Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Revolution Will Not Be Twitterized

What do the American Revolution, the French Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement have in common? They all somehow managed to change history without Facebook and Twitter. But if you listen to our technology-obsessed media this week as post-election unrest unfolds in Iran you'd get the distinct impression that the current opposition rebellion could not exist without these social-networking sites. Even the Obama administration is fueling the hype.

Overnight we're being sold on the critical global relevance of these repositories of heretofore useless information about what the Average Joe is doing, thinking, saying, listening to, watching, reading and eating every 5 minutes. Now they'd like us to believe that Twitter and Facebook are fueling a revolution and serving as the vessel for democracy in Iran. Power to the @People.

On Wednesday, the "I don't think we should meddle" Obama administration decided to meddle and asked Twitter to delay its planned site upgrade so that service would not be interrupted, allowing Tehran's cyber-revolutionaries to continue sending messages and images to their comrades around the world. Think about that. The U.S. government giving so much significance and legitimacy to such a nascent technology, with its utterly self-consumed community, as to imply that without it, somehow the revolution could run out of steam. Talk about self-importance. Needless to say, Twitter complied. It would be nice perhaps if the Blackberry-obsessed Obama actually injected himself into the Iranian election crisis in some truly meaningful capacity. That his boldest intervention was to keep Twitter operating uninterrupted is kind of mind-numbing actually. Where is his outrage? Where is the pressure from the United States, the great democracy and most most powerful nation in the world? Why are we sitting here on the sidelines seemingly afraid to take a harsh stand against such an obvious, colossal crime against humanity?

As for Twitter and Facebook, let's keep their relevance, or lack thereof, in their proper perspective. What would we have without these two sites through which to spread information about the massive protests? We'd have cell-phone cameras, Youtube, digital cameras and email. And what would we have before that? Phones, videotapes, 35mm photographs and underground newspapers. And what would we have before that? Well, we'd have the American Revolution, the French Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement, which last time I checked, profoundly changed the course of history without the ubiquitous Twitter and Facebook.

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Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard about the righties here that want some kind of war because they do not agree with President Obama?

It's getting scary out here.

Unknown said...

Well, I think the American and French revolutions, along with many others, had their equivalent of the net and Twitter and so forth. Recall the pamphleteers such as Tom Paine and the venerable Ben Franklin and the many who published "subversive" books, handbills, pamphlets and so on. They were using modern technology to go around the establishment.

Unknown said...

Of course, you need to include all of those failed revolutions that didn't have technologies, too.

All the best to the Iranian people, but I think the Mullahs are not going to be shamed into giving up power. It will have to be taken from them.

Anonymous said...

>>>It would be nice perhaps if the Blackberry-obsessed Obama actually injected himself into the Iranian election crisis in some truly meaningful capacity<<<

Actually he has explained his actions.
He said that whoever wins the Iran
election will likely not be pro-US .
Also USA history with Iran will
inevitably cause more suspicion
about our intentions than goodwill.
(remember the Shah ?)

Syd Walker said...

My compliments on a fine article. Your note that the US Administration asked Twitter to defer scheduled downtime is well made.

On some of the news sites I visit regularly, I've noticed commentators who typically support Israel under all circumstances are frantically trying to get other readers to visit Twitter for news about Iran. They provide the links, of course.

This seems like a 'megaphoned' psy-op to me.

See for instance Twitter's Difficult Gift To Journalism by Julie Posetti in New Matilda at: