He’s right that the conversation is ahead of the White House. But that’s not because of technology, it’s because the White House has to walk a tightrope between supporting democracy and not looking like it’s engineering the removal of a 30-year ally.
David Gregory : “We talk about how viral this has been. How quickly this is moving. This is TweetDeck. This is real-time of all of the Egypt related tweets if we search for Cairo or Mubarak, or Protest or Egypt. This is a conversation going on in real time. The administration has to catch up. The foreign policy certainly, you talk about contagion. Why is this aspect of it so important for the region?
Former Mideast negotiator and Ambassador to Israel for President Clinton, Martin Indyk : You are witnessing a 21st century revolution. Mubarak was focused on suppressing the moderate secular center in Egypt because that is what he feared most and the Muslim Brotherhood was able to organize an have an infrastructure. These guys didn’t have anything until Twitter and Facebook came along. This has changed the whole nature of communication and organization and made it now impossible for autocratic, authoritarian leaders in the Arab world to suppress the views of their people.
Two comments, first on the bold italics. The first is “Ha.” Autocratic, authoritarian leaders shut down the internet. Look at the demonstrations - they’re Pleistocene. No one is looking at a smartphone, because all of that’s been disabled.
I’ll agree that amateur video/photography is being enabled by technology, but social media is not fomenting this crisis. Repression is. Which is good news, because a protest movement founded on people who are justifiably ticked off is a heck of a lot easier for me to back than a twitter mob. Twitter is for convincing large groups of people to carol in train stations, youtube is for convincing people to hire a homeless person with a pretty voice - convincing large groups of people to riot or revolt thankfully requires a little bit more than a bunch of retweets.
Second point, on the White House response. Social media platforms are also being used so people can:
- Whine that Americans only care about the third world when something happens
- Whine that Obama isn’t being decisive enough, when openly backing the protest would be absolute diplomatic suicide
- Claim George W. Bush was right about Middle Eastern democracy
David Gregory and the others sound awfully uninformed when they attribute whatnos happening in Egypt primarily to Twitter. The Internet is down there. That includes Twitter. Gregory is like a basketball commentator who says that a team won a game because of how clever the onscreen graphics were. The Twitterers are not on the ground. They are not organizing anything in Egypt anymore. They are wholly meta. They may influence how other outsiders react—but social media isn’t the driving force of the revolution. It doesn’t matter how infatuated CNN is with it. Twitter is still black Egypt.
**Edit:** Sorry about the plethora of typos lately. I’m watching a revolution via iPhone. My fingers are fat.