Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Social media and revolution

Much has been written, most of it laudatory, about the role of "social media" in the revolutions that comprise Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, Idle No More, etc.

The think tank here at Falling Downs has given this more than a bit of thought. In fact, we've gone deep in the tank on this question.

The problem with flash mob revolutions is that they're mostly sizzle and very little steak.

Real change takes years, often decades of dedicated activism. The overthrow of the Czars came after generations of anti-Czarist activism.

Occupy and Idle have mostly fizzled, precisely because after the thrill of that initial success in rallying a lot of voices wore off, there was no infrastructure of revolution there to carry things forward.

The Arab Spring has become the MB autumn simply because the Muslim Brotherhood was the only significant anti-government entity in Tunisia or Egypt that had the years-long back-story of forging grass-roots resistance networks. Both of those revolutions were fomented by young secular activists using social media as their primary tool.

Both of them are now in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, who took the time to build those embedded real social networks in the fabric of their respective societies.

That's why they're in the driver's seat and the secularists are relegated to the margins.

PM Erdogan is the latest leader to fall afoul of the social media revolutionaries, and he has gone so far as mentioning Twitter in his denunciations of the Turkish uprising. The Twitter uprising in Turkey is something of a false alarm. There are well-established institutions embedded in Turkish society who will use this social-media inspired sizzle to assert their own agenda.

Whether that is also the agenda of the youthful protesters in the streets the past few nights remains to be seen.

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