Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tunisian Protests Spread to Egypt

So apparently Facebook isn't quite as establishment-reinforcing as previously thought. Egyptian radicals, spurred by Tunisia's successful social-media-intermediated uprising, have started using Facebook and Twitter to coordinate their own protests as well.

Not that it's really about social media. I don't think that's fair to the people who are risking their lives on the streets of Tunis and Cairo. I also still maintain that Malcolm Gladwell had a point when he talked about how low-effort e-protesting just isn't going to accomplish much. What's different here is that it's serving as a complement to real, out-in-the-street protest, instead of as a substitute.

There's still no substitute for getting your hands dirty. You still have to get out there and make some noise. You still need to march in the street, carry those signs, wield the megaphone, and everything else that comes with struggling for change. You also still have to  engage in the simple, repetitive, low-key but absolutely vital political work of doorknocking, phone canvassing, leaflet dropping and the like. And, yes, you still need to actually mail your governmental representatives, since that carries far more weight than email does.

But social networking tools do have a place as a means of bringing people together, getting them organized, and channeling their passions in a productive direction. It's not as sexy as supposed "twitter revolutions". Even so, it's still important and necessary.

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