November 2011 Archives

Despots, Civil Unrest and New Media

Ethnic groups in Libya, 1974.

Image via Wikipedia

Ghaddafi is now dead. Regardless of what you thought about his rule in Libya, you cannot mistake his ability to leverage regional natural resources to combat Western powers. Revolution is typically bloody and remarkable, but watching it unfold in the information age is rather unique.

Though I was younger and perhaps less globally aware, I am old enough to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall. I could imagine that an event so significant (ie unifying Germany) and so consequential surely there must have been tremendous bloodshed. One can only imagine what the people of East Germany had to endure in an effort to dismantle that political and Socialist cultural regime. Ironically, the Western media never captured any of their leaders being dragged through the streets covered with blood or filmed the hiding places of their generals. One might attribute this fact to a fledgling world wide web, perhaps, but it does seem that African or developing nations which are undergoing political change seem to get far more coverage.

Clearly 1989 media was hindered by the available technology, largely everything was captured by tel-lie-vision and radio. There was no flickr or other Internet based social media channels. The United States was largely controlled by just a few major news outlets, and the huge growth of cable networks had not yet begun to take root.

Still it is rather curious that events in Libya, Egypt, etc garnered so much coverage in the US.  Could it be that there was such a human interest story and the enduring embrace of personal freedom and democracy for all?  Hogwash.. Methinks it has more to do with the financial leverage and controlling natural resources.  Going back to the Berlin Wall example. I'm clear that East German leadership was under tremendous attack from the resurrection of its citizens as well as outside forces that had a vested interest in seeing Socialism crushed in the Eastern Bloc. However, I never saw pics or video footage of Honecker or Krenz getting beaten or bloodied for their part in maintaining the Berlin Wall.

The other aspect of the Libyan story is economics. Obviously the US has a vested interest in controlling the price of a barrel of oil. In fact, Ghaddafi took great pride in organizing the OPEC to help dictate the flow of oil thereby manipulating demand. Simple Economics 101 and the Western nations despised him for it. Again, the Berlin story had few if any money underpinnings, so it would be logical that US interests would be pale in comparison to Libya.

Not sure what the new media focus will be now, the destabilization efforts have succeeded in Libya, Iraq, and Egypt.  I suppose that a greater focus on Africa would not be out of the question. Curiously, China and Afghanistan are on the back burner.  Time will tell.

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