No Social Media Behind Toppling of Bakiyev

Evgeny Morozov at the FP Net Effect blog has some ideas about why there was no Twitter-revolution behind the civil unrest and change of government in Kyrgyzstan … it’s not only because it’s harder to pronounce than Iran.

Finally, some pundits have observed that the availability of footage/tweets from Kyrgyzstan would certainly make other dictators rethink their own vulnerability and heed the right lessons. I agree. This is a variation on the “demonstration effect” argument, which, because of the pervasive liberal bias, we usually believe to work only in one direction (example: “Oh, now that the Uzbek activists have seen what’s possible in Kyrgyzstan, they too would rise up”; this, of course, can be countered with a completely opposite point: “Oh, now that the Uzbek/Turkmen/Kazakh dictators have seen what’s possible in Kyrgyzstan, they too would take preemptive measures”). By this logic, the folks who really learned the most from the Orange Revolution in 2004 were not the anti-government activists in Minsk, but Kremlin operatives in Moscow. 

Bottom line: new media played no visible role in organizing the protesters and some role in broadcasting what was happening to the rest of the world (it’s not clear though whether this broadcasting had any real impact on the police’s ability to control the unruly protesters). That’s a preliminary judgement: I have no clue how well the Kyrgyz opposition was organized in reality; based on media reports, it seems like they were not.