The Revolution Will Not Be ... Tweeted

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THE STASH APRIL 21, 2009

The Revolution Will Not Be ... Tweeted

I was about to wrap up my anti-Twitter jihad when Jason forwarded me this irresistible Anne Applebaum piece:

We've been waiting a long time for political upheaval to follow in the wake of technological change, and on April 7, it seemed to have arrived. From Moldova, of all places, came news of the Twitter revolution: In one of the poorest backwaters in Europe—a place that frequently features in global surveys as the world's unhappiest country—a group of fresh-faced young people reportedly used Twitter tweets, text messages, and Facebook postings to organize a demonstration in favor of democracy and against rigged elections. New technology confronted old autocracy in an almost ideal, made-for-the-front-pages story line: On one side stood Moldovan Communist President Vladimir Voronin, a man who is not only a former Soviet secret police boss but—amazing coincidence!—also the father of the country's richest man. On the other side stood the forces of modernity, youth, and social networking. The young democrats expected 1,000 demonstrators, and, thanks to technology, more than 10,000 showed up.

It sounded too good to be true—and it was. Alas, it is now becoming clear that there was no Twitter revolution in Moldova, and not merely because there are only a handful of registered Twitter users in the whole country. The more important point, according to observers on the ground, is that the unexpectedly large demonstration (10,000-15,000 is a lot for apathetic Moldova) was not a spontaneous product of technical advance. Nor was it an accident that the demonstrators turned violent, burned government buildings, or placed a Romanian flag on top of the parliament. ...
 
[S]ome of the most violent demonstrators were immediately identified—by Western observers and by local politicians—as members of the Moldovan security services.  
You'll have to read the rest of Applebaum's piece to find out why the Moldovan security services would instigate their own anti-government protest. But, suffice it to say, most of those guys have probably never heard of Twitter...
 
--Noam Scheiber

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