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Winning the Battle for Hearts and Minds
The Digital Dictatorship

February 22nd, 2010

If you pretend that the author is referring to the U.S. when he mentions countries like Iran and the former East Germany, this is much more informative.

Via: Wall Street Journal:

Since the publication of John Perry Barlow’s “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996, they have been led to believe that cyberspace is conducive to democracy and liberty, and no government would be able to crush that libertarian spirit (why, then, Mr. Barlow felt the need to write such a declaration remains unknown to this day). The belief that free and unfettered access to information, combined with new tools of mobilization afforded by blogs and social networks, leads to the opening up of authoritarian societies and their eventual democratization now forms one of the pillars of “techno-utopianism.”

Will Twitter and Facebook come to the rescue and fill in the void left by more conventional tools of diplomacy? Will the oppressed masses in authoritarian states join the barricades once they get unfettered access to Wikipedia and Twitter?

This seems quite unlikely. In fact, our debate about the Internet’s role in democratization—increasingly dominated by techno-utopianism—is in dire need of moderation, for there are at least as many reasons to be skeptical. Ironically, the role that the Internet played in the recent events in Iran shows us why: Revolutionary change that can topple strong authoritarian regimes requires a high degree of centralization among their opponents. The Internet does not always help here. One can have “organizing without organizations”—the phrase is in the subtitle of “Here Comes Everybody,” Clay Shirky’s best-selling 2008 book about the power of social media—but one can’t have revolutions without revolutionaries.

In an environment like this—where it’s impossible to distinguish whether your online interlocutors are your next-door neighbors, some hyperactive Iranians in the diaspora, or a government agent masquerading as a member of the Green Movement—who could blame ordinary Iranians for not taking the risks of flooding the streets only to find themselves arrested?

Our earlier, unfounded expectations that the Internet would make it easy for the average citizens to see who else is opposing the regime and then act collectively based on that shared knowledge may have been inaccurate. In the age of the Spinternet, when cheap online propaganda can easily be bought with the help of pro-government bloggers, elucidating what fellow citizens think about the regime may be harder than we thought. Add to that the growing surveillance capacity of modern authoritarian states—also greatly boosted by information collected through social media and analyzed with new and advanced forms of data-mining—and you may begin to understand why the Green Movement faltered.

Posted in COINTELPRO, Dictatorship, Social Engineering, Surveillance, Technology
"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

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Winning the Battle for Hearts and Minds - by Ed Jewett - 24-02-2010, 06:10 AM

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