Thomas Friedman takes stock of the ‘revolution’ in Egypt and sees that the old powerful power blocs — Islam and the entrenched political system — still have the upper hand. So, he argues, those social tools that the protestors used — Twitter and Facebook — really aren’t that great for mobilizing:
Thomas Friedman, Facebook Meets Brick-and-Mortar Politics
To be sure, Facebook, Twitter and blogging are truly revolutionary tools of communication and expression that have brought so many new and compelling voices to light. At their best, they’re changing the nature of political communication and news. But, at their worst, they can become addictive substitutes for real action. How often have you heard lately: “Oh, I tweeted about that.” Or “I posted that on my Facebook page.” Really? In most cases, that’s about as impactful as firing a mortar into the Milky Way galaxy. Unless you get out of Facebook and into someone’s face, you really have not acted. And, as Syria’s vicious regime is also reminding us: “bang-bang” beats “tweet-tweet” every day of the week.
Commenting on Egypt’s incredibly brave Facebook generation rebels, the political scientist Frank Fukuyama recently wrote: “They could organize protests and demonstrations, and act with often reckless courage to challenge the old regime. But they could not go on to rally around a single candidate, and then engage in the slow, dull, grinding work of organizing a political party that could contest an election, district by district. … Facebook, it seems, produces a sharp, blinding flash in the pan, but it does not generate enough heat over an extended period to warm the house.”
What both Friedman and Fukuyama seem to forget is that two years is not two decades, nor is two years two centuries. The implicit expectation is that Twitter and Facebook should be able to compress time, and to rapidly accelerate the creation of deep and strong networks of people allied around new democratic ideals that are basically unknown in Egypt.
There is no quick fix, no silver bullet, no magic wand. Let’s wait ten years before we assess how the social revolution plays out in Egypt, and elsewhere.