After the slightly carapaced scepticism of Evegny Morozov on Friday, here’s some genuine insight in to what the chance nature of success in online ‘resistance’ from Peter Levine in California, who reckons Hosni Mubarak’s big mistake was turning off the net in Egypt all at once:
I suspect the first phase of Internet activism was essential, for a particular purpose. It let everyone know that there was a potential mass movement. The inability to tell whether other people are at the point of acting is often a barrier to popular action. Still, even if you know that other people are angry, you can’t tell from their Tweeting and Facebook-posting whether they would actually put their lives on the line. Not knowing, you may fear to act.
That impasse had to be broken by a decisive signal that it was time to revolt together. And Mubarak (ironically) gave the signal by shutting down the Internet. It was a particularly powerful signal because all the energy that people had been expending online had nowhere to go–unless they went into the streets.
According to Levine, in trying to disrupt the rebels the Egyptian dictatorship tripped the rebels out of the embrace of Adam Curtis’ machines of loving grace into each other’s company.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty