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XVIII-Gettin’ Topical

March 18, 2012

So recently I gave my presentation for this section of the course. It was about this article, and for those unwilling to go read it, basically it’s a blog written in reaction to another blog. One guy blogged for Wired, floating ideas about the dreadful consequences of Syria having a chemcial weapons stockpile (if it fell into the wrong hands or the government decided to use it), and the above blog is a rather scathing retort, accusing the writer (and the US government) of lying, and using it as an excuse for invasion, just like Iraq. He doesn’t seem to mind completely disregarding the fact that the original author quotes two government sources talking about how invasion isn’t an option. But it’s just not en vogue these days to let trivial things like facts get in the way of a good old foaming-at-the-mouth knee-jerk reaction.

Anyway, the Internet has been pointed at by many as a major driving force behind the Arab Spring, so out of curiosity I decided to figure out how it had figured into the Syrian situation thus far. I found an article written about a year ago which claimed that the Syrian government was inundating twitter with (obviously) pro-regime #Syria posts in order to silence and insult the opposition. I was wondering if this was still going on, but a quick serch for that hashtag reveals naught but bulletins from news services and pro-revolution messages. Admittedly, two of them were in Arabic so I don’t know what they said.

However, according to Wikipedia, as of 2011 only 19.8% of Syrians had internet access, and of those, only 0.2% used Broadband internet. Therefore I think it’s important that the role of the internet and social networking in these events isn’t overestimated by techno-optimists desirous to see their pet technologies change the world, similarly to how we the Western media musn’t paint a picture of a country where every common Syrian person lives under the heel of a brutal dictator they would rather see gone, when this isn’t the case as Bashar al-Assad still enjoys popular support (particularly in Damascus, the capital). Ultimately, change in Syria will probably come from the barrel of a gun, or hopefully, engaging with actual humans at street level. This writer remains skeptical of how Twitter could have any more than a minor impact on the process.

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