Many politicians today have their own social media platform which gives them direct access to their voters and beyond. Digital communication has also become a popular way for people to mobilize against political leaders they want to overthrow. Revolution has become digital.
We know that freedom and democracy are values that don’t come free and easy for everybody. There are many countries worldwide where people are still denied their democratic rights. “We have the leaders we deserve” is an old saying. There may be some truth in that, given that the people have a say in choosing their leaders and can take the responsibility for the leaders they have chosen. But there are many leaders around the world who are in power without the sanction of the people, most of them with military background. In our country we may well disagree with our political leadership, but after all it is there as a result of a democratic process and a free election. We should remind ourselves of this when we see bad leaders run their country and people with an iron hand.
To organize and conduct a rebellion to overthrow a bad leader is a tough and dangerous undertaking. History has given us many examples of how dictators have crushed opposition quite violently. Even if a totalitarian regime eventually will corrupt itself and end up as its own enemy, the struggle for reforms and democratic rights is necessary and important in a totalitarian state. The opposition must plan and organize cunningly, and information is vital. They need to alert people and mobilize quickly to coordinate a demonstration or a rally. The point is to gather the people on a massive scale at the same time. This part of opponent action has all of a sudden become easier thanks to digital communication.
The Digital Revolution
One can say that the internet has revolutionized the logistics of rebellion. Within seconds a network of contacts and sympathizers can be alerted and given vital information about a planned rally. Digital media like Twitter and Facebook are efficient tools for such peer-to-peer interaction.
The counterattack from the authorities may then be to try and block these media and possibly close down the internet, and by doing so revealing their true colours. But the digital flow of information is elusive and clever activists will usually find a way to evade this by deploying proxy servers that cannot be controlled by the authorities. Suddenly Microsoft and Google have become important and effective means in the fight for democracy.
In many totalitarian countries people are now blogging for revolution, mobilizing and inspiring each other and attracting the world’s attention to their cause. And in the long run it will be hard for a despot or a dictatorship to withstand the digital revolution.
Comprehension / Discussion
- What does it mean that a totalitarian regime will end up as its own enemy?
- Do you know any examples of how rebellion has been met with violent reprisals from the authorities?
- Why do you think that most of the world’s dictators have a military background?
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