Would Facebook have stopped the Argentinian Dirty War?
comment 3 Written by on March 22, 2010 – 3:59 pm


Yes, I chose this headline to get your attention. I’m not being trivial and I don’t really think Facebook alone can stop a war. But I do have a serious point to make, if you bear with me.

This Wednesday is Día de la Memoria in Argentina. It’s remembrance day to honour the 30,000 people who ‘disappeared’ during the military dictatorship (Dirty War). Thirty thousand. I’ll never stop being astounded by that figure. And it’s even worse when you start hearing the individual stories.

People here will be marking the day in many ways, but one small gesture I’ve noticed is my friends – Argentinians, expats and travellers – have started taking their profile pictures down on Facebook.

Yes, it really is a *tiny* gesture but it does show solidarity. Argentina has moved on, but it will never forget. And it will never go back.

During the dictatorship from 1976-83, people lost the right to voice their opinions. They couldn’t even read what the wanted to read. A friend’s mum told me she had a book on Che Guevara that she buried in the garden in case the military police came around. She wasn’t particularly political, she was just a curious student, like millions of others worldwide who buy the t-shirt but haven’t really worked out what the man in the beret represents. And yet, in this case, she felt her life was in danger simply for having a copy of a book. Whether she believed in it or not, she feared she could be considered a threat to the state.

That’s just one example that had an impact on me. There are so many more.

Twenty-seven years since the regime fell and now we live in a world ruled by the internet and social networking. Often social networking is used simply to send someone a picture of a cow for their virtual farm or to have a laugh at tagged pictures from a drunken night out, but it’s also become such an important tool for allowing regular people to get their voices heard.

Facebook in itself can’t stop a war and this profile-picture campaign is one of many, many others, but the action did make me think about how much things have changed. Not just here, but across the world. (In other news today, Google has just ended censorship of its site in China.)

With such a wealth of information at my finger tips as I sit here in front of my computer in Buenos Aires, where I have an ability to instantly communicate with people all across the world and to self-publish any little thought, how can we ever go back to what was before? Nunca más.

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3 Responses to “Would Facebook have stopped the Argentinian Dirty War?”

  1. Hi. I´m an Argentinian journalist. I really like your post and let me tell you my experience. At first I doubted a lot about erasing the profile photo. I also thought it was just a “tiny” gesture and I believe that, in general, cyberactivism is something trivial and if you really want a change you should get involved in a “real” way and not just virtual. But then I realized that most of my contacts have already done it and the image was shocking. In addition to that every time a friend erases his/her photo they add a short text about the Dictatorship period, so is also a good way to communicate our ideas. Last but not least some of the children of the “desaparecidos” use photos of their parents in their profiles. Then, I had no more doubts. Yes, maybe is a little gesture, but for Argentinians is much more than that.

  2. Thank you Gabi. I really appreciate your thoughts and I totally agree. Like you, I have scanned down my friends list today and so many photos have ‘disappeared’. It’s quite startling.

    By Vicky Baker on Mar 23, 2010 | Reply

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