Some naysayers (“Revolts don’t have to be tweeted,” “Humans, Not Tweets, Overthrew Mubarak”) have been criticizing President Obama’s recent citation of Twitter and social media for aiding the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Here’s what Obama said:
“We live in a world that is getting smaller because of technology. You saw recently what was happening in Egypt — people with Facebook and Twitter led an entire revolution in their country.”
My favorite rebuttal came from Laurie Penny at the New Statesman:
“The internet is a useful tool, but it is just a tool. HTML does not cause mass uprisings any more than a handgun causes mass murder – although, for people of a certain mindset, the mere proximity of the tool is enough to set dangerous thoughts in motion. […] The writing is on the wall, with or without the web.”
Guns don’t cause murder, but they sure as hell make it a lot easier. Same thing with social media and organizing.
Without tools like Twitter (and newer mass media technologies like satellite TV), the only information available to Egyptians would have been state-run media (which were reporting that the rebellions were small and being contained).
Nobody’s saying the only reason the uprising happened was social media. Uprisings do, however, require communication – and social media facilitates it far better than any other tool in human history. The speed and accuracy with which information was available to Egyptians provided a generous amount of lubricant to the machinery of a discontented population.
Credit where credit is due.