Marshaling Malcolm’s Message

Writing a wrong.
Jesus Christ, he’s done it again. As if to prove that he cannot admit to being wrong, Malcolm Gladwell has weighed in, again, on whether or not the people of an oppressed country really need Twitter.

In a new online article for The New Yorker, Mr. Gladwell’s most-recent misguided missive completely contradicts Marshall McLuhan’s argument that the form of communication informs the communication.

“People with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other. How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.”
Malcolm Gladwell- The New Yorker, 02 February 2011

In the current case with Egyptians looking to oust their president, Mr. Gladwell is missing a number of important points which make Twitter a large part of the story. Granted, without Twitter, protesters would still be protesting. But the ease and availability of information distribution through Twitter has allowed Egyptians to broadcast their grievances, rationale, and actions more quickly to a world watching the dominoes fall.

Yes, people can organize without Twitter. Yes, protesters can voice their concerns using traditional media outlets. Yes, eyewitnesses can share their accounts with anyone who asks. But our new information tools bring speed, relevance, and attention to growing unrest with remarkable alacrity.

Even when the Egyptian government tried to limit the way people communicate, information still escaped. I can’t emphasize enough how significant it is that Google set up their Speak to Tweet service over the weekend. For a company whose mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” it’s very telling that Google focused their resources on a way for the Egyptian people to stay in touch with Twitter.

I almost feel bad for Mr. Gladwell. The more he dismisses Twitter as a means for communication, the more out of touch he sounds. No, Twitter is not the reason for recent revolutions. But without it, we would not be watching. Or listening. Or learning. Which will continue when I see you on the ‘morrow, on the Web.
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Author  Stephen R. Fox