Everyone complaining about America's hashtag diplomacy — most recently Sarah Palin — seems to be confused by the "our" in the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. Despite attempts by an American to take credit for the hashtag, it was created by Nigerians and for Nigerians, to help draw the government's attention. What Palin and other conservatives don't realize is that it's almost impossible to mock #BringBackOurGirls without mocking the mothers of those girls, or the fellow citizens who cared enough to advocate on their behalf.
Palin took to social media to criticize the Obama administration's social media tweets as "junior high-like tweets and tickles in place of a foreign policy rooted in peace through strength." She reminds us that victory is usually brought to you "'courtesy of the red, white and blue'" (the Nigerian flag is green and white) and that a hashtag isn't going to scare the people Palin wants us to scare. "I kinda-sorta doubt a tweet will intimidate the kidnappers much," she wrote. "So, if you’re going to jump in and do something about these Islamic terrorists at all, then do it right, do it firmly, and kick their ass."
In summary: Terrorist = Bad, Nigerians = Helpless, America = Ass Kicking. As The Wall Street Journal explained last week, the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag was created by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim Musa Abdullahi who wanted to bring attention to the situation. As it turns out, English is the official language of Nigeria, and Nigerians use Twitter. Palin doesn't mention Abdullahi, and instead posted a picture of a man mocking Nigerians' efforts to bring back #their girls.
She's not alone. Ann Coulter mocked Michelle Obama's tweet with a picture of herself with a sign reading #BringBackOurCountry. She was immediately mocked in return. And Rush Limbaugh wanted to know if Americans showing solidarity with Nigerian mothers and fathers didn't make us seem weak. "I want to ask you, what message does this send?" he said earlier this month. "And then I want to ask you, is the United States really this powerless? And then if you answer yes, we are really this powerless, then isn’t Obama to blame?”
Boko Haram has been active in Nigeria since 2009. For each kidnapped girl there are many people, Christians and Muslims, who have been killed, but America only really started to care in the last month, which has started to slowly shame President Goodluck Jonathan into action. The girls haven't been found yet, but the fact that Sarah Palin cares about what's happening in Northern Nigeria means that the hashtag did some good — Abdullahi's Twitter activism made some difference.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.