I’m stealing that question from Ace, as it deserves amplification. What are the criteria for “hashtag activism”? If the bleeding edge of U.S. diplomacy now involves moral posturing on Twitter in lieu of doing anything constructive, let’s at least be consistent about it. As with Boko Haram and the Nigerian schoolgirls, you have here a Christian female — pregnant, no less — being potentially brutalized and murdered by Islamist savages. Her husband is a U.S. citizen; his son is a U.S. citizen. Punishing her for her faith is as clear-cut a human-rights violation as exists. And yet, nothing on social media from State or the White House, which has been only too happy to showcase their well-meaning impotence for a good cause over the past few months. Ed noted yesterday that U.S. options in Sudan are severely limited; true, but the #BringBackOurGirls campaign created international pressure to act. If State took the lead on promoting awareness of Ibrahim’s ordeal, it would twist arms at the UN and among NGOs with more reach than we have to negotiate for her release. Instead, crickets.
Two possibilities here, neither one good. It could be that the White House is more skittish about starting a campaign on Ibrahim’s behalf than it was on behalf the Nigerian schoolgirls because this one deals more directly with religious conflict. The schoolgirls’ kidnapping was sectarian too — Islamists terrorizing Christian girls for getting an education — but it could be spun as an essentially secular issue involving the right of women to attend school and learn. There’s no way around the religious issue in Ibrahim’s case, in which case maybe the White House decided that a big PR push against Muslim apostasy laws is more trouble than it’s worth for America’s wider Middle East diplomacy. The other possibility is that Obama and Kerry have learned a hard lesson from Boko Haram about how “hashtag activism” can backfire. Politico noted the other day that Michelle Obama’s contribution to hashtagging was undertaken with some misgivings, as it risked inadvertently encouraging Boko Haram by publicizing their kidnap campaign. A terrorist outfit that’s getting attention from the White House is, by definition, a formidable outfit, and that’s good for their PR. Could be State has decided that promoting Ibrahim’s cause will create the same problem — Sudanese authorities, which enjoy a relationship of mutual loathing with the U.S., might enjoy the spotlight and resolve to take advantage by executing Ibrahim as a lesson to other Christians there. Lying low while quiet diplomacy plays out might be State’s best play. So much for hashtagging.