Skip to main content

How Social Media is leveling the playing field between governments, militants, and ordinary people

Part 3

During the initial upsurge of enthusiasm about the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, observers noted how effectively social media had been used as an organizing tool by young activists. While it would be overstating the case to attribute the revolutions themselves to social media (as some of the more breathless analyses did at the time), the impact that online social networks, cellphones, and new satellite television stations had on mobilizing and informing people in these societies was undeniable. The idea of young people using social media to topple dictatorships played into the narrative of “tech-utopianism,” still in vogue at the time, stimulating the idea that future political changes might be organized from below through the liberating power of the internet.

The grim years that followed the initial uprisings have mostly dispelled this narrative. While liberal activists were adept at organizing online, so were political Islamists and jihadist groups. These groups were better funded, better organized, and already had experience operating clandestinely – using the latest technologies for propaganda, recruitment, and networking. Over time, it would be Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as jihadists, that moved into the vanguard of the revolutions, pushing aside the liberal activists who had initially captured the world’s imagination.

Digital World War” is an analysis of how opposition movements, and Islamists in particular, have used social media as a tool of waging war against established governments. Haroon Ullah is a former State Department official and expert on Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami movement. Unlike Patrikarikos’s book, “Digital World War” is a staid academic analysis of how social media and other new technologies are altering the dynamics between central governments and opposition movements, both Islamist and liberal. But Ullah’s work also addresses the crux of how social media is upending the traditional power dynamics governing war and politics.

Perhaps the most destabilizing aspect of new technologies is the way that they have potentially supercharged the speed of political change. Youth-led revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia began and ended within a matter of weeks, toppling governments that had been in place for decades. Although both countries had suffered from long-standing structural problems, the sparks for both uprisings were lit over individual outrages – corruption and police brutality – that were spread and rapidly popularized over social media. Though many bystanders later joined the protests for other reasons, the speed and scale with which people initially organized would have been impossible in an era before cellphones and the internet.

The very speed of these movements, however, made it hard to build a sustainable order out of the collapse of the old regimes. While it was true that online mobilization played a role in toppling both Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, it also allowed little time for real leaders to emerge or for political platforms to be agreed upon. While the people who went into the streets were united in their indignation over injustice and their opposition to the old order, they had very different ideas about the future of their countries. When the regimes collapsed, the only parties established enough to take advantage were those aligned with the long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood.

It was not a matter of Islam being some defining feature of Tunisian identity — despite the Islamists claims,” Ullah writes, regarding the Tunisian revolution and the subsequent election of the liberal Islamist party Ennahda, “Rather, the victory was the natural outcome of the inevitable schism between the nature of the revolution and the readiness of the Islamists for power.

Social media is not the first information technology that has had helped galvanize revolutionary change. Radio, telegraph, and even the printing press all helped precipitate major socio-political transformations in the past, the latter famously helping enable the Christian Reformation.

More recently, the groundwork for the 1979 Iranian Revolution was laid with the help of a relatively new technology: Popular speeches by the revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, were recorded and copied onto cassette tapes, which were then rapidly replicated and distributed. Unlike social media movements that can close the cycle between outrage and protest to a matter of days, however, it took Khomeini years of painstaking media work to help build mass support for an opposition movement in Iran. By the time the that Iranians finally went into the streets against the Shah – motivated by many different ideological currents – Khomeini was a well-known and popular spiritual leader within the opposition. When the monarchy fell, he was well-placed to marginalize his ideological rivals and consolidate clerical power over the country.

The difference between Iran’s uprising and the leaderless revolutions of today is vast and points to one of the major pitfalls of internet activism. Online organizing and propaganda can be legitimately useful for destabilizing regimes, especially rigidly authoritarian ones that need to strictly control the flow of information. But because of the speed with which it can precipitate change, it is less useful for building up the networks and organizations needed to fill the gap created when old governments actually fall.

When there is no single leader to focus a political movement — Khomeini, Mandela, Lenin — there may be more and faster revolutions than previously, but there are fewer revolutionary outcomes and scenarios,” Ullah writes. “So when a dictatorship – by definition and decree the sole and strongest institution in a country — is deposed by insurrections like the Arab Spring, what comes into the place of the power vacuum is not dictated by those who have created it.

Source, links:


[1] [2] [4]

Read also:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

In another bizarre moment, CNN suffers from a real-journalism crisis and exposes the US war crimes in Yemen ... again!

