Tunisia’s revolution isn’t a product of Twitter or WikiLeaks. But they do help
The internet alone won’t set anyone free. Between north Africa and Belarus, we are learning just what it can and can’t do.
‘The Kleenex Revolution”? Somehow I think not. Unless, that is, you follow Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi. In a televised denunciation of the popular uprising that has deposed his friendly neighbouring dictator, he ranted: “Even you, my Tunisian brothers, you may be reading this Kleenex and empty talk on the internet.” (Kleenex is how Gaddafi refers to WikiLeaks.) “Any useless person, any liar, any drunkard, anyone under the influence, anyone high on drugs can talk on the internet, and you read what he writes and you believe it. This is talk which is for free. Shall we become the victims of Facebook and Kleenex and YouTube?” To which, since the speaker is another dictator, I devoutly hope that the answer is “Yes”. Let Kleenex wipe them away, one after another, like blobs of phlegm.
But will it? What contribution do websites, social networks and mobile phones make to popular protest movements? Is there any justification for labelling the Tunisian events, as some have done, a “Twitter Revolution” or a “WikiLeaks Revolution”?