This is the first in a series of essays on how communications and social media are changing the world. Several years back, large groups of people began spontaneously coming together online for various causes. There was however, no definition or description for these events, until Douglas Wood’s article “WikiLeaks Lessons: The Party of We — Already in Control”. In it he described telcom based flash mobs which he called “the party of we”. The party of we is united by a belief in cooperation, what is right, the truth, and freedom. This is the philosophical opposite of every corporation and governments on earth. We extends across every race, religion, national border, and political belief system and knows no sovereign authority.
The pen is mightier than the sword
The phrase the pen is mightier than the sword was coined in 1839 by an English author named Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in a play called Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy. This phrase is simple yet powerful it says, words have meaning, words can strike passion and fear in the hearts of men, words can change things, words can bring the truth forward, and words can give you hope. Never in history has this been more true than today. Much like a pen Facebook, Google+, twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other social media, have this power. They speed messages along to friends, family, and people who have similar interests. Social media in all its forms allows us to create communities that span all national borders, all races, and all religions.
The growing trend of communicating and finding friends
Facebook and Google+ are the fastest growing communications firms on the planet. People using social media have the potential to influence and change the direction the world is headed. The ability to quickly find people who like, compliment, or believe the same things you do, is a growing trend in the world of telecommunications. Because of this trend you are no longer alone in the darkness. Heck, you could believe that fairies make the flowers grow, and you can find someone who believes the same. A simple cellphone and twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Google+, or just an email contact list can shine a light on the things that are good or evil in this world. Governments are beginning to take notice and fear their citizens, and this is a good thing. For to long it has been the other way around.
The acceleration factor of social media in promoting change
Communications and social media are becoming an accelerator of justice and societal change. In the recent past we have seen SOPA and PIPA crash and burn, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Arab spring, Chinese human flesh search engines, the Tea Party, and Anonymous taking on large corporations and governments. These events did not happen spontaneously, they were all proceeded by years of corruption, abuse, or a growing discontent among those participating.
For several years now Techdirt has been reporting on ACTA, SOPA, PIPA, and the TPP. All these agreements were negotiated, created and lobbied for in secret, by the MPAA, RIAA, and USTR. Every attempt to gain access to the negotiations was denied. The US stated that the ACTA negotiations were secret and denied access to the document.
SOPA and PIPA crash and burn
SOPA and PIPA were written by industry lobbyists. When SOPA was brought up for discussion in the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, the entire proceeding was biased in favor of the content industry. The House Judiciary Committee admitted to not understanding the technology, then refused to hear from the “Nerds”. None of this was carried on broadcast news or in the newspapers, it was however vigorously debated online. The news of these bills spread far and wide crossing international borders. All valid concerns were ignored. It became obvious that the outcome was a predetermined, and the legislation was bought and paid for. Throughout these proceedings, the level of frustration and angry rose at the crony capitalism and corruption that were on display.
In protest of these bills Wikipedia, Reddit, and many other web sites went dark. Google censored its name in search. All of the sites directed people in the US on how they could contact their government representatives about SOPA and PIPA. The bills became toxic to be associated with. The president and many on both sides of the political isle dropped support of these bills, their passage into law almost impossible. Contrary to what the politicians and content companies believe, Reddit, Google and Wikipedia were not the cause of these protests, they were the catalyst. It was the 14 million people who responded, many of whom had read or participated in the online discussions about these bills, saying in one voice, enough already.
The Arab Spring, is an ongoing uprising against several oppressive governments, that have repressed, tortured, and unjustly imprisoned their own people. In Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria, social media helped organize, focus, and accelerating these rebellions. It is probable that without the influence of social media, these events would have taken place, only at a latter date with greater casualty rates. The governments were unprepared and for these uprisings because there was no real warning and a relatively small portion of the population participated. These governments were prevented from fully using their military’s to engaging their citizens. The fear of being tried for crimes against humanity looms large in an age of citizen reporters and YouTube. Yet another win for social media and the party of we.
Conclusion …. hmmm ….
These events and occurrences have two things in common. The issues causing people to fight oppression, censorship, misdeeds, corruption, and wrong doing, have been there simmering for an extended period of time. The second is a catalyst which triggers a cascade of messages and the events that follow.
Telecommunications is playing an increasingly important role in these events. When oppression occurs, when a person cries out in the darkness, when a horrendous act happens, now all it takes is one individual to point it out to the world. Then, that occurrence can reach global attention in a matter of moments. This is something that should sober up every corporate board member, and head of state. Their words and actions are being discussed outside of channels that they control, and no amount of press releases can contain misdeeds. Social media accelerates the distribution of information, of news, of communications, and of consensus. Social media allows people who, in the past, would have never found each other in real life, to collaborate online. This allows like minds to come together quickly. Today people can organize around an idea in moments, an idea can take on a life of its own, spreading, and growing in ways that can not be anticipated.
Brought together by modern telecommunications, the party of we can be seen as a bunch of do gooding, protectors of the innocent, light in the darkness, ally to good, nightmare to the oppressor types(1). When We gathers applying real world crowd dispersal techniques does not work. Online you can not disperse a crowd, you can only move them outside of your realm of influence.
(1) A little tribute to Goku.