The anti-CAA protests where millions from across the globe came together to protest is a striking example of the RNS.
On one hand, a steady stream of social media posts kept protesters informed about every little detail of protests, and on the other hand, news channels formed their own narratives of what was happening.
Similarly, current Iran protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who was detained by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab (headscarf) "inappropriately" is started and fuelled by Media, with Iranians finding social media the only way to get their voices heard globally.
The hashtag #mahsaamini was tweeted and retweeted more than 250 million times in Persian and more than 50 million times in English in the first month after her death.
In both these cases, the Government has come down hard on its Media, with increased censorship and even violence against journalists.
Mediums of Change
written by Sneha Nair
designed by Yashasv Saluja
Anyone who has confronted India’s society and politics has had to deal with the media revolution that the country has seen: newspapers in India’s major languages have trebled their penetration, television has become a mass medium, movies have inspired policy changes, and New Media has created mini revolutions.
The last decade has also seen a huge rise in media being used to mobilize and inform groups triggering the formation of Radically Networked Societies (RNS). The RNS has been defined as a web of hyper-connected individuals, possessing an identity (imagined or real), and motivated by a common immediate cause. The defining feature of RNS is its wide reach.
In 1860, the play, Nil Dharpan was staged commercially at the National Theatre in Calcutta;
a significant politicized play that first triggered the Indigo Revolution and then provoked the British into enacting restrictive censorship measures on Indian theatre.
And in 2019, Faiz’s “Hum Dekhenge” became a rallying cry for protests both throughout India and around the world against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by India’s Parliament on December 19, 2019.
In 2021, the Central Government repealed the farm laws of India after one year of protests with 600+ farmers losing their lives. During this time, it was the protester's use of Media that pushed their agenda forward. Like the Trolley Times - a four-page biweekly newspaper in Gurmukhi and Hindi that was started to represent farmers at the
Delhi-Haryana border protesting. The page now has over 60k followers on Instagram and continues to be the medium for alternate voices.
One of the other things that kept the morale of the farmers high in the protest camps was the support of several Punjabi singers whose songs of revolution struck a chord with every age group and gender, from the elderly to women to the youth thanks to witty and sarcastic lyrics on the burning issues of society.
But this is not a new story - Historically regimes and governments have always used censorship to repress media and in turn, the voices of common people.
And people have always responded creatively, using Art as a medium to evoke emotions, and simplify the message of discontentment -
From actors-turned-politicians to history-laden narratives, the film industry has often been a reflection and a catalyst of social change.
And Impact Campaigns behind these movies play a crucial role in realizing this change.
In 2020, the movie Chappak is released that depicted the story of an acid survivor, Laxmi. Post the release and impact of the movie, the Supreme Court directed the state governments to make provisions for the regulation and sale of acid. The SC ruling provided guidelines for the complete prohibition of acid.
And some unexpected results like when the man convicted in 1999’s Jessica Lall’s case walked
scout-free, people united and started a movement through silent candlelight vigils in New Delhi‘s India Gate taking a cue directly from the movie Rang De Basanti”.
Result – the case was re-opened and in December, the man was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Social impact campaigns help drive audiences to any kind of content by launching advocacy initiatives and calls to action based on the social issues they address.
Media companies like Participant, Array and First Look combine art and activism to inspire social change and bring the social impact campaign on-ground.
“Roma” the Oscar-winning movie about an Indigenous domestic worker in Mexico is an example of one such successful campaign - The campaign which was created by Participant, worked with advocacy organizations including the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and Centro de Apoyo y Capacitación para Empleadas del Hogar (The Center for Support and Training for Household Employees), to successfully secure protections for domestic workers in the U.S. and Mexico.
The Oscar-winning Pakistani documentary, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” about a girl who survived an honour killing is an example of a successful impact campaign where the film-makers and change.org, Equality Now, advocated for a stronger law in Pakistan, one that would ensure perpetrators are prosecuted for honour crimes with no possibility of compromise or forgiveness and convinced the Pakistani Government to review their law.
Storytelling has the power to mobilize people around a topic, and create change.
When Creators who want to inspire change, partner with experts in the field of social change, a powerful movement is born - one that makes arts and cultural expression central to
political campaigns creating waves of impact.