Another War of Jenkins' Ear

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Malcolm Gladwell is Still Wrong: Mohammed Nabbous

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Gladwell in October:

The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life

Manuel Castelis:

The spontaneous social movements in Tunisia and Egypt have caught political analysts on the hop. As a sociologist and communication expert, were you surprised by the ability of the network society in these two countries to mobilise itself?

No, not really. In my book Communication Power, I devote a large part to explaining, on an empirical basis, how changes to communication technologies create new possibilities for the self-organisation and self-mobilisation of society, by-passing the barriers of censorship and repression imposed by the state. The issue clearly isn’t dependent on technology. Internet is a necessary but not sufficient condition. The roots of rebellion lie in exploitation, oppression and humiliation. However, the possibility of rebelling without being quashed immediately depends on the density and speed of mobilisation and that depends on the ability created by the technologies which I have classified as mass self-communication.

Could we consider these popular uprisings as a new turning point in the history and evolution of the internet or should we analyse them as a logical, albeit extremely important, consequence of the implementation of the Net in the world?

These popular insurrections in the Arab world constitute a turning point in the social and political history of humanity. And perhaps the most important of the internet-led and facilitated changes in all aspects of life, society, the economy and culture. And this is just the start. The movement is picking up speed, despite Internet being an old technology, and deployed for the first time in 1969.

What Castelis understands that Gladwell does not is that Twitter is not a substitute for strategy. But it is a real time method of communication that is extremely difficult for government’s to censor or restrict without severely restricting their economies.

We live in an age when an ordinary person living in Benghazi can become a journalist of the highest order, driving around in the middle of gunfights to record what is going on when no one else in the world is willing and able to do so. Last night, I listened to Mohammad Nabbous’s audio and watched video of him in Benghazi. While I slept, while still trying to record audio, he was shot and killed in the line of duty. Twitter and facebook and livestream did not make this happen. But they opened previously unthought of lines of communication that did allow Nabbous to become an activist.

Social media is not sufficient for anyone to be an activist, but Gladwell for some bizarre reason compares it to the resolve King needed, when he should have compared it to black churches, telephones, dorm rooms, etc. – ways for the message to be spread without using compromised media (I say that having no idea of the institutional history of media in the South.)

Anyways, I salute the work Mohammed Nabbous and everyone like him who is using any media, social or otherwise, to get out a story otherwise too dangerous to tell. I only hope people are listening instead of demeaning the medium.


Written by John Whitehouse

March 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

Twitter Similar Users of the Day

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Congratulations Angelo, aka @stopbeck:

Dr. Drew, Joy Behar, and Taegan Goddard. Of course.


I can’t wait for Angelo to host Bravo’s hit new reality series, Celebrity Pundit Rehab.

Written by John Whitehouse

March 13, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Politics

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This is not a Conspiracy; This is a Revolution

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Some people are spreading rumors on Twitter that this site is backed by George Soros (whatever that means).

Fact: We blog unpaid. No one pays us anything – cash or otherwise – in return for what we write.

Fact: No part of this site was paid for by anyone else – directly or indirectly – by anyone aside from those listed on “who are we” page.

Fact: I’d love to take George Soros’ money. Too bad he hasn’t offered.

Fact: It is the ordinary citizens, and not rich billionaires, who stand to lose the most from Glenn Beck abusing populism. It’s no surprise it’s ordinary citizens leading the charge.

Fact: Welcome to the revolution. It will be live blogged.

Written by John Whitehouse

August 11, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Posted in News Media

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Of Fake Twitters and Real Ambassadors

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Charles Brown at Undiplomatic speculates that some recent (within the past day or so) rallies in Iran may be government traps, since Mousavi reportedly did not call for them and the government was ready.

Is this true? I have no idea. But it underscores the fluid situation in the country and the importance of caution in being an amplifier. That said, it’s also important for sources like Sullivan, Pitney, etc. to convey what is going on there.

That said, if these are traps, there’s not much that can be done. As much as we may identify with protestors in America, this is still the Iranians’ fight.

And it is a fight for them. It seems the action now is on crackdowns in the street, and any move the Assembly of Experts may take against Khamanei.

Meanwhile, in America, people are still talking about what Obama said yesterday at the presser. That does not matter much in Iran. It’s biggest impact will be in forming international coalitions around Iran. In that sense, it’s very noteworthy today that the US reinstated ambassadors to both Syria and Venezuela. Regarding Syria:

With little sign of talks with Iran or of progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Syria offers Obama a chance of making some diplomatic progress in the region. In recent years Israel and Syria, who never signed a peace deal after the 1967 war, have been exploring a settlement.

The US would like to have Syria deny access across its borders to foreign fighters seeking entry into Iraq. Closer ties with the US might also counter Damascus’s relationship with Iran; the two have a mutual defence treaty.

“It’s a reflection of Syria being a pivotal country in terms of achieving a comprehensive peace in the region,” one senior official told the New York Times. “There is a lot of work to do in the region for which Syria can play a role. For that it helps to have a fully staffed embassy.”

It certainly seems that the result of the uprising in Iran is that negotiations with Iran will go nowhere – at least anytime soon.

Matt Yglesias explains:

The hope behind an engagement strategy was that the Supreme Leader might be inclined to side with the more pragmatic actors inside the system—guys like former president Rafsanjani and former prime minister Mousavi. With those people, and most of the Iranian elites of their ilk, now in open opposition to the regime, any crackdown would almost by definition entail the sidelining of the people who might be interested in a deal. Iran would essentially be in the hands of the most hardline figures, people who just don’t seem interested in improving relations with other countries. Under the circumstances, the whole subject of American engagement may well wind up being moot.

Reihan Salaam wants Obama to embrace his “inner Neocon”:

Obama, like Reagan, is a master at linking American interests to the greater international good. Whether he likes it or not, his engagement strategy with Iran has been revealed as a hollow hope, one that rested on an overoptimistic interpretation of Iranian intentions. As former Bush foreign policy adviser Peter Feaver has explained, Iran is far more likely to negotiate from a position of weakness than of strength. Rather than reassure the Iranians with a wink and a nod that we’re ready to do business, President Obama should be building an international coalition to isolate a recalcitrant Iran as thoroughly as the the West once isolated apartheid-era South Africa. Bush, to the chagrin of the neocons, could never pull this off. But Obama can.

If building a coalition against a state threatening to build a nuke that almost no one wants to have a nuke is being a Neocon, we’re all Neocons now. The push against Neocons was against the push for diplomacy of any kind and using tools of war quicker. For instance, Hans Blix and the inspectors in Iraq were from, technically, an international coalition – the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission. And that coalition was putting pressure on Iraq, but Bush, Cheney and others thought that only regime change would be sufficient for the ends they desired.

Diplomacy is not limited to direct negotiations, with everything else being acts of a Neocon. Regarding Iran: If direct negotiations won’t work, getting states like Venezuela and Syria into closer positions with America to put pressure on Iran is less of being a Neocon – and more of Nixon going to China to put pressure on the USSR. If Kissinger – the ultimate realist – is now a Neocon … we all are.

Written by John Whitehouse

June 24, 2009 at 5:39 pm