Enough, already! Now Steven Walt has joined the ranks of the people stunned by the effect of the internets. “A combination of modern mass media (Al Jazeera, the Internet, email, Twitter, etc.) has clearly played a major role in driving the pace of events.” I could handle this kind of thing from 20-somethings who don’t remember when you had to wait for a letter to arrive in the mail. But Steven Walt?
I am at a loss as to why people keep coming back to the Internets. Here is a chronology of recent events:
Dec. 17 - Mohamed Bouazizi sets fire to himself in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.
Jan. 04 - Bouazizi dies of his burns.
Jan. 14 - After days of riots, President Ben Ali flees to Saudi Arabia.
Jan. 22 - Protests in Algeria.
Jan. 23 - Protests in Yemen.
Jan. 25 - Protests in Cairo.
And here is an even more impressive and more rapid chain of events:
Feb. 22 - French government bans protest meetings. Riots break out.
Feb. 23 - Prime Minister Guizot resigns.
Feb. 26 - King flees to Britain.
Feb. 27 - Protest marches in Germany. Governments give into demands.
Mar. 13 - Riots flare in Vienna. Metternich resigns.
Mar. 15 - Mass demonstrations in Budapest.
Mar. 18 - Demonstrations in Berlin.
Mar. 20 - Uprising in Poland.
Mar. 31 - Constitution drafted for Germany.
Apr. 08 - Revolt in Moldava.
The difference? The first group happened in 2010-11, and the second in 1848. But somehow that has gone right into the memory hole. I am flabbergasted that the Brazilian, Philippine, and Chinese events of my living memory seem to have been forgotten. I am surprised that nobody seems to mention 1968. But I really stunned that 1848 has been lost in the frenzy to declare how super marvelicious the internet is for freedom.
I am making a strong argument here: if the internet had been magically shut down on December 17th, events would have proceeded in much the same way. News travels and people organize in ways that do not involve modern electronic communication.