Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article about the limitations of ‘liberation technology’ has stirred up the blogosphere. But he gets it wrong, argues RFE/RL’s Luke Allnutt, by drawing a false distinction between traditional” and “digital” activism:
As a label, cyberdissident is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Activists fighting oppressive regimes want to get their messages out and, unlike politicians who tend to fetishise technology, they just want to use the most effective tool, whether that’s a print flyer, a sit-in, or a Facebook group — or a combination of all of the above.
He cites Azerbaijan’s “donkey bloggers” as a case in point:
They’re young activists who, because they’re not living in a cave, have chosen to use digital tools to skewer their government. They also do old-world things like meet and rally. They’ve probably even been known to wave a placard now and again. But just because they have chosen to use Facebook and YouTube as weapons of choice, does that make them lazy and ineffective?
New social media isn’t going to bring about regime change, he concludes, but it is making a difference.