In 1891, Irish author Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) observed, “Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.” However, his claim that disobedience is a valuable human trait and that it promotes social progress is not valid, as there are more cases of civil disobedience ending up being ineffective and destructive than there are that promote social change.
With social media and online forms of activism becoming more and more common, taking issues out to the streets and handling them out there has become less and less common, and therefore less effective. In fact, people in high positions of power may see these cases of disobedience not as powerful or meaningful, but rather a burden. Malcolm Gladwell’s assertions stay consistent with this concept, as it is much easier and more efficient for people to express themselves online rather than in-person. The majority of news will spread faster and to more people on social media, making it unlikely that people will take it out on the streets. Also, the majority of protests and acts of activism that happen online often stay unnoticed or local. Such means that these acts of activism are unlikely to reach a state or federal level in promoting change, and are unlikely to spread the awareness intended to. Activism through the use of social media is much more effective and efficient at both of these.
Civil disobedience may not only be ineffective, but it can also be destructive and harmful to others. Take for example, riots and violent protests in Minneapolis and other U.S. cities regarding the death of George Floyd earlier this year. Although in the end, Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder on the morning of October 22, 2020, many innocent locals had to pay the price for it. Many people’s jobs, livings, and neighborhoods were destroyed as a direct result of this case of disobedience. The Western Journal released a video on May 29, 2020, of K.B. Balla, a colored sports bar owner, breaking down after he lost his entire life’s work to rioters. It seemed to Balla that within an instant, the sports bar that he took pride in and cared about was gone. There are many people like Balla who have lost their businesses and other important things thanks to violent rioters. Even though justice was served in the end, it was not worth millions of dollars in property damage, countless injuries, and possibly even multiple deaths.
Wilde’s claims are not valid as the majority of civil disobedience has turned out to be destructive and ineffective. Civil and peaceful methods of activism and protest are much more effective than disobedience and are much more likely to appeal to people in high positions of authority. There are even cases of disobedience when it comes to other topics besides social change, but in the end, these methods are not necessary nor valid.