It is needless to say that media has always been a tool in the hand of politicians. Newspapers, radio and television were used to deliver the governmental point of view to broad masses. However, with the development of the Internet the possibility to keep this tool in the state’s hands significantly decreased. The current scandal with NSA’s monitoring its citizens and other countries is only one example of the far-reaching political effects of the modern media. The presentation will focus on the significance of media in modern political affairs on the examples of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
First of all, it is necessary to outline the main tendencies of the Internet’s effect on both society and policy. Moises Naim claimed on the existence of YouTube effect on the modern society, i.e. people get a real opportunity to be heard by uploading videos to the global network. The YouTube information effect has two dimensions: 1) it creates a unique content in the network, which cannot be posted by TV channels, by common people who have mobile phone with camera and Internet at their disposal. 2) it redistributes the important information provided by TV channels and enhances its effect by making it spread all over the world. The problems of validity of YouTube information as well as interpretation of it remain actual, however politicized media always do not cover really important event. The Economist article “Twitter 1, CNN 0” clearly shows that television is far behind social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook in spreading important information. It can be explained by the rigid structure of TV channels’ organization. When it takes much time for the reporter to create a reportage and deliver it through the news channel, it takes but a couple of minutes of upload the video from the phone to social networks and spread among friends. Therefore, it is obvious that Snowden’s case brought new understanding of the Internet’s role in politics and spreading new ideas, as the American government tried to take this private sphere under its control.
The most striking difference between the Internet and other medias is that the content is born and created by people, not by structures. Therefore, the Internet is able to generate political changes from below, which can be seen from examples of Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. 2010-2011 public demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia developed under the similar scenario. Mohamed Bouazizi and Khaled Said, who fell victims of authoritarian regimes, became precedents for mass mobilization under the social networks’ coordination. The main role of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube was channeling public grievances into political action.
The lack of political participation and democratization was compensated by creation of public sphere where people could exchange their thoughts and organize protests. The truths of regimes were uncovered during the public Internet discussions, which caused regimes’ reaction. Both Mubarak and Quadhafi tried to shut off Internet, however this only caused more people going to the streets to find out what is going wrong. Mobile phones with cameras became a revolutionary tool in the hands of activists, who used SMSs to establish communication. The Internet also made possible for the world community to get involved into the revolution. Foreign hackers and Internet services helped protesters. Authoritarian leaders alone couldn’t win the fight for traffic. The result of the protests was removal of the authoritarian leader. Although both Howard and Hussain claimed that the region is still unstable, the usage of social networks and YouTube for people with no protest experience turned out to be a positive experience.
The role of media and Internet changed significantly during the globalized era. Today all people with the Internet access can not only watch news, but also participate in public debates and create own news. This creates additional pressure on the governments, which lost control over the public sphere by the means of radio, TV and newspapers. The Snowden’s case clearly shows that the US government sees enemy in social networks and tries to control them due to their mobilization potential. The cases of Egypt and Tunisia provided clear examples of Internet’s ability to channel public aspirations into a single action.
Bremmer, Ian. "American exceptionalism, seen through the prism of American blunders |." Reuters. Reuters, 13 June 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2013. <http://blogs.reuters.com/ian-bremmer/2013/06/13/american-exceptionalism-seen-through-the-prism-of-american-blunders/>.
Howard, Philip H., and Muzammi M. Hussain. "The Role of Digital Media." Journal of Democracy 22.3 (2011): 35-48. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.
Naim, Moises. "The YouTube Effect." Foreign Policy 158 (2007): 103-104. Web.
"Twitter 1, CNN 0." The Economist 13 June 2009: 26. Print.