The spectacle of media pundits, including a few conservatives, joining the protests against police by sharing selfies in the “hands up, don’t shoot” posture suggests that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is a classic social media meme–one whose participants may not quite understand what they are doing, where the fact of one’s participation is more important than the meaning of whatever gesture one is eager to be seen performing.
In that way, “hands up, don’t shoot” is the new “ice bucket challenge“–the social media campaign that raised millions for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) as people posted photographs and videos of themselves dumping cold buckets of ice water on their heads, challenging their friends to donate $100 or do the same. There, at least, the participants knew the bucket had nothing to do with the underlying issue (if they knew about the issue at all).
To reiterate: there is no evidence that Michael Brown, the young black man who was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in August, was attempting to surrender at the time. “Hands up, don’t shoot” is based on a media lie that has come to obscure the legitimate complaints at the core of the present controversy. For the trendy, though, the facts do not matter–the important thing is to be seen adopting the “hands up” pose.
The phenomenon is beginning to reach absurd extremes–such as the Harvard dean who staged a protest at the semiannual Primal Scream, a naked run around Harvard Yard on the midnight before final exams that is strictly undergraduate-students-only.
— Marlena Baldacci (@MarlenaCNN) December 15, 2014
Admittedly, “justice” and “ally-ship” are creative pretexts for an administrator to ogle the student bodies, but they can only operate in the factual vacuum “hands up, don’t shoot” has become.