Contesting Monument Designations on Social Media


This image is a screen capture of 2 social media posts, the first responding to President Trump's executive order to reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments and the second responding to the first post.


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Contributed date

February 7, 2019 - 5:38pm

Critical Commentary

This image consists of two social media posts screen-captured by Danica Loucks. The first, posted by Patagonia Inc. on Instagram on December 4th, 2017, is a response to President Trump's executive order to reduce the size of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. With white text on a black background, the large text dramatically claims, "The President Stole Your Land," describing Trump's action as an "illegal move" resulting in "the largest elimination of protected land in American history." This image highlights some of the language pro-monument actors use, indexing important conversations at play in public lands issues--for instance, constitutional scholars' conversations about what is a proper application of the Antiquities Act of 1906 and whether a president's attempt to reverse previous applications of it is unconstitutional--and raising questions about what histories are elided in many pro-monument articulations. Protected from what or from whom? The largest in whose history? Since the land is still there what does it mean that an executive order means the space is "eliminated?"

The second screen capture is an image posted on the official Twitter account of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Republicans, led by Utah Congressman Rob Bishop. In a an explicitly memefying response, the large white text claims, "Patagonia is Lying to You." Challenging Patagonia's own positioning of being a champion from public lands, this post casts the company's interest in public lands as purely profit-driven ("@Patagonia doesn't want #MonumentsforAll, they just want your money #BearsEars"). In declaring Patagonia "a corporate giant hijacking our public lands debate to sell more products," this message seems to imply not just an opposition to Patagonia's stance on public lands management but even more strongly a declaration that a "corporate giant" has no legitimate voice in this conflict--it is not the land being hijacked, but the debate itself. Furthermore, this image ties together Patagonia as profit-hungry corporate giant and "wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco," tapping in to a conceptual mapping of urban, wealthy, elite, physically distant from public lands against categories unnamed that might be guessed as rural, non-wealthy or working class, residents near the land in question--pointing toward an imagined or perceived audience encompassing down-to-earth Heartland Americans and suggesting a number of ideas about who has a right to be invested in what happens to public lands.

In addition to indexing numerous facets of the who, what, and why of public lands debates as described above, these two images exemplify the way in which debates about highly specific areas span physical and digital space far beyond the geographical locality.


The Internet
United States