Sunday, January 30, 2011

Social networking

I'd also like to enter a protest against all the media reports about the importance of social networking in Egypt. Of course Twitter is important; don't get me wrong. But somehow, people are acting as if no one ever knew how to communicate before this. Again, I go back to my experiences in Poland.

The Poles in 1980 remembered very clearly what happened during an uprising in the port city of Gdansk ten years before. The authorities blacked out communications and lied about the number of demonstrators killed. But people knew, and one of the first things that Solidarity did was to erect a monument to the Gdansk victims. There was also an active grapevine reporting on what the government was doing in 1980 and 1981.

Electrifying pictures of people in the streets are great but do little to explain all the other factors that Americans need to know but don't, since they pay little attention to the outside world.

Nor are such pictures likely to affect the official U.S. response. U.S. policy is based on a variety of factors which I don't pretend to understand in full. We told the Shah he needed to make reforms. A year later, we went out of our way not to offend Poland's communist government. When Ahmedinejad stole elections, we said nothing for almost a year. Now we're scolding Mubarak. You go figure.

So yes, I'm a Neanderthal. So do you have an issue with Neanderthals?

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