Dropping the Shade

Twitter went down for a few hours earlier today. Even now I can’t post anything, although my feed is still going. It makes you wonder: what would we have learned about Iran had there been a cyber-attack at the same time? I don’t think Twitter will replace journalism, but it certainly aids in the practice of it. What happens when regimes learn to wield technology on par with demonstrators? Or will they always be just a bit behind?
In February, 1982, Syrian soldiers murdered between 10,000 and 40,000 Sunnis after an uprising in the city of Hama, without the dominate media of the time illuminating the massacre. Thomas Friedman, in Beruit to Jerusalem, said the president’s brother boasted he’d killed 38,000. Imagine that — 38,000 people dead, with no world wide coverage. That’s more than half the Americans that died in the Vietnam War, killed in a day.
It’s nice to think that couldn’t happen now. It’s nice to think interconnectivity makes it impossible for people to hide such abuses. But imagine if another cyber-attack were to occur just before China decided to rid itself of Uighurs. Or Mexico decided to rid itself of Zapatistas. Or Egypt decided to rid itself of the Muslim Brotherhood. Or Russia decided to rid itself of Chechens. The Iranian example proved the power of social media, much in the same way Tienanmen Square proved the power of traditional media. But what happens in the vacuum? Who is watching then? What happens if a country learns how to drop the shade?

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