These past two weeks, I have been sitting back and observing the aftermath of the Moldova riots with a more critical eye. Regrettably, as is sometimes the case with journalists who have the hots for a headline before they know what they’re getting into, I find myself wishing to retract my “Twitter Riots Take Moldova” post. It is a clear example of my wanting to “jump on the bandwagon” with the buzz behind the latest technology. In particular, I get excited any time a social networking tool manifests some form of concrete social action, but I may have OD’ed on that excitement too soon. I’m not sure the Moldova riots consitute positive social action as much as they represent a lot of very pissed off people living in what is ranked as the “world’s unhappiest country” and it is becoming increasingly clear that Twitter, although present, was not the fulcrum of the April 7th events.
In much the same way we must first suffer the consequences of partaking in a rounds of shots before discovering the wisdom behind slowly enjoying a beer, I fell prey to the knee-jerk reaction of journalistic fever. Knee-jerk reactions are not uncommon – (take internet guru Clay Shirky’s incredibly articulate apology to Amazon after the LGBT book de-listing drama, for example) – and it is often harder to detect in the digital world, being that the “need for speed” is tantamount to today’s news.
First, I must tip my hat to blogger, Daniel Bennett, who critiqued the error of my eagerness with his own commentary on the same day that I posted my Moldova entry. Bennett is a PhD student researching the impact of blogging and new media on the BBC’s coverage of war and terrorism at King’s College in London and since checking out his link that day, I have found him to be full of excellent insight on the subject matter. We appear to share a mutual interest in Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and a PUSH 2005 Speaker. Zuckerman has been doing an extremely informative follow-up on the use of Twitter and other social networking tools during the Moldova riots on his own blog, My Heart is in Accra. He was also featured on NPR’s On the Media on April 17th, adding a technological lense to the events.
“My take on it at this point is that Twitter probably wasn’t all that important in organizing the demonstrations,” Zuckerman states. “Where I think they were enormously important is in helping people, particularly people in the Moldavan Diaspora, keep up with the events in real time.” Zuckerman also recognizes that social media tools were involved in disseminating information after the riots in regards to arrests and other issues and that it is even arguably being used as a channel of disinformation by others. As a person who shares a strong connection to the livelihood of a sometimes tumultuous Northern Ireland and as someone who has been arrested (as a reporter, mind you) at the RNC riots, I can definitely appreciate the value of social media tools being used for communication and organization in the aftermath of important events.
Whether (or when) we decide to call the Moldova uprising the “Twitter” Revolution is another story. Zuckerman loosely traces the food chain of this headline as originating from a UK Telegraph story which was then picked up by a highly-trafficked blog; eventually, Twitter and Moldova ended up on the front page of the New York Times the next day. Anne Applebaum, a columnist for the Washington Post, also offers a great critique of the Twitter flashpan. She suggests, “What we witnessed…was not a new kind of Twitter Revolution but, rather, a new kind of manipulated revolution; not an Orange or a Rose Revolution, but a revolution deliberately led astray. There were special circumstances, of course: It’s relatively easy to make people angry and get them to burn down government buildings in the world’s unhappiest country. Still, I predict this is a sign of more such “revolutions” to come. A scenario like this one is too good to waste on Moldova alone.” Twitter revolutions they may not be, but do they have the potential? We’ll see.Article By: Ashley Dresser