You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.
Revolutionary black musician Gil Scott Heron released “The revolution will not be televised” in 1971. It was the first track on side 1 of Pieces of Man.
I put it out there because I think it’s important to reign in a little the “Twitter Triumphalism” around events in Iran over the past few days.
I want to paraphrase GSH: The revolution will not be twitter-ized”
I was on TVNZ this morning discussing the Iran-media/Twitter Revolution stuff.
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- Megan Garber at Columbia Journalism Review is on the same wavelength, Remember Moldova
- Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, The Twitter Revolution
- Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic, The revolution will be Twittered
In about an hour last night, while I was following a number of Twitter feeds (#Iran, #Iranelection #gr88, etc) I was checking one and over 4000 new tweets appeared on the thread I hadn’t checked for a while.
Most of it was not of any real value, it was really just a bunch of emotional folk outside Iran venting and getting caught up in the hype. It was an example of a point made by Clay Shirky about the speed and emotional content of Twitter in a situation like the post-election public protests in Iran.
Unfortunately, Clay Shirky appears to have become part of the hype industry.
I’m always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that … this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted “the whole world is watching.” Really, that wasn’t true then. But this time it’s true … and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends, and they’re even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor. That kind of participation is really extraordinary.
[This is it. The big one, Clay Shirky, 16 June 2009]
“The big one”? A big call and perhaps not one that will be borne out by historical records, once everything recedes.
It’s also interesting that Shirky refers to Chicago 1968 because Gil Scott Heron’s “The revolution will not be televised” is a reaction to the events of 1968 and the huge upsurge in civil rights protests across America in that summer and the one following.
When it comes to Iran, the whole world is watching, but if you want real news, analysis and knowledge, you won’t find it on a Twitter feed. It’s still the case that the big media organisations are better sources-despite all their problems.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner,
because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.
Gil Scott Heron was/is right.
Revolutions happen on the street,
It’s much safer for the dilletantes to hang around in a virtual space that they’re comfortable in.
The people of Iran have no choice. If they want to save their rights, their nation and their revolution, they know it will not be televised-the regime controls television.
If they want their votes back and their elelction-they also know that they cannot tweet the regime away.
The Revolutionary Guards are not afraid of mobile phones and access to the Internet can be blocked easily.
What the regime fears is that it will lose control of the streets, the campuses, the factories and the military.
That’s the real logic of revolution.