Thomas Friedman is doing his ropa-dope again: blaming the victims — us — for the terrible political world we are subjected to. And all because of social networks:
Thomas Freidman, The Rise of Popularism via NYTimes.com
In 1965, Gordon Moore, the Intel co-founder, posited Moore’s Law, which stipulated that the processing power that could be placed on a single microchip would double every 18 to 24 months. It’s held up quite well since then. Watching European, Arab and U.S. leaders grappling with their respective crises, I’m wondering if there isn’t a political corollary to Moore’s Law: The quality of political leadership declines with every 100 million new users of Facebook and Twitter.
The wiring of the world through social media and Web-enabled cellphones is changing the nature of conversations between leaders and the led everywhere. We’re going from largely one-way conversations — top-down — to overwhelmingly two-way conversations — bottom-up and top-down. This has many upsides: more participation, more innovation and more transparency. But can there be such a thing as too much participation — leaders listening to so many voices all the time and tracking the trends that they become prisoners of them?
The answer, Mr Friedman, is no.
And, oh, by the way, when you talk about the participative nature of the social web, consider the term many-to-many instead of two-way. We, the people, are involved in a conversation among ourselves, and if curmudgeons like you or our self-obsessed political leaders want to get involved with that, fine.
Friedman springs a relatively interesting term on us:
Indeed, I heard a new word in London last week: “Popularism.” It’s the über-ideology of our day. Read the polls, track the blogs, tally the Twitter feeds and Facebook postings and go precisely where the people are, not where you think they need to go. If everyone is “following,” who is leading?
Leadership today is — as always — linked to having a following, Mr Friedman. And before you can lead the people somewhere you have to start where they are.
Friedman goes on with the craziness:
And then there is the exposure factor. Anyone with a cellphone today is paparazzi; anyone with a Twitter account is a reporter; anyone with YouTube access is a filmmaker. When everyone is a paparazzi, reporter and filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. And, if you’re truly a public figure — a politician — the scrutiny can become so unpleasant that public life becomes something to be avoided at all costs.
Wait a second: are we all public figures now? What’s with the shift to ‘real’ public figures? What point have you made? Did I miss something?
Alexander Downer, Australia’s former foreign minister, remarked to me recently: “A lot of leaders are coming under massively more scrutiny than ever before. It doesn’t discourage the best of them, but the ridicule and the constant interaction from the public is making it more difficult for them to make sensible, brave decisions.”
Oh, now I see. Because we are looking more closely at what our ‘leaders’ spassive ay and do they are having a hard time being brave. So we should go back to being a mass audience, watching TV, and not whispering among ourselves.
So it’s our fault that our fearless leaders are no longer fearless, and our fault that they can’t rein us in to work together to save the world, and our fault that we don’t have extraordinary leaders.
Yes, let’s blame social tools and the spin they have on human society. Let’s not talk about the precarious of a flattened down world that you championed, Mr Friedman, where offshoring is treated like a law of nature, and the externalization of true costs is a first order predicate in the economics that led to the econolypse we are still living in.
The problem we have isn’t that our leaders are afraid to tell the truth. Our problem is that our leaders have accepted inequity and injustice, and we, the people, can apparently find no way toward solidarity. But don’t blame social tools for our social ills: they are a lot older and deeper that Facebook and Twitter.