The revolution will not be Twitter-ized

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.
Vodpod videos no longer available. Posted with VodPod

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,
real people,
real violence,
real blood.

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.

6 Responses to The revolution will not be Twitter-ized

  1. David Cohen says:

    Perhaps the saddest postscript to that passionate performance –arguably the first modern rap standard–is the demise of Gil Scott-Heron. Jail, substance abuse and various other manifestations of hard living have rendered *him* unfit for being televised. Listen here if you can to a v sad-sounding interview with him late last year on NPR. By the bye, did you catch his music in the recent film State of Play, the bit early on when Russell Crowe is at home at his Washington apartment listening to … ‘Re-Ron’? Scott-Heron’s best composition by a country mile too.

  2. Rob says:

    Interesting comments Marty,

    Surprised at the not so bad questions from the tv host…

    Also find the tension between the explosion in numbers of social media postings versus the value of the information quite fascinating…shit yeah there’s thousands more people posting info as opposed to traditional media outlets but how reliable is it?

    S’pose we need to consider this against ‘How valuable was it before, when it was mediated by middle aged WASPS in bureaux and newsrooms in western capital cities?’ Gatekeeping versus total (unreliable?) access.

    Like the Stephen Wright line…”I wouldn’t want everything – where would you put it.”

    Would like to agree and add to David’s points about Gil. It is sad.

    Check out the lyrics to ‘Work for Peace’ from Spirits (1994)

    “The Military and the Monetary,
    from thousands of miles away in a Saudi Arabian sanctuary,
    had us all scrambling for our dictionaries,
    cause we couldn’t understand the fuckin vocabulary.
    Yeah, there was some smart bombs,
    but there was some dumb ones as well,
    scared the hell out of CNN in that Baghdad hotel.
    The Military and the Monetary,
    they get together whenever they think its necessary,
    War in the desert sometimes sure is scary,
    but they beamed out the war to all their subsidiaries.
    Tried to make So Damn Insane a worthy adversary,
    keeping the citizens secondary”

    and to remember Gil at his near best…the live
    “Tales of Gil Scott Heron and his Amnesia Express” double album is great.

  3. SeaJay says:

    Brilliant that you are back in the ethernet saddle Mr Martini, nice work with ‘oh no, don’t’ Mau as well.

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