I read Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker essay regarding Twitter’s impact on the Egyptian uprising. And I completely disagree with his assertions. It’s along the lines of his now famous post (last October) dismissing the power of social media in global activism. To be clear, Twitter and Facebook have been to the protestors what photos became to the American Civil War: a way of personalizing the struggle for the masses.
People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along. Barely anyone in East Germany in the nineteen-eighties had a phone…and in the French Revolution the crowd in the streets spoke to one another with that strange, today largely unknown instrument known as the human voice.
He ends his piece claiming that “how” people communicate their problems is less important than “why”. This is a curious way of looking at the Egyptian uprising. We all want to know “why”, but should that stop us from asking “how”? As a journalist, I ask all the questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how.