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The Most Powerful Campaign Online Right Now Started With A Selfie

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, January 3 2014

On December 27, a car bomb exploded in downtown Beirut, killing six people, including the targeted Lebanese politician and former ambassador to the United States, Mohamad Chatah.

Moments before the blast, four teenage boys in hoodies and tee shirts took a group picture of themselves. The next pictures of the scene, taken by professional photographers, show fire, smoke, chaos, and a lone figure in a red hoodie sprawled on the ground encircled by a halo of blood.

One blogger called the group picture “the most tragic selfie of 2013,” and that was before Mohamed Chaar died from his wounds.

Chaar's photograph, released by Lebanese netizens with the accompanying message, “Mohammed Chaar is not a martyr, Mohammed Chaar is a victim,” has struck a nerve among Lebanese society. Many perhaps identify with the selfie but also with the inexplicable violence that followed.

The Monday following the bombing, students marched to the scene of the blast holding signs that read “we are all Mohammed.”

The selfie inspired the hashtag #NotAMartyr [#مش_شهيد] on Twitter and Facebook. The hashtag is being used to share more than condolences; it is being used as a call for change. On Twitter and the #NotAMartyr Facebook page, which has acquired 4,927 likes since its launch on December 30, people are sharing their personal hopes, dreams, desires, and demands for Lebanon, often in the form of a selfie.

The use of selfies in protests and campaigns is on the rise. (Most recently, techPresident examined the use of selfies as a way of “hacking” the corporate Hunger Games marketing campaign by the advocacy group, the Harry Potter Alliance.) #NotAMartyr is further evidence of the power of the humble selfie, whether as a rallying point for mourners or campaign building for activists.

Unfortunately, another car bomb went off in a suburb of Beirut yesterday, January 2, killing at least five and wounding more than 60.

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