Saturday, February 19, 2011

rajeev in rediff on the limits to twitter revolutions

rajeev in rediff on the limits to twitter revolutions: "feb 11th, 2011 CE

twitter is all very well, but revolutions need blood, sweat and tears.

are indians willing to give this? our ancestors were, but i don't know if the current generation is.

it takes martyrs to get rid of tyrants; and the martyrs' sacrifices may not ever work the first time.


Thus, it may well be the case that revolutions have to be made the old-fashioned way: you earn the right to overthrow by putting yourself in the line of fire; and revolutions run on the blood, sweat and tears of real people facing real bullets and truncheons.

This is not to, by any means, diminish the substantial role social media has in creating an alternative channel of information, less susceptible to disruption and massaging by the authorities. It may well be that social media is neither necessary nor sufficient for revolution, as the Economist opined in a podcast; it may act only as a catalyst or an accelerant.

It may also be that social media is more effective in certain areas than in others. For instance, it is likely that the Radia tapes incident in India [ Images ] would have been buried by the mainstream media, certainly because it affected several mediapersons, and the media, as is its wont, closed ranks. However, the issue was kept alive on Twitter, and the journalists involved lost credibility.

However, one of the impugned journalists has not stepped down, and acts as though she were innocent and wrongly accused. It is a tribute to the powerlessness of social media that this person, and her employers, have not felt the need to accede to popular outrage. They have chosen to brazen it out, confident that they can ride out this storm.

Therefore, if social media cannot even force a tainted journalist to resign, it stands to reason that it will not be able to force a ruler to step down, much less one who is entrenched and resourceful. Thus, all the outrage on Twitter about corruption, dynastic rule and lack of governance in India may amount to nothing. The powers-that-be have too much control.

Notably, Egypt cut off the Internet and cellular phones, but that did not have a very big impact on the struggle; so much so that they were turned back on.