Friday, 4 February 2011

The loudest quiet revolution

Just a rant but read on...please.

There's one lesson that I've been taught in the last 45 days by the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt. I may be a citizen of my home country but I am also a citizen of a much larger, more diverse and more powerful nation. And this nation is undergoing a seismic revolution.

This other nation doesn't have a capital but it does have embassies after a fashion. It certainly doesn't have a government in any traditional sense of the word but it does have it's own un-codified charter of rights. It doesn't have a defined police force or laws for that matter but it is policed from within (sometimes harshly). There are no elections, no taxes (well there's a cost of admission) and yet this nation generates vast wealth, directs foreign and domestic policy and can even conduct wars of a sort.

It is the internet.

You, me and everyone else who is able to use a cell phone, a computer or even watch TV is a citizen of this nation...Automatically. That is the price of admission. You need the technology, the gadget, the ISP / Cable / Cellular contract to get in and that's your passport. Once you're in, you have the same rights and freedoms of any other citizen provided that your home country doesn't revoke or curtail those rights.

During the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt we've heard a lot about the Internet and it's impact (large or small) on the events there. Without intending any disrespect to the citizens of Tunisia or Egypt, theirs were the first spectator-sport revolutions. Everyone, involved or not had an opinion or an analysis (me included). The #hashtag became a banner to which people would flock for the latest news. Facebook, Twitter and WikiLeaks were the latest town-criers. Print and broadcast journalists relied more and more on a new toolset for getting their reporting out, the Tweets and Blogs. Things were happening so fast that there was simply no way they could limit themselves to scheduled updates "On-Air" or with your morning coffee. 24 Hour Cable News was too damn slow....

A new voice in journalism; Al Jazeera; had it's first starring role during these revolts providing the first and some would argue best coverage of events there. They caught many of their older, larger and more "established" international peers completely flatfooted. Sure, they've been broadcasting for quite some time and we'd all heard of them but it is only recently that they reached such a wide audience and they did it primarily online, at least here in the west.

The TV broadcasts of Al Jazeera aren't widely available where I live for a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with the fact that in today's post 9/11 world, they are seen as politically taboo. I mean seriously, how can you have an Arab media outlet providing us westerners news, from their point of view, in such a volatile region of the world ? Especially without the benefit of a western "spin" on things... But online, AJ and AJE have proven to be HUGE successes to the tune of a 2500% increase in traffic.  

Now with the advent of streaming broadcasts over the internet, citizens in Cairo could watch events unfold that weren't available on State run TV. Audiences everywhere had almost real-time access to the sounds and sights of events a world away. Immediacy of reporting seemed to trump the careful, spoon fed analysis that many of us were used to. A phrase I heard mentioned by one journalist several times was the desire " get the facts out and let the audience decide for itself". Finally, someone was treating me like an adult, capable of collating facts and drawing my own conclusions.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave me your thoughts on what you read or ideas for future topics.