Friday, January 28, 2011

Here's to a Wired and Unruly World

What’s happening in Egypt now reminds me of China 1989, though there are some differences. For one thing, the US has more influence with Egypt’s President Mubarak than it did with China’s leaders. Mubarak can’t simply ignore Secretary of State Clinton’s expressed wish for non-violence and restraint. On the other hand, the cooperation between Mubarak and the US has been so useful to both sides that we Americans are, once again, in an embarrassing situation where our entrenched political interests clash with our cherished democratic ideals.

What amazes me (besides us once again finding ourselves on the wrong side of a democratic movement) is the way in which social networking has suddenly become the lifeblood of political protesters. Too bad there was no Internet in 1989.

In the old days, a coup would always begin with troops taking over radio and television stations. But who can take over a web that has no center, that generates information from a billion separate points? As of now, nobody. Let’s hope it stays that way, because a decentralized wired world is a tyrant’s nightmare.

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