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Assessing the Successes of Destroy the Joint

The first paper session at ANZCA 2017 begins with Jenna Price, who asks what winning looks like in the conduct of activist campaigns through social media; she focusses here especially on her own Destroy the Joint campaign. This was created in August 2012 and campaigns on violence against women and related issues, and was sparked by radio announcer Alan Jones's persistent, deeply misogynistic attacks on then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the time; it has since amassed a considerable follower base on Facebook and Twitter.

This may be seen as an example of connective action, as described by Bennett and Segerberg; Jenna has pursued this research through a series of qualitative interviews with key participants, and has found that some 85% of the 34 activists (32 of them women) whom she spoke to began their engagement in activist causes very early on in their lives. She also points to the idea of the tyranny of structurelessness; this describes the challenge of collective organisation, the delegation of tasks, and distributed leadership, and it also requires an understanding of every participant's unique abilities, and significant transparency and communication in organising.

The gaps between collective and connective action are porous, and initiatives may move between the two models; engagement in activities can mean a number of different things to different participants, at different times of the process. Key activities by Destroy the Joint included campaigns to encourage Telstra to provide silent numbers to victims of domestic violence; to address mischief prosecutions in New South Wales; and the Counting Dead Women campaign that highlights government cuts to legal services.

Destroy the Joint used the cultural capital it had gained in its Alan Jones campaign to lobby Telstra to provide free silent numbers to women who had been subjected to domestic violence; the campaign privately emailed then-Telstra CEO David Thodie and received a positive response within 20 minutes. The campaign against mischief prosecutions highlighted the prosecutions of Indigenous women for allegedly making false statements to police about domestic violence if they had subsequently withdrawn their complaints due to kinship pressures. The Counting Dead Women campaign successfully argued for a removal of cuts to legal services supporting the victims of domestic violence.

There was substantial social media engagement through Facebook and other platforms, as various platform metrics show – and in a number of these cases the successes of these campaigns were also widely publicised in the mainstream media. This is a form of information activism, therefore. Facebook ads were used to widen the reach of these campaigns; women have traditionally been easier to reach than men through such means, however. Such information activism has tended to work best when there is an element of entertainment to the material being posted, even though the core business of promoting equality is not in itself entertaining.