There is no question that protesters made use of Twitter, and it is also quite clear that Twitter was a valuable tool for disseminating information about the revolt, but that doesn’t make the revolt a “Twitter revolution” except in the very narrow sense that more people learned of what happened in Sidi Bouzid more quickly than they would have otherwise. Arguably, this accelerated the escalation and spread of the protests, but there seems to be general agreement that the trigger was Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation and the real causes were widely-shared economic and political grievances. Labeling something a “Twitter revolution” seems to trivialize what we’re talking about, as if other nations’ political struggles can be defined by the technologies and websites that happen to be trendy elsewhere.
Al-Jazeera and the new media ecosystem did not only spread information -- they facilitated the framing of the events and a robust public debate about their meaning.
... Arabs collectively understood these events quite quickly as part of a broader Arab narrative of reform and popular protest -- the "al-Jazeera narrative" of an Arab public challenging authoritarian Arab regimes and U.S. foreign policy alike. Events in Tunisia had meaning for Jordan, for Lebanon, for Yemen, for Egypt because they were framed and understood within this collective Arab narrative. From al-Jazeera's talk shows to internet forums to the cafes where people talked them out face to face, Tunisia became common focal point for the Arab political debate and identity.
Al-Jazeera's role may not fit the current passion for the internet, but overlooking it will lead to some serious misunderstandings of how the media works in today's Arab world and how the Tunisian events might matter outside of that country over the longer term.
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