Symbolic Violence, Social Media, and You

How the combination fuels the way millennials imagine their politics.

More frequently there can be seen a tie between the perception of symbolic violence by college progressives as what fuels their political involvement and how they imagine their involvement in politics.

In 2014, the Pew Research Center found that half of adult Facebook users got their news from using the social media platform. As of three years ago, fifty percent of Facebook users have shared or reposted news stories, images, or videos according to their research.

An example of this symbolic violence happening in politics right now would be the attempts by government leaders to control women’s health concerns in the new GOP majority environment. The institution of law-maker or government regulator could be said to be enacting symbolic violence on the women that these laws have and will affect. The case for this can be made as a vocal portion of the public has shared that these representatives are largely ignoring the concerns of the group they are intending to regulate: women.

Symbolic violence is an idea from Pierre Bourdieu who explained that an example of symbolic violence in practice is within gender relations when “both men and women agree that women are weaker, less intelligent, more unreliable, and so forth.” The assumption by predominantly male lawmakers that women need these regulations without clear reasoning as to why and without the consultation of women is symbolic violence in action today.

In author and researcher Nayanika Mookherjee’s ethnography The Spectral Wound she places a focus on the symbolic violence enacted on survivors of sexual assault in Bangladesh by the Bangladeshi government and the public. This “spectral wound” is one created and exacerbated by the mistreatment and exploitation of victims of sexual violence by the government. The symbolic violence can be seen as coming from the assumption by the Bangladeshi government that they know what is best for the victims and do not need their input in the programs for rehabilitation, recovery, etc.

“The frequency with which the birangona is evoked, brought into existence so that she can be effaced and exited, inscribes her with the logic of a spector. Thereby she can be subjected to a double sense of calling into presence in her absence and made safely available for the nation.” (Mookherjee 25)

The above quote exemplifies how politics and symbolic violence are easily and often intertwined with one another. This ethnography allows for a full understanding of how a government may use symbolic violence as a means of control. Furthermore, how the public consumes this news, often through social media in our society, informs their political beliefs and causes.

This symbolic violence is enacted and then reported on in the news. According to the Pew Research Center, as of three years ago a great number of adults in the United States absorb and interact with a lot of their news on social media. the news is frequently seen and consumed on our social media platforms. The number of those consuming news this way can be assumed to be higher with college students. So how does this symbolic violence fuel how college progressives and activists imagine their politics? And are they even aware of the factors shaping their involvement?