George Will jeers at #BringBackOurGirls, calls it "an exercise in self-esteem"

The Twitter hashtag campaign is aimed at raising awareness about Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram

Sarah Gray
May 12, 2014 2:35AM (UTC)

George Will, conservative columnist for the Washington Post, took shots at hashtag activism -- specifically the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls. The campaign, which even First Lady Michelle Obama took part in, aims to raise awareness about the over 300 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped in mid-April by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. The hashtag, as TK points out is also attempting to put pressure on the Nigerian government, which has refused international assistance in getting the girls back.

This morning on "Fox News Sunday," Will called the hashtag activism "an exercise in self-esteem."


"I do not know how adults stand there, facing a camera and say, ‘Bring back our girls,'" Will continued. "Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, 'Oh, Michelle Obama's very cross with us, we better change our behavior?'"

"Power is the ability to achieve intended effects," he said. "This is not intended to have any effect on the real world."

Amidst laughter and jabs about what's "trending," AP reporter Julie Pace stepped in.

"I do think you have to take this for what it is," Pace said. "I don't think anyone is saying that by standing there and taking a picture of yourself holding a sign that you're going to get these girls back, but you have to remember this is something that had really not been talked about. Not even by the Nigerian government itself, before this really started to take hold on social media."

"Now what it has done," Pace continued, "is put pressure on the Nigerian government to accept some international assistance, and to raise questions about why it hadn't done that previously. So, standing there with a sign does not bring the girls back, but it could ratchet up the pressure that could lead to some more international assistance."

More important than the merits of hashtag activism, is the need to figure out what happened to the girls, question why the Nigerian government waited almost a month to accept foreign assistance and examine, and of course, get the girls back.

The girls were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School on April 15. According to the Associated Press, President Goodluck Jonathan did not acknowledge the mass kidnapping for nearly two weeks. Nigerian women, including mothers of the missing girls, have been protesting against the government's slow action. The wife, Patience Jonathan, accused the leader of the protest group of being a Boko Haram member and had her detained for several hours.


The leader of Boko Haram released a video where he called the girls slaves and said he intended to sell them. On May 4, 11 more girls were kidnapped from villages in the northeast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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#bringbackourgirls Fox News George Will Hashtag Activism Kidnapped Nigerian Girls Politics Video

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