Google Analytics


Tip Jar

Support Blog

Tip Jar

Wired State Amazon

« Sinking Ron Paul's Campaign | Main | The Trouble with Registan.Net »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

Oh, and of course another point Zeynep Tufecki reminds us of: Mona's a US citizen.

I thought she had just moved to the US and/or Canada some years ago.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

My comment stuck in moderation queue at Tufecki's blog. I'm also thinking that it's funny all these people twitter when they know each other and can just pick up the phone. It's *getting attention* that they effected on twitter because of their social class, background, and credentials:

I think 30 years and $29 billion in US aid to Egypt, and close connections to the Egyptian military, probably had more to do with the release of this US citizen than Twitter — although I’m happy to keep clapping my hands harder and hoping that Twitter-bell will work for my friends in jail in Russia or Belarus.

Social science may not be able to replicate its experiments like other science. But you can try to run the Twitter theory on other countries and cases, and see how far you get, especially where there isn’t $29 billion of US aid, zero connection to the military, and another superpower — Russia — in the mix. Like with my friend Andrei Sannikov, the alternative presidential candidate in Belarus who has been in prison for exactly a year — despite all our tweets, to State, to post, to media, even to the Belarusian police, who have a Twitter account, to everyone from Dmitry Medvedev (who doesn’t answer) to Carl Bildt (who does). He’s still not free. Do try your Twitter magic, please!

I’m also thinking, since I have *a huge amount* of experience working on human rights cases, that it was actually better when we didn’t have all these layers of misleading social media in the way, funny as that may sound. Oh, I get it about Twitter and I’ve been on it since 2007, earlier than most people, actively using it.

But in the old days when there was no Internet, in a day you could sometimes get a State Department cable to be sent, and that would get attention then the firehose of new media noise that the average diplomat has to content with now. You picked up the phone — it was more direct. Once there was email, you could get information around, and fax letters on your stationery to various heads of state or prison wardens or prosecutors — it would work.

When I worked at the Committee to Protect Journalists, it’s not true that we took “days” like Amnesty to act on a case and even Amnesty doesn’t always take “days”. We moved instantly, sometimes working into the night and getting European colleagues to tag-team us. I had approximately 200 cases in my two years there. I solved approximately 20 percent of them. Sometimes, just by sending that piece of foreign stationery with the English lettering to some potentate in the Russian provinces, the fear of looking bad to foreigners was enough to get a journalist released. Sometimes there would be a very brave American Embassy official who, even in the midst of a civil war, as in Tajikistan, even when evacuating, would take action to save a family of a journalist. Sometimes, the interest of outsiders was enough to get local people trying to help to feel a little more protected, as in Croatia at the time.

The equivalents of Anne-Marie Slaughter, Andy Carvin, Nicholas Kristoff, and their unnamed State Department friends have always existed, and were reached on what we used to call “the telephone” using “the rolladex”. It is not Twitter that made the connections between these powerful and influential people — it is their social class and backgrounds.

From my experience, for what it’s worth, I’d have to reject the idea that a small campaign that isn’t a groundswell with thousands of twitterers is only an irritant and could make things worse for someone like Mona. We were always taught by our colleagues on the front line that “publicity is the best weapon”. Maybe it isn’t in Iran. But even there, erring on the side of publicity tends to work better to protect people. You can’t calibrate things like that with the secret police. They are professionals. You are an amateur.

As for the rest of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s theory, I found about 10 things wrong with it:

Catherine Fitzpatrick

This story of #FreeMona reminds me again to study Andy Carvin further and write up a critique of him. I view him as simply someone who has acquired just too much unchallenged power -- and illegitimate power.

I challenged his received wisdom about a US issue one day -- a hashtag he disliked on Twitter because it seemed to glorify domestic violence. And he was angry and petulant and brooked no dissent -- as such gurus often do.

My comment in the moderation queue at another blog:

Then Andy Carvin has too much power without accountability, and you need to think about the ramifications of that.

It's also not clear that in fact only his remote-control Red Cross work saved the day. Maybe it did. Maybe it was a necessary duplication to others' work on the scene.

But there are any number of worrisome factors to the enormous power that these Twitter influences gain with their one-to-many broadcasting use of Twitter. Leaving aside the problem of pollution of the stream with malignant disinformers, which presumably a person like Carvin eventually filters out, there is still the problem of TMI and human limitations and inevitable bias. Given the urgency of the cause, given the enormity of the need; given the power to influence, why is Andy Carvin only one? Why isn't he in a tag team? Why doesn't he *share power*?

He is not reporting the news because he's not on the ground. He's curating the news and has built up a certain audience of trust based on the notion that he curates, but doesn't try to impose his own view on the situation (in theory, anyway). If he begins to intervene actually in the scene, he's not a journalist or a curator but a participant. There's nothing wrong with being a human rights worker or aid worker. But such people often work more effectively when they are also not burdened with having to give bursts of broadcasts every few minutes about their activities.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Follow on Twitter

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter
    Blog powered by Typepad