Forbidden Voices: Online Activism Essay Example



Barbara Miller's Forbidden Voices serves as a means of bringing to light the discussion of online activism and its perceived importance in regard to the spread of news and information to the general public and its use as a weapon in the fight for human rights and freedom of speech. This documentary follows the lives of three female bloggers named Yoani Sánchez, Zeng Jinyan, and Farnaz Seifi living in the repressive regimes of Cuba, China, and Iran. This essay will discuss two major themes that the documentary entails. 1. Online activism utilized as a vanguard to incite socio-economic and political revolution, and 2. Online activists and their capability to obtain and produce news and information and spread such information in a quick and proficient manner to a populace.

Throughout the documentary, there is a constant war between the bloggers and their governments. The documentary depicts the bloggers' relentless attempts at exposing the atrocities committed by their countries, crimes ranging from torture to the imprisonment of political entities, figureheads, and average citizens for speaking out against the inhumane conditions dictated by their nations (Miller, 2013).  For example, in one scene Yoani Sánchez is depicted conducting street reporting to gather information about political prisoners obtained by the Cuban government, she later shares on her blog the state of the prisoners and what is happening to them during detainment. Another example shows Farnaz Seifi arranging a protest with her online followers against the unfair treatment of women by both the government and state police of Iran. 

Online activism, as discussed throughout the documentary, is utilized as a vital tool in the spreading of information. Knowledge equates to power and with that power comes the possibilities of insurgencies and revolutions.With those possibilities also comes the attempts to stifle such efforts. Some of these examples as shown throughout Miller's documentary included DNS blocking, strong-arm tactics, and the discrediting of individuals through the means of government-ran news stations and networks (Miller, 2013). These efforts to suffocate the spread of information and attempts to counter online activism continue to occur because information can spread faster than the blink of an eye, the internet is host to many different forums and outlets 

The documentary also demonstrates online activism through the means of sharing news to the public. News outlets, especially ones in regimes such as China, Cuba, and Iran are state-operated, they are there for the means of spreading only propaganda. Activism, as demonstrated throughout the movie, is critical because of the production of stories that are meant to be truthful and raw in its showing. Citizens deserve the right to know what is going on in their countries. It is a constant battle between the citizens and their governments about what they can say and what they can critique and against oppressive regimes. Online activism serves as a means to demonstrate items that are not even reported by the state-run media and to show news items that are worthy of knowing.

Overall, Barbara Miller's documentary illustrates the importance of online activism as a tool to spread news and information in a quick and proficient manner and the difficulties associated, especially the stifling of information, scare tactics, and other means of silence.  Miller's documentary also argues for the notion of online activism as a critical component of inciting revolution in socially repressed regimes. The internet serves as a gateway toward creating new forms of protest and critique at a time where free speech and human rights are needed the most and serve as a new way of obtaining socio-economic and political change.