The New Face of Revolution

Posted on October 23, 2011 by


What does Revolution look like?  Does it look like 1776 with muskets that leave the air heavy with the smell of burned gunpowder?  Does it look like 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama where a Black woman refuses to give up her bus seat to a White passenger?  Or, does it look like something else entirely?  The word revolution evokes images of violence, of guns and death; yet, this is not its only definition.  Revolution can also be defined as a sudden, radical, and complete change.  The United States is in the midst of such a revolution in the form of Occupy Wall Street and the many solidarity Occupy movements.  It has many elements in common with iconic protests of the past, such as people gathering together.  The question is how does this revolution differ from past movements?  This is how.

Social media is changing the face of revolution.  There are new weapons now, ones that don’t take bullets or lives.  Occupy Wall Street has a cause page on Facebook and a search for #OWS on Twitter reveals accounts associated with the movement as well as people who are discussing the movement using the hashtag.  The movement began on September 17, 2011.  Yet, the first news story did not get reported until four days later.  Even then, the early stories were less about reporting the event and more about dismissing it as a colossal waste of time.  In any other age, the lack of media representation would have sounded a death knell for a movement.  Thanks to social media outlets, people were receiving reports about the movement from the very people involved and thereby completely circumventing traditional media sources.  Pictures abound from the 99% sharing their personal stories and reasons for participating.

This one movement has spawned several solidarity movements.  A Facebook search for “occupy” shows a solidarity movement for most major cities, even internationally.  In Indiana there are two such movements: Occupy Indianapolis and Occupy South Bend.  A Twitter search shows the same.  Through the use of social media, people are receiving supplies such as food and blankets so they can continue protesting.   People are coming together to donate money for supplies.  Most importantly, people are doing all of these things without being dependent on traditional media outlets.

To illustrate the importance of becoming independent of the major news companies, look at China.  Chinese authorities keep a tight rein over news broadcasts and severely restrict what can and cannot be shared with the Chinese public.  The people are only able to learn facts that have already been cleared by the authorities.  This is not China; however, there is control over the media.  It happens to be corporate instead of political.  One of the reasons it took major news agencies so long to report on the Occupy Wall Street movement is because media agencies are also corporations.  The movement is protesting corporations and corporate conduct.  To report objectively, or at all, would be counter-intuitive.  This circles back to the example of Chinese media.  Both have gatekeepers, although they are admittedly different in the type of gatekeeper and the amount of control they exert.  Because of this gatekeeping,  it is possible to keep the public at large in the dark.  Social media have changed that.

It is no longer necessary to be a journalist or news anchor to broadcast news.  The average person can do it with a smart phone or laptop.  It no longer matters whether the major corporations want an issue covered or not.  If someone decides to share that information, the information will be shared in real-time.  There is no time delay with social media, no place to halt the spreading of news.  Oftentimes, the information is public before any opposition is aware of it.

Social media.  It changed the way we communicated with family and friends.  It is changing the way we seek social justice.  It is changing the way we live our lives.