Jay Rosen has been seeing too many facile dismissals of the actual impact of Twitter and other social media tools in recent uprisings:
In other words, tools are tools, Internet schminternet. Revolutions happen when they happen. Whatever means are lying around will get used. Next question!
So these are the six signs that identify the genre, Twitter Can’t Topple Dictators. 1.) Nameless fools are staking maximalist claims. 2.) No links we can use to check the context of those claims. 3.) The masses of deluded people make an appearance so they can be ridiculed. 4.) Bizarre ideas get refuted with a straight face. 5.) Spurious historicity. 6.) The really hard questions are skirted.
If that’s the genre, what’s the appeal? Beats me. I think this is a really dumb way of conducting a debate. But I cannot deny its popularity. So here’s a guess: almost everyone who cares about such a discussion is excited about the Internet. Almost everyone is a little wary of being fooled by The Amazing and getting carried away. When we nod along with Twitter Can’t Topple Dictators we’re assuring ourselves that our excitement is contained, that we’re being realistic, mature, grown-up about it.
This feeling is fake. A real grown-up understands that the question is hard, that we need facts on the ground before we can start to answer it. Twitter brings down governments is not a serious idea about the Internet and social change. Refuting it is not a serious activity. It just feels good… for a moment.