Despite growing evidence to the contrary, Malcolm Gladwell once again downplayed social media’s role in promoting activism, this time in an interview on CNN. He says that while Twitter and Facebook might have been used in Tunisia and Egypt, they didn’t have much impact because there have been revolutions before, without them:
I can’t look in the past at social revolutions and see examples of cases where people had a problem under – under dire circumstances of getting lots of people together to voice their concerns, right? I mean, in East Germany, a million people gathered in the streets of Berlin. They were – the percentage of people in East Berlin in East Germany who even had a telephone in 1989 was 13 percent, right?
This argument is a little odd. By Gladwell’s logic, tanks, radar, jet fighters, etc. have no significant impact on wars because there were wars before them. It’s ridiculous.
FishbowlNY doesn’t think social media was the main ingredient in the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, but it certainly helped things along. Would the Egyptian government have shut down the Internet if it didn’t?
For some reason, Gladwell continues to doubt the impact of social media, so he continues to look foolish. He dug himself a hole when he first bashed it in The New Yorker. Strangely enough, he’s still digging.