Monday, December 29, 2008
Social media and the Greek uprising
One of the most striking features of the recent series of revolts, rebellions and riots in Greece over the last few weeks is the use of social media to relay what has been happening to a wider audience. What I have witnessed is a form of internet hyper - Darwinism in which the forces of change which usually take years have been compressed into a time frame measured in weeks.
Before the recent troubles the use of Twitter, blogs, video sharing services and the like was a pretty limited affair. Many of those on the Left, and much of Greek political life saw the internet as irrelevant as TV, newspapers, public meetings, leafleting and marches were the order of the day. In addition there was a general distrust of the medium, an extension of the Greek Left's ambivalent relationship with the media in general.
For many TV, radio and newspapers are inherently biased and corrupt. Unfortunately, such claims, though often exaggerated have an element of truth to them. The state - run TV networks follow the line set down by the party in power and whilst not Stalinist in their propaganda style (why lie when you can spin?) are no more objective than say, Fox news.
On the other hand many of the private channels follow other agendas set down by their owners who see the TV and print as the PR wing of their business interests. A way of leveraging their position vis - a - vie the state, which is by far the biggest player in the Greek economy.
However, as the protests continued more and more people discovered the power of the net to organise, inform and disseminate their message without having recourse to the mainstream channels. They discovered that they too, could get out their message to a wider audience far beyond their borders. In addition, media outlets from around the world quickly gained access to sources of information which told a very different story from the local media's version of events which depended on more traditional news gathering tools.
With this realisation came a burst of creativity in terms of tactics, slogans, self expression. The hundreds of school occupations quickly started setting up blogs, thousands of those taking part in demonstrations started posting pictures and videos on the net, citizen journalism sites started getting eyewitness counts of the events as they were happening.
I thought that this would eventually happen in Greece but I predicted to my friends that it would take two, three years. Instead it took three weeks.The genie is now out of the bottle and I think that those working in the traditional media have been given a nasty wake up call. They've read about this kind of stuff in America and France but suddenly it has turned up, unbidden on their own door step.