It’s almost like watching The Twilight Zone!
globinfo freexchange
When the corporate media finally decided to dedicate some of their 'precious' time to focus on the war crimes in Yemen, we thought that it was just a smokescreen. The 'unexplained phenomenon' happened after the unimaginable war-crime in which a school bus was bombed by the Saudi coalition, fully supported by the US.
The global condemnation was so loud that the corporate media couldn't avoid it. They had to speak about it. However, we were right. It was just a small parenthesis away from the common agenda. The US-Saudi coalition war crimes in Yemen continue at the same rate, but the corporate media continue to act like if the war doesn't even exist.
Yet, surprisingly enough, we had an unexpected exception to this corporate media norm. CNN decided to return to the issue and condemn the US involvement in Yemen!
In the following video, Kyle Kulinski was also surprised by the fact that CNN covered again th…

Jeremy Corbyn: 'We are in touch with Bernie Sanders and his campaign'

globinfo freexchange
Jeremy Corbyn and Yanis Varoufakis had an interesting conversation in August 20, at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Varoufakis challenged Corbyn to lead an international progressive movement that will end the brutal policies of the dominant neoliberalism.
Interesting parts of the dialogue:
JC: We saw the way in which the European Central Bank treated yourselves and also the austerity that was imposed on Ireland on Portugal and Spain.
YV: It's not just a state. They committed a crime against the Irish people. The head of the Central Bank of Europe put a gun on the Irish Prime Minister's head and demanded that overnight the losses of private investors, mostly from Germany, should be transferred on to the books of the Irish state and the Irish Prime Minister's account. Now, that's, you know, robbery, just daylight robbery. That's what they did.
JC: I actually challenged the whole Maastricht idea, which established the European Central Bank, because it wa…

Τελευταία ευκαιρία για Grexit ... πριν αναλάβει ο Κούλης

globinfo freexchange
Η τελευταία κερδοσκοπική επίθεση κατά του τραπεζικού συστήματος δείχνει ότι ακόμα και όταν υποκύπτεις σε ότι ζητάει η διεθνής χρηματοπιστωτική μαφία, δεν είναι αρκετό.
Το ότι θα δικαιωνόμασταν για άλλη μια φορά και μάλιστα τόσο γρήγορα, πραγματικά δεν το περιμέναμε.
Μετά την υποτιθέμενη έξοδο από τα μνημόνια και το περίφημο διάγγελμα Τσίπρα είχαμε γράψει πως οι μετριοπαθείς 'Αριστεροί' προσπαθούν να μας πείσουν ότι τώρα η χώρα θα έχει περισσότερη ελευθερία να χαράξει τις δικές της πολιτικές. Δηλαδή, η χρεοκοπημένη Ελλάδα (που βρίσκεται σε χειρότερη κατάσταση απ'ότι όταν μπήκε στο πρόγραμμα διάσωσης), θα κολυμπήσει ξεβράκωτη στα ίδια νερά με τους καρχαρίες των αγορών και θα επιβιώσει. Αυτό πάνω-κάτω μας λένε.
Πράγματι λοιπόν, μετά από περίπου ενάμισι μήνα, ένα από τα βασικά εργαλεία του μηχανισμού της διεθνούς χρηματοπιστωτικής μαφίας (το Bloomberg), αποφάσισε να εξαπολύσει επίθεση κατά του τραπεζικού συστήματος και ο πανικός δεν άργησε να εξαπλωθεί. Όπω…

How Bezos tricked Bernie and workers

globinfo freexchange
The truth is that Bernie Sanders fought, and still fights for the workers more than any elected US president combined for decades. And his crusade against Amazon and Jeff Bezos' enormous greed resulted in the unprecedented decision of the company to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour.
But it was too good to be true.
As Bloomberg reported:
           Amazon.com Inc. is eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for warehouse workers and other hourly employees after the company pledged this week to raise pay to at least $15 an hour. Warehouse workers for the e-commerce giant in the U.S. were eligible in the past for monthly bonuses that could total hundreds of dollars per month as well as stock awards, said two people familiar with Amazon’s pay policies. The company informed those employees Wednesday that it’s eliminating both of those compensation categories to help pay for the raises, the people said.


As a pure product of the neoliberal culture, Bezos found the op…

The Podesta emails - top US plutocracy group attempted to approach Hillary Clinton under newly elected chairman Jeff Bezos

WikiLeaks series on deals involving Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta. Mr Podesta is a long-term associate of the Clintons and was President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff from 1998 until 2001. Mr Podesta also owns the Podesta Group with his brother Tony, a major lobbying firm and is the Chair of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington DC-based think tank.
globinfo freexchange
An email by a Business Council* representative to John Podesta was expressing the desire of the group to 'approach' Hillary Clinton.
The email was sent nearly two years before the 2016 presidential election at the time where Jeff Bezos was the newly elected president of the group. Also, according to the email, the group consisted of more than 120 "of the biggest CEO's in the US.", meaning, the elite of the American plutocracy.
According to the email, the group was interested for a speech by Hillary Clinton in their meeting, but also, for some informal contacts of he…

This is the real EU ...

failed evolution
When the European Parliament voted recently to sanction Hungary for neglecting norms on democracy, civil rights and corruption, we wrote:
This is the Union that exhibited some "humanitarian sensitivity" by packing thousands of refugees in Greek islands under inhuman conditions and paid Turkey to keep them in its soil. And now, these hypocrites want to punish Hungary for neglecting norms on democracy, civil rights and corruption!
We were right.
According to a recent article by the NY Times:
There is growing acrimony — and now an investigation — over why the camp [Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos] is so bad when so much money has been provided by the European Union to help improve the Greek asylum system since migration levels started to rise in 2014.
[...]
Aid groups have been warning of a need for expanded facilities for several years, however. For some, the failure to improve the camp and hasten the asylum process suggests neglect on the…

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - neoliberal establishment 0-3 ... so far

globinfo freexchange
More than a month ago, we identified an immediate mobilization of the establishment machine to push progressives into the establishment lines after the 'shocking' victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Under the fierce pressure of the corporate media, Cortez was essentially forced to declare loyalty to Nancy Pelosi. That was a first, significant victory of the establishment against Cortez and the progressive movement.
After that, we saw an unexplained and bizarre contribution of both Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez to the establishment pro-McCain 'litanies'. In this totally unnecessary self-recruitment for the McCain's legacy whitewash operation, Cortez retreated unconditionally and the establishment marked a second victory against her.
Now, the establishment 'scored' one more time, as Cortez was forced to endorse establishment's agent, Andrew Cuomo.


We mentioned already that corporate media will focus mainly on pushing progressives to b…

Rapid drop of the recruitment rates may accelerate hyper-automation and privatization of the US army

globinfo freexchange
Younger generations have been 'trained' by the dominant culture to act in more 'pragmatic' terms in the arena of a brutal economic cynicism. As the fight for a place in this system becomes harder and harder, more and more people are being left out of the game. More and more of the them struggle to survive.
Despite these perfect conditions for the US empire components to exploit the growing numbers of the 'brigades of the poor’, not everything went well for the empire.
After 9/11 disaster, the Internet, the WikiLeaks, the alternative sources of information, the whistleblowers and the powerful combination of all these, brought some unprecedented changes. They managed to destroy the deceptive facade of the US deep state narratives, propagated through the corporate media.
With all the big lies, war crimes, war propaganda exposed to great extent, millennials and new generations are not easy targets for "war on terror"-type narratives.
As a con…

In Brazil too we see what has become now neoliberalism's common practice: recruit the far-right to do the dirty job

globinfo freexchange
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, professor of sociology at Coimbra University in Portugal, and a distinguished legal scholar at the University of Wisconsin Madison, spoke with Greg Wilpert of the Real News, about the shocking rise of neofascism in Brazil through presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro.
Santos explained:
It’s very well documented that the United States is - through several organizations - really advising, financing Bolsonaro’s campaign. Bannon has said that he had talks with the Bolsonaro’s son and they have particularly advised him in terms of digital strategies. That’s what they are doing. But we know that the Koch brothers have also been helping fund him.
We are in a society in which the class inequalities go together with the racial prejudice. In this society, which in fact for a long time it was very conservative and run by the oligarchies, in the last 15 years, there was a revolution in terms of the social policies - particularly the identity policies.…

Financial crises: a tool for the banking cartels to become more powerful

globinfo freexchange
Ten years after the last financial meltdown, very few spotted and mentioned (even until today) an astonishing admission by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC).
In the conclusions on chapter 20 of the report, the Commission implies that trillions (with a T) of taxpayer dollars were mobilized to stabilize the system.
Yet, perhaps the most astonishing conclusion that drawn very little attention, lies in the last sentence in which the Commission actually confirms that the financial sector is even more concentrated in the hands of very few powerful institutions:
A series of actions, inactions, and misjudgments left the country with stark and painful alternatives—either risk the total collapse of our financial system or spend trillions of taxpayer dollars to stabilize the system and prevent catastrophic damage to the economy. In the process, the government rescued a number of fi- nancial institutions deemed “too big to fail”—so large and interconnected with oth…