Consumer Pulse
- John Oliver
and the Rise of
Mainstream
Hacktivism
Mohammed Sameer, Bangalore

Apart from re-inventing the evening talk show format, using social media ‘like a boss’ and dumbing down hard news into binge watchable content, John Oliver has pushed the envelope by initiating social action on the online space like a true hacktivist.

From piling on against corporations on Twitter which totally lack sense of timing or context in promoting their goods to livening up the national debate on ‘net neutrality’ and generating support to deserving NGOs promoting women’s education (So that Miss America ceases to be the biggest providers of scholarships to women in US) he has indeed crossed over to hacker territory.

Hacktivism is a term usually associated with the grey and hooded world of hacking or reserved to qualify the actions of controversial figures like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden.

However, now there’s a new kid in the block – John Oliver. It is not easy, at least among the hard-core netizens, to visualize a British-American comedian as the poster boy of a movement which was brought into the limelight by highly polarising communities like Anonymous, WikiLeaks, WANK or Occupy movements. But, that’s exactly what John Oliver has accomplished. He has taken the dark art of Hacktivism into mainstream (in the US obviously).

What makes it essentially different from any other significant online campaign or activation led by media (including Citizen Journalism) is that he sticks to the fundamental cog of Hacktivism – ‘having fun while protesting’ or more commonly known as ‘trolling ‘.

When you’re getting #soybeanwind to trend on social media platform (to protest against NCAA refusing to pay student athletes) you’re not just initiating social action but getting the users to have fun – one of the key reasons why we all go online.

One of the hashtags popularised by John Oliver. He asked corporates on twitter to tweet with it.

While true-blue technocrats, hackers or John Oliver himself may still debate if he is a hacktivist, this is the moment when hacktivism went main stream. In a country like ours, where media houses promote #Sydneyshame, we could certainly use a few like him

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