Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Move over Marx, Twitter is here

Revolution is no longer the long-drawn process it once was. If the events that took place in what is the most backward region on Earth last month are any indicator, we have just seen the birth of a new hero in the fight for justice: Social Networking. Opposition supporters talk near graffiti referring to the social networking site "Twitter" in Tahrir Square in Cairo Consider this: One slap to one vendor in some forgotten alley in Tunisia, his resulting suicide, a Tweet, and one page on Facebook, sparked off a movement on a scale never seen in modern times. Some call it the 'Butterfly Effect' - about how the fluttering wings of a butterfly can set off a tsunami half a world away - but for the Africans, cause and effect were very much in the same country, city and square. Egypt, Jordan and Yemen are on the verge of collapse, indeed, civil war. The agent of change: Social networking.

There are reports that spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter and the likes lead to people getting prone to eating disorders and often ruin their social life: How Hosni Mubarak, Samir Rafai and Ali Abdullah Saleh would wish this were true of the Arab world. In the UK, the Britain Police inspection body is only too aware of the efficiency of social networking sites in organising protests. Authorities will have to move faster to help contain the increasing number of protests, an Inspectorate of the Constabulary report said. "Large numbers of protesters can be organised in hours and change their focus in minutes through the use of social media and mobile phones," the report said. "Those responsible for commanding events must plan with this adaptability in mind." An opposition supporter lifts a placard at the front line near Tahrir Square in Cairo.

The report singled out UK Uncut, a protest group organised literally overnight by Twitter users upset at the government's plans to slash public spending and perceived tax avoidance by major British companies. The group has used social networking sites to help coordinate their actions, including a live mapping service intended to help protesters dodge police cordons.
The report said that police forces -- many of whom have long been working to expand their online presence -- would have to consider how best to communicate with tech-savvy protesters.
All said, police forces the world over have been reduced to playing the catch up game with a people determined to not remain quiet anymore. Voices, hitherto lacking confidence and hence considered unimportant, have begun to be heard, and the internet is the loudspeaker.
How? Social networking sites, if nothing else, are accessible, and, above all, affordable. There is no cost of printing pamphlets, no problems about 'reaching the people' and thousands can be mobilised with one click of the mouse. They are a far cry from the European and Marxist traditions of organising demonstrations that are prevalent in the subcontinent.

A Trinamul Congress rally at Esplanade in Kolkata. In India, protests take days to organise: First, posters sprout up all over the city; next, an autorickshaw/handcart/Maruti 800 passes by in the narrow lanes blaring propaganda through rustic loudspeakers, making sure to mention the date and venue of said protest. And sure enough, on D-day, thousands turn up by the truckloads; rallies and flags would throng the streets; and by 6pm, after much sloganeering, everyone one dusts off, packs up, goes home and ponders over a day well spent.
In Egypt, it was Google executive Wael Ghonim's Twitter post, the day before he was whisked away by Cairo's police, that launched the Egypt uprising. One hundred and forty characters summed up three decades of angst: Pray for #Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die #Jan25. January 25, 2011. The day the internet ceased to be just a cache of information, and became the platform for the oppressed. A sign of better times. And for India, such a movement might just be waiting in the wings.

Source: India Syndicate

No comments:

Post a Comment