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New media and old manifestations

June 28, 2013

By Claude Fischer

Istanbul