campaigns and political protests a distinct identity and a stronger voice to catch the attention of decision-makers and the media, and to engage activists. A new type activism with alternative and unconventional tactics is also required to achieve the expected outcomes. The possibility to write and control the narrative of the protest is a necessary condition to avoid that others appropriate its meaning.
Current practices of social and political activism often show one or more weaknesses. Decision-makers and the media often exploit these shortcomings to excuse their decisions to disregard public actions they describe confused in their message and unclear in their goals. As a result, they disengage with interlocutors they consider disorganised, and justify poor media coverage of actions they see lacking basic newsworthy criteria. Waiting for the latest online activism storm to pass offers an easy way to discredit the issue and ignore actions’ demands.
To be effective, today’s social campaigns and political protests need not only leadership and a structured, overarching, coordinated and long-term international strategy. They also need a distinct identity and a stronger voice, and dare exploring alternative and unconventional tactics capable of overcoming apathy, protest fatigue and activism burnout of decision-makers, the media and activists.
BASTA! is not just an online shop or another catchy logo !
It is a research-based project whose mission is to give a distinct identity and a stronger voice to social and political activism. It aims at responding to the 9 weaknesses identified in today’s practices of social and political activism. It builds on the study of essential theoretical foundations of activism, protests and nonviolent public actions and on the analysis of 4 past (un)successful social campaigns and political protests.
Based on the study, a new symbol has been created. The combination of symbol and slogan allows reconciling actions’ crucial requirement to convey the image of unity with activists’ wish to be creative in their slogans. The symbol shows a word used and understood in various languages and a design largely received in numerous cultural contexts. It conveys a simple, univocal and authoritative core statement, and puts forward a unanimous demand. Its common use can unify and transform national demonstrations into a truly transnational action and unite scattered activists into a protesting mass. For this, it can have a powerful impact at international level. Simultaneously, the symbol can be customised with slogans formulated according to linguistic needs and creative preferences. This can engage and empower in the same way activists in different countries and of different cultures. For this, it can make a strong impact at local level. For its capacity to be associated with various social issues and political matters, the symbol allows capitalising on its communicative strength. Its registration as a Trade Mark allows to control its use and the narrative of the protest. Its value-neutral interpretation hinders any possible association with any type of potentially controversial categorisation (e.g. Black Lives Matter vs White Lives Matter, Alt-Left vs Alt-Right, and Women’s March).
Showing the symbol merged with customised slogans on a large variety of activism merchandise usable in conventional and alternative tactics campaigners can feel not just proactive, but empowered. Used in conventional tactics such as big rallies, protests, marches and similar public actions hold on specific and punctual occasions that are extra-ordinary people’s everyday life, these products can multiply the exposure of actions’ statements, have an impact on decision-makers, and attract media attention. Used in alternative tactics such as the personal everyday activism by everybody in the form of an on-going, active, deliberate, provocative and non-violent ‘political defiance’ (Sharp 2010 p. 1), these products can generate cumulative benefits. They can extend the visibility of a specific issue beyond the community directly involved, and expose ordinary people to specific messages on a more regular basis and beyond specific and punctual occasions of public actions.