Hey, did you hear that Melania Trump plagiarized her RNC speech from Michelle Obama? You’re not the only one.

Actually, whoever wrote her Melania Trump’s speech stole from whoever wrote Michelle Obama’s speech and got caught. The Trump campaign, though, is saying that no one will be fired. Of course they won’t. It was, after all, a job well done.

Even getting caught. Especially getting caught.

Think about it. They didn’t choose a speech from decades ago that most people on the internet today probably never heard, they picked one from 2008. They knew someone would find it and share their findings.

The Trump team wanted to get caught. The question is why. I can think of two reasons:

The Perfect Audition

If you see politics through the lens of showbiz and reality TV as the Trump Campaign clearly does, this speech was Melania’s audition for the role of First Lady. And now, thanks to the plagiarism, everyone gets to see her audition reel juxtaposed with that of the woman who currently has the role.

They’re using the same script, as many performers do in an audition. Only the delivery can be judged. If you think that Donald Trump thinks substance is important, especially when it comes to women, then you really haven’t been paying attention to the Trump Campaign.

Sure, there will be Trump plagiarism jokes, but they will fade. Everyone knows about speechwriters, so there won’t be any lasting repercussions for Melania’s credibility. The result of the media’s inadvertent and subliminal elevation of Melania Trump to Michelle Obama’s level, on the other hand, could be long lasting.

Burying the Ugliness of the Night

Until Donald introduced Melania, night one of the Republican National Convention was a prime time play to the extreme right of the GOP base. The speakers hit all the right bigot sweetspots.

There was fear of the Mexican other, fear of the Muslim other and fear that Hillary Clinton somehow colluded with the others in Benghazi. There was praise of the militarized state and, of course, Blue Lives Matter.

It was a display of middle American white pride and fear that was as sure to rally the Republican troops as it was to infuriate the left and alienate more than a handful of centrists. But that’s not what we’re talking about now, is it?

While the far right most likely now feels that Donald Trump’s Republican Party really speaks to them, the rest of us have been focused on video of a would-be first lady played opposite a video of an actual one. Donald didn’t even screw it up by saying something inflammatory himself.

After using We Are the Champions as intro music (something, fortunately, we are calling him out for), Trump said: “Oh, we’re gonna win. We’re gonna win so big!”

He sounded like someone unable to contain the fact that he thought his plan was working. Now, it’s clear what his plan for the night was.

The most frightening takeaway from RNC Night One wasn’t that most of the GOP base are bigots, we already knew that. It’s the horrific realization that Donald Trump may actually be smart enough to pull this off.

Discussions of news through social media often consider it a threat toward traditional media in informing, mobilizing, and empowering the public. While this medium may grant more accessibility, it also comes with its own set of drawbacks and as such, social media movements -such as the recent #BringBackOurGirls campaign- often have mixed effects.



On April 14th, over 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from a school in the Northern town of Chibok, Nigeria by the insurgent group Boko Haram. 53 of the kidnapped girls managed to escape but 276 remain in captivity a month later.

On May 12th, Boko Haram released a video of the remaining girls, stating that they would be released in exchange for the Nigerian government’s release of Boko Haram prisoners.

These kidnappings are only the most recent strategy used by Boko Haram who claims that it will not stop until it overthrows the current government.

The insurgent group’s political objective is to remove all forms of Western influence in Nigeria -including Western attire, elections and secularism- and replacing it with a form of Islamic governance that is based on traditional systems and Sharia law.

The group has previously used violent means in attempts to achieve these objectives. It has claimed responsibility for attacks on Nigerian journalists and media organizations, government employees, farmers, schools, military barracks and international organizations.

More than a month later, over 260 schoolgirls still remain in custody of Boko Haram.  These kidnappings are only the most recent strategy used by the insurgent group, which had previously launched attacks on Nigerian journalists and media organizations, government employees, farmers, military barracks, international organizations and even schools.

Indeed, the scale of these kidnappings sets it apart from previous attacks and shows the continuing ability of Boko Haram to operate even in light of the region being under emergency law.

Social media: Western uptake


Despite the scale of the Chibok kidnappings, international media did not immediately pick up the story.  Protests in response to the Nigerian government’s initially false statements on the girls’ and the advent of the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls belatedly catapulted the issue onto the front pages of international newspapers and newsfeeds.

Thanks to the traces left by online content this can be well documented: The Chibok kidnappings took place April 14th, #BringBackOurGirls was first created April 23rd, and in-depth coverage by the Western media began in late April and early May.  Political and social figures have also participated in the campaign and have thus increased its visibility.

First Lady Michelle Obama posted a picture of herself with the hashtag on Instagram and broke convention to deliver the weekly Presidential address alone, stating “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

Activist Malala Yousafzai also tweeted her support and penned an article titled “Save my Nigerian Sisters,” connecting the Chibok kidnappings to the global problem of difficulties faced by women in pursuing education.

The high degree of coverage of the kidnappings has also spurred political action by the international community. China, Britian, France, Israel and the US have offered their own specialized investigative teams to aid the Nigerian government in locating the girls.

The United States in particular, is reported to have also shared intelligence with the Nigerian government, and has deployed manned surveillance missions in attempts to locate the girls.

ann coulter bring back our countryIn this, the positives of the social media movement cannot be denied. It has brought the story of these schoolgirls into everyday conversation and has helped mobilize international resources and support.

However, there is a limit in the ability of social media campaigns to inform and to effect change. The high volume and short word limits of social media posts do not convey the complex political context in Nigeria. Instead, social media can further promote sensational narratives that exclusively focus on the threat of violent extremist ‘Islamists’ and/or an underdeveloped Africa.

Such generalized conversations can then divorce the link between the Chibok kidnappings and the broader social and political context specific to Nigeria.

Indeed, the fact that Boko Haram was able to orchestrate the Chibok raid in a region under emergency law and counterinsurgency measures demonstrates how vital structural factors –such as government corruption, sectarian tensions, socioeconomic inequality and military incapacity- are to the making sense of the crisis.

Social media also provides a platform for critics to voice their opinions and to engage in debates with those promoting the movements. Michelle Obama’s tweet was met with criticisms of hypocrisy as users employed the hashtags#BringBackYourDrones  and #AllInnocentLivesAreEqual to counter that the Obama administration’s foreign policy decisions in the Middle East and South Asia has also jeopardized the lives of children.

The virality of hashtag #BringBackOurGirls also means that it has been hijacked to raise donations and promote external causes and parodied insensitively.

None of this is to say that the kidnappings do not warrant international attention. Indeed, social media was instrumental in challenging the initially lackluster responses. However, the virality of a social media campaign does not necessarily guarantee resolution of the issue it champions.

#KONY2012 is a powerful reminder of social media’s selective attention and of its ability to distort, exploit, sensationalize and #BringBackOurGirls has similarly experienced much of the positives and the negatives of a social media campaign.