The New Yorker recently published a thoughtfully written article by Malcolm Gladwell titled, "Small Change: Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted." Citing research done by Stanford sociologist Doug McAdam, Mr. Gladwell compares what he sees happening today among people connected by modern social media to the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Real social change, Gladwell argues, is a phenomenon driven by something described as "strong ties" in the field of mathematical sociology.
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People who lived through this time repeatedly referred to feeling a "fever" to participate. Gladwell says this fever is better described as "a military campaign," adding that "Martin Luther King, Jr., was the unquestioned authority." Gladwell tells us that, "the center of the movement was the black church," and makes a strong argument that the status quo can only be truly challenged and changed by a hierarchical, militarily-like organization. Gladwell is wrong. Big change can come in small packages too.
On Christmas Day 2009, Liu Xiaobo, a fifty-four year old Chinese writer, was sentenced to eleven years imprisonment for co-authoring a manifesto of human rights calling for political reform in the People's Republic of China. Two weeks ago, this prisoner was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his enduring, non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Chinese government censored this news because discussion about it could lead to real impact and greater freedom in China.