"Let's get this trending," she tweeted to over 14 million followers, "#Armenian Genocide!!!!! " tweeted Rob, a former Dancing with the Stars contestant and aspiring sock designer.
At the same time, social media allows a simulated intimacy between celebrities and their followers, who settle for glory by proxy.Pussy Riot, the Russian dissidents who inspired the creation of balaclavas in "slimming black", is a recent case in point. Having trended, they become trends, divorced from the conditions that produced them, isolated from the anonymous activists fighting the same fight.Perhaps that's why celebrity activism seems least damaging when the damage has already been done.As celebrities embrace causes, the coverage of those causes reflects celebrity values of self-promotion and spin."I think those of us working on these issues should make sure we raise concerns about freedom of speech as a whole and avoid contributing to creating 'superstars' that may attract a lot of (short-term) empathy but maybe no real questioning of repressive patterns and the need to fight them," argues Leila Nachawati, a Syrian-Spanish blogger and activist.In my former life as a professor, I taught a course on the internet and society to students in their teens and early twenties.
Inevitably, the conversation would turn to Justin Bieber. " the students asked when we read a book bemoaning the devastating effect of the internet on the music industry. " they cried when we read critiques of social media hierarchies.
Celebrity campaigns have long been criticised for their fickleness and superficiality.
"Sustained awareness is what matters, awareness enough to care, to do something," writes Jillian C York, a long-time advocate for Syrian rights, of Brown's short-lived interest in the Arab world.
I want to Belieb Awareness is supposed to lead people to take action. Entire careers are devised around making people aware of a person's existence without that person doing anything besides existing.
The Kardashian family is sustained by tabloids and reality TV, industries that thrived while nearly all other old media failed.
It is no surprise that Justin Bieber was one of the celebrities tapped by the Kony2012 campaign, whose goal was to "make Kony famous", because fame is thought to determine relevance, to create caring, to force pragmatism from indifference.