Friday, June 19, 2009

The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

tweet n. (1) a weak chirping sound (2) a short burst of inconsequential information
Once you're already marching outside a government building even though Basij paramilitaries are shooting into the crowd, putting something on Twitter isn't really a significant additional risk.
[Mike Madden at here]
"The government has people with stones throwing them into the government buildings .... Looking at people's communications -- at this point I don't think it's a priority."
[Evgeny Morozov, blogger and Fellow at the Open Society Institute, quoted in the above Salon piece]
I am basically a luddite and a reactionary. That is to say, I don't think social networking means jack.

When Martin Luther King was thrown into jail in Birmingham Alabama in the spring of 1963, a group of local "moderate" clergymen wrote an open letter in the local newspaper, encouraging the civil rights movement to abandon their "confrontational" approach. The clergymen titled their letter "A Call For Unity", and while endorsing, in theory, opposition to social injustice, they insisted that the fight against segregation belonged in the courts, not in the streets.

The prison guards made a point of seeing to it that King got a copy of the paper when the "Call for Unity" was published. Martin Luther King wrote his reply with a broken pencil in the margins of that same newspaper - and when he ran out of space there he used scraps of toilet paper. King's words had to smuggled out surreptitiously during visits from other SCLC activists.

The mainstream media in the US and pretty much the whole world is useless and getting more so all the time. Twitter and the Huffington Post are not the answer, though. There is nothing new under the freaking sun. People need to build, from the ground up, alternative institutions for communication. These institutions will obviously make use of any and all available technology, but they will not be primarily shaped by the latest tech fads and fancies. There is no freedom of the press, except for those who own the printing presses. Communication that is technology based is at the mercy of those who control that technology.

Maybe, just maybe, there is some hope. Perhaps a new, real, independent journalism is, just barely, already coming into existence. Al Giordano has posted, for example, an analysis of the speech just given by Iran's Supreme Leader - which Giordano characterizes as a "blundering all-turban-no-cattle attempt to defuse" the mass protest movement that shows no sign of abating.

That said, the vast majority of human beings are still idiots - and, if anything, the correlation between intelligence and propensity to blog, tweet, etc, is negative. The denominator of the signal to noise ratio has probably never been higher in all of human history, and as far as I can tell the numerator is fast approaching zero.
Just don't forget that the real action -- and the real risk -- isn't happening anywhere near a computer.
[Mike Madden in Salon]

"The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live."
[Gill Scott-Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

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