Ivan Boothe on Tue, 22 Feb 2011 07:36:57 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Twitter does not cause revolution, people do

OK, this is getting annoying. No one's arguing that Twitter "causes" revolution. There's useful, intelligent debate to be had around how social media might or might not affect revolution, or how it alters the approaches people take in organizing (either positively or negatively), or whether it limits the goals of the revolution.

But I challenge this author or anyone else to find anyone above the level of Some Guy On the Internet arguing that Twitter "causes" revolution. No serious writer or thinker on this list or any other list or any major blog or newspaper has advanced anything close to this argument. This is a pointless straw man and it's distracting from the much more important discussions to be had around this.

> The revolution didn’t happen because one morning the people of Egypt
> woke up and said “Ah! Nice morning, we have nothing better to do, so
> let’s get rid of our government”.

No, but this column was written by someone who woke up one morning and said "Ah! Nice morning, I have nothing better to write about, so I'll argue against a pretend position that no one actually takes so that I can sound smart and feel important."

> However, if you were on-line and read or ‘heard’ comments from those
> in the know — you would think that it was a Facebook or Twitter
> revolution (17% of Egyptians have internet access and that was
> severely blocked during the revolution) or a ‘social media-inspired
> revolution.

No, you wouldn't think that. I notice that the author provides no links to any such comments from "those in the know" (whatever that's supposed to mean) -- it's just supposed to be common knowledge that thousands of people are advancing a fantastically stupid argument without rebuttals from anyone.

> Ever since president Barack Obama won his election in the US, the
> power of the social media to garner support for a cause or elections
> has been talked about. What has been ignored is the sheer grassroots
> mechanism — individuals — who manned the campaign.

Yes, it's really striking how the media completely ignored the people who worked on the campaign. Oh wait, except for
this http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/26/us/politics/26organizer.html
and this http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/12/AR2008061203658.html
and this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zack-exley/obama-field-organizers-pl_b_61918.html
and this http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/05/nation/na-obama-supporters5
and this http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-obama-networkdec05,0,7403685.story
(those were found with 30 seconds of Google)

And also, of course, the fact that the U.S. domestic media reporters "ignored" people working for a U.S. presidential campaign is obviously just like foreign news reporters "ignoring" people overthrowing a dictator.

> There is genuine problem when you start mistaking the tool for the
> outcome. Just because you have a screw driver at home, doesn’t make
> you an electrician.

And just because you have a word processor doesn't make you a columnist.

> So the next time someone tells you that the power of social media is
> going to bring down governments, or bring in government, don’t argue
> with the converted — just smile — because it isn’t true.

Don't hold your breath waiting for someone to come up and tell you this -- you'll be waiting to feel smug for a long while.

> Expecting social media to deliver revolution or governments is a bit
> like expecting Coke or Pepsi to sell via social media without getting
> their ground distribution in place.

Because not only is revolution like U.S. electoral politics, it's also like the cola wars!

(And just to clarify: This isn't meant to criticize all of the interesting, useful debate around these revolutions and the role or non-role social media plays in them. That discussion is very much worth having. This article distracts us from that much more important debate.)

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