In the 21st century, with textbooks filled with lauded history containing powerful pictures and historical movies shining dawning light onto large events, sometimes people become attuned only to the ideal meaning of something. The term “social movement” is one that most people of the United States at least recognize; many of those people could give at least one example. Yet, the definition of what a social movement actually is can be somewhat distorted. Some people think that in order for a movement to be a social movement, it has to be successful. Some people believe that a social movement has to be large. Others believe that a social movement must change an entire country for the better. However, if one were to go by those definitions, then there would be only a small handful of social movements that have ever occurred. These definitions are better suited for an ideal, perfect social movement. Isn’t that why we have social movements in the first place, to find achieve that perfection? In Persuasion in Society, Herbert Simons and Jean Jones offer a more open alternative definition; that a social movement is ““an uninstitutionalized collectivity that operates on a sustained basis to exert external influence in behalf of a cause” (Simons & Jones, 480). This definition is not perfect for everyone; it does exclude any institutionalized group, but then I believe that it is a fair exclusion; not just because social movements take their cause to institutions to be solved, but also because institutions are a business; whether they receive money or not, they still have taken on another responsibility (keeping their business running) which can conflict with their original intent; to be for and only for the people. I believe that a social movement is a movement by the people intended to make life better for the people, and to inspire others to do the same – to move society forward.
The word “fracking” could possibly be meaningless to you; it is to several people. “Fracking” sounds like some attempt to spit out a curse word without actually saying the word; something an old man would mutter around his cigarette as he chases “fracking rabbits” out of his garden. However, for most people, fracking (or it’s official name, “hydraulic fracturing”) is an extreme environmental concern that has caused an overwhelming movement in many countries and cities throughout the world, from Germany to Ohio. On a grand scale, it almost seems too large to be a social movement – shouldn’t a social movement be for one particular country, and if it is for one particular country, then why should it matter to others? While it is true that most countries experiencing fracking are protesting within their own boundaries, they are also working to raise awareness of danger in other countries, aided severely by social networking sites that allow that communication between them. A few months ago, I started following a Facebook “Stop Fracking!” page is German – yet the page shares news and images from other anti-fracking pages and sites from other countries, working together and demanding social and government attention. It is literally a world-wide social movement.
While I did find several persuasive artifacts regarding the fracking movement, I felt that the one above, taken from No Frack Ohio, was the most persuasive given the audience it was most likely to reach. While the fracking movement is world wide, and the countries are able to share stories and awareness with the help of social media, cities and states are more likely to make a bigger impact on their home country than other countries. Therefore, No Frack Ohio would be most effective at raising awareness in the United States. Americans do have environmental concerns, and most feel secure in the assurances that the government is looking into renewable resources with the threat of global warming. Most Americans also believe that the United States is the best country in the world, and therefore we have no such thing as polluted water, and that every business receives equal red tape to cut through. No Frack Ohio did have quite a few artifacts that gave vital information for their movement, but this particular image, while not flashy, spells it out in ways that would make that particular mindset angry – “exempted” by Congress from the Clean Water Act (natural gas is more important than the water we and our children consume?), “you would be required to do an Environmental Impact Study, but none has ever been conducted for any of these hydro-fracking operations” (so they’re allowed liberties that I am not?). It is the fifth bullet-point, though, that takes all of that anger and ignites it into rage – “Gas drilling is not about American independence; foreign companies are currently local leases, and gas is being sold on the international market”. With the controversy and war surrounding oil, the rising prices of our fuel, and the fact that America would sell this to foreign countries, this image is probably one of the top persuasive messages the Stop Fracking movement could have.
When asked for an example of a social movement, most people would probably say something along the lines of “The Civil Rights Movement” or even the more recent “Occupy Movement”; more than likely a social movement with the word “movement” attached to it. Those are the ones the history books in school teach us about; those are the ones we grow up knowing, and in the 21st century movements seem scarce. However, the 21st century also comes with its own way of aiding social movements. Social media websites allow people to create pages for a cause they wish to start or aid, which can gain followers and allow the group to be able to communicate, raise awareness, and plan movement. Because a social movement does not need to be large, or grand, or printed in a history book; it just needs to be an uninstitutionalized group working together to inspire and move others on a cause.
Jones, J., & Simons, H. (2011). Persuasion In Society. New York, NY: Sage Publications
(2013, January 16). No Frack Ohio. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from www.nofrackohio.com
(2013, February 18). Stop Fracking. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from http://www.facebook.com/StoppFracking?ref=ts&fref=ts