I am not very good at ‘Twitter’. However I dutifully tweet every new post on TCW and click on my Twitter bookmark each day in the hope of finding out what’s going on in the Twittersphere. I soon give up. There are far, far too many to backtrack over.
But yesterday one jumped out at me. Somebody had retweeted:
VOTEHILARY@VOTE_HILARY ‘bringbackourgirls and call for their immediate release’.
Hang on a minute – did this originate from the former Secretary of State who delayed designating Boko Haram a terrorist group? From the woman who arguably bears a shed load of responsibility for this ghastly outrage as Laura Perrins has already pointed out?
What was going on? Remorse? Or was Hilary just determined, like Michelle Obama, to have her Angelina Jolie moment and demonstrate her street cred by getting down there with the tweeters? and win votes? Why not?
You have to be forgiven for wondering why on earth the two most powerful women in the world (if the Obamas and Clintons don’t have real power then no one has) need to mobilise public opinion? They hardly need to rouse the rabble against unfeeling leaders. They are the leaders.
My view is that Michelle’s hand-wringing campaign is less about the Nigerian girls and more about her feminist credentials.
Using her husband’s weekly address for her indignant intervention was an opportunity to put them on full display.
“This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls”.
For it was girls who had been abducted, girls whose educational aspirations were being snuffed out; not boys.
Don’t misinterpret my cynicism. There is nothing that justified these girls' abduction. Nor is there any excuse for the delayed national and international response to the amoral, manipulative and murdering bullies behind it.
But, it just so happens, Boko Haram is even less respectful of boys than it is of girls. It is not known to bother to abduct male students from schools. It usually just kills them off.
Could this be unknown to a former Secretary of State or to the wife of the President of the United States? Or do boys not have quite the same cache?
My Nigerian lawyer friend, Eze Eluchie, was the first to enlighten me that Boko Haram are child killers. His blog on this matter raises a number of other interesting questions about this case too.
His evidence points to this not just being a crime against children and education, nor against women per se but a political war between the Muslim North and the Christian South of Nigeria. Boko Haram is about ensuring no one is educated enough to challenge their fanaticism. It is clear from Eze's and other sources that Chibok is far from the first school Boko Haram has attacked.
As The Daily Beast reports:
“Boko Haram’s core strategy is a war on all learning... …what that means is a savage crusade against all schoolchildren, and on their teachers…
... In 2012, the organization’s leaders concluded that obliterating the already weak education system would be a valuable means to their end. That year, Boko Haram began burning school buildings to the ground to keep children out of school. At one point 10 schools were incinerated in as many days….
…In February, 59 boys were slaughtered during an attack on one school, while girls were set free with a warning to stay home and get married. That was before Boko Haram’s cruel spotlight turned on the school at Chibok….”.
It is not just the ‘celebrities’ - Michelle, Hilary and Angelina - who have yet to tweet the plight of the at least 59 Nigerian boys who have already been slaughtered by Boko Haram. Britain's feminist writers have yet to, too.
Last Sunday Alison Pearson wrote 'Girls everywhere need protecting from Islamists’. And Yasmin Alibhai Brown was equally quick to turn the Chibok atrocity into a feminist issue.
"The global revulsion against this kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria is unexpected and breaches (our) terrible acquiescence to the use of rape and violence against women in war”.
High-minded words indeed. Yet surely they don’t think that boys’ education and lives are of less value than girls'? Surely they don’t think it is less of a crime to make boys chose between slaughter and fanaticism (though I understand the boys unlike the girls were not even given that choice) than it is for girls to be forced to give up their education, take the veil and submit to forced marriage?
Feminists and politicians alike need to get real. Terrorists are not influenced by public opinion. They do need publicity however – and Michelle and Hilary et al have provided it with knobs on.
Their feminist outrage Twitter storm would be trivial but for the fact that Boko Haram must regard it as their greatest PR coup to date.
Boko Haram do not discriminate. They are child killers. The West should be sending troops not tweets.
Until they are on the whip end of this senior officials in the Department of International Development should cease their gesture politics. Unbelievable though it is their official advice to Nigeria is to 'keep sending your girls to school'.
Perhaps they need to be reminded that Boko Haram is still wreaking havoc across Northern Nigeria, with the tacit support of at least some local leaders. Would they, or Michelle for that matter, be ready to risk their children’s lives in defence of feminism. I suspect not.