There are some benefits to spending the weekend home alone. For example, you get to be the first person to see all the Facebook pictures of your friends out having fun. Sometimes you also get to watch a pretty amazing thing happen on Twitter.
An anti-choice Facebook community called Project Wildfire had planned a “tweetup” last weekend using the hashtag #exposePP, during which they said they would “POST PRO-LIFE COMMENTS & TWEETS TO PLANNED PARENTHOOD & IT’S SUPPORTERS. We will also fb post & tweet THE NATIONAL MEDIA” [sic]. (The Facebook event page has since been deleted.)
Friday night, pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns (@ClinicEscort) learned about the tweetup via the @AbortTheocracy account. Bruns checked out the hashtag and found that, despite a few tweets from the anti-choice group the Susan B. Anthony List, it hadn’t been used much in several years. Twitter user @CSRA_prsn suggested they highjack the hashtag and provide “raw facts about Planned Parenthood.”
And highjack it they did.
Planned Parenthood has officially been exposed for what it is: a popular, necessary source of health care for millions of people. Tweets range from the literal:
…to the snarky:
Pro-choice tweets quickly outnumbered anti-choice ones. Project Wildfire called off the tweetup Saturday night, citing “sick disgusting Pro-Abortion haters,” but Planned Parenthood supporters did not relent. By Sunday, stars were lending their handles to the cause. Comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted:
While comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted:
Planned Parenthood Director of Digital Strategy Heather Holdridge said that so far at least 53,730 tweets have been posted in support of the organization. Of the top 25 tweets using the hashtag (measured in terms of impressions), 23 are in support Planned Parenthood.
“What was so fascinating to watch unfold—and we’ve seen this countless times over the past few years of unrelenting attacks on women’s health—was our supporters using their own voice, whether it was sarcastic or serious, to share what it means to them to ‘expose PP,’” Holdridge told RH Reality Check. “We felt like the most important thing we could do was to provide opportunities for supporters to share positive information about Planned Parenthood’s services, like birth control and cancer screenings, elevate the most compelling stories that were being posted, and most importantly thank our community for supporting Planned Parenthood and the 3 million people who come to our health centers every year.”
In terms of evaluating the effect an effort like this actually has, we have to assume that once Wildfire called off the tweetup, very few antis were following the hashtag. I witnessed some back-and-forth about Margaret Sanger—”She promoted eugenics!” “No she didn’t!”—and about the difference between “life” and the ability to survive outside the womb. But I saw no evidence that the parties engaged in these discussions were swaying one another.
The outpouring of pro-choice support may give some antis pause, but undoubtedly many will double down, invigorated by their martyrdom.
If anything, the success of the event should be measured in terms of Planned Parenthood’s public image, and the extent to which the relentless campaign against the group can be turned on its head.
Bruns thinks it can be. “It becomes a lot harder for anti-choicers to stigmatize Planned Parenthood, or downplay its incredibly vital role in providing health care to millions of people, when there are literally tens of thousands of tweets out there saying otherwise,” she said.
Me, I’m up for anything that allows me to support my causes with humor.