“No. 1 hero in Tunisia” is probably not a status update Mark Zuckerberg ever thought would appear on his Facebook wall. Yet that is exactly what Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) has anointed the CEO and co-founder of Facebook after a visit to Tunisia this month. Is ‘No. 1 hero’ in a protest-torn country really a status a CEO like Zuckerberg wants?
“The national hero in Egypt is a guy named Mark Zuckerberg. I called him and told him that,” McCain told a group of reporters gathered Wednesday morning at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
The Arizona senator said he saw first-hand in his recent visit to protest-ridden Egypt and Tunisia with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) the level of hero-worship devoted to Zuckerberg and to Facebook, which protest organizers used to get out word of the demonstrations that ousted the longtime presidents of both countries.
“This social networking cannot be underestimated in how all of these events, really the driving force in how all of this transformed and took place,” he said.
The role Facebook, and by default Zuckerberg, played in the revolutions has been debated before.
McCain, in praising Zuckerberg, no doubt put the CEO and his company right back in the awkward position of being held up as foreign diplomat instead of social networking business when he noted what social networking technology accomplished in Egypt and Tunisia has made government officials in other countries nervous.
“It’s not an accident that the Chinese are doing everything they can to make sure that information is withheld from their people,” McCain said. “That shows, I think, the sense of danger they feel and the appreciation of the impact of social networking.”
Perhaps even more intriguing, in terms of Zuckerberg’s next step, is that the senator’s phone call to him also included a standing invitation for a hero’s welcome.
“They wanted him to come and visit,” McCain told reporters. “They want him to come to Egypt and Tunisia, these young people do.”
To demonstrate the power he sees in social media, McCain gave the example of a young man he met in Egypt who held up his BlackBerry and proclaimed, “I can get 200,000 people in the square in two hours.”
And the senior senator from Arizona knows of what he speaks. An academic study last year deemed him a “social media genius,” while the senator himself confessed to reporters Wednesday he is on Facebook and Twitter “all the time”
When he wanted to call on Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to step down, McCain told reporters, “I tweeted it. …..That got me a lot of criticism, an issue that serious. But I was able to immediately reach 1.7 million people, and the press release would have taken a long period of time, and events were transpiring rapidly.”
What do you think? Does McCain get the role Facebook really does, or should, play in political protests? Is “hero” a title Mark Zuckerberg, as the face of Facebook, really wants?