Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Egypt, Tunisia, and twitter

To paraphrase Leon Trotsky, during the Russian Revolution, power fell into the streets, ie there came a point where none of the normal organisations commanded any effective power, neither the government or the formal opposition, and the Bolshevik party assumed power purely by being able to end the chaos of competing movements.

We saw power fall into the streets in Tunisa, we are seeing something similar happen in Egypt. Social media are allowing people to self organise into powerful ad hoc protest movements, without clear connections to the 'traditional' opposition.
We have also seen this to a more limited extent during the student protests in London before Christmas, where the protests were not dependent on the NUS for leadership and organisation as they would have been previously. And to be fair we have seen something similar happen unsuccessfully in Iran. And during the Queensland floods twitter and facebook helped people get organise to better cope with the consequences of the flooding.

There is both a powerful message here and an interesting evolving phenomenon here. Governments exist by the consent of their populace. And when when people talk of 'orderly transition' they usually mean power passing from one set discredited old men to another set of old men better able to command a degree of respect.

No longer. In the age of social media, governments need to obtain and keep the respect of their populations, as the people have learned that while governments may be made behind closed doors, but that the people can unmake them ...

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