Week 14 – Future Social Movements

The Cohn article discusses the State Departments decision to abandon the America.gov project in order to devote more time to promoting social media sites instead such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The author presents a reasoning theory which we are very familiar with in this class: In order to reach people you have to meet them where they already are; online. Cohn hypothesizes that the recent revolts in the Middle East solidified the youths reliance on social medias and shed light on how powerful these resources can be for starting movements.

The Gladwell article in the New Yorker presents an extremely different point of view, one of which questions the role of social media in the recent revolutions in the middle east instead of praising them. Gladwell presents an interesting point of view, the Nazi’s didn’t have Twitter, yet they were still able to take over Germany. There was no Facebook during the Civil Rights movement but that too was also successful and activists found a way to communicate with one another. Why then are we praising these social medias like they are the reason the masses can overcome government oppression?

Both articles discuss the role of social media plays in giving a voice to the people, educating them about their neighboring countries, and giving them the power to overthrow their government. What I would like to discuss is the application of all of these theories regarding social media, to the United States. While it is important to consider the role of democratizing medias in communist and dictatorship countries, it may also be important to consider what effects these medias have right here at home.

I think is the common thread between the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran is that, through social media, citizens gained access to information they didn’t originally have. Information is power. Essentially that is ALSO the common thread between the middle east revolutions and, let’s say, Nazi Germany. The ability to control the flow information is how regimes manipulate their power. And the ability to access information is how the masses undermine that power. So how could this apply to the U.S?

Consider the Wikileaks scandal… This huge information leak in the United States proved that there was information our government was hiding from it’s citizens. My question for the class is, while we spend time studying the controls that Egypt and China put on Internet access for their citizens, is it possible there are similar (less extreme) restrictions being placed on OUR information access and we just haven’t realized it yet? While the Wikileaks information may not have revealed information to start a revolution, I still wonder, what effect does the government’s control of information have on our voices in democracy?

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2 Responses to Week 14 – Future Social Movements

  1. alurs says:

    You raise a very important point. I feel like when it comes to the internet American citizens think they pretty much have free rein. I am not aware of things that we cannot do online, but I would guess that there are some restrictions in place. Wikileaks id real some information, but there is definitely a whole other side of the government’s control of information, especially when it comes to journalism. Our government tries to conceal a lot of information when it comes to wars. Of course, the government cannot reveal secret military plans or exact locations, but the government also tries to conceal other things that they are just afraid the people would not like. For example, during the Gulf War the Pentagon enforced pool reporting and they simply did not let reported see a lot of things happening. I am not as familiar with what they conceal today, but I am sure they have a tight control of information, especially when it comes to war.

  2. yuille says:

    Even if there aren’t restrictions on our Internet use just yet, it seems like they are coming. Between the net neutrality issue, which threatens to allow ISPs to determine which sites load faster than others, and the acts out there that could censor information and are disguised as stopping piracy, the government seems more and more willing to take away some of the freedom we have. That’s not to say anything is guaranteed to happen, but in recent years it seems like the government is actively trying to move away from complete freedom online.

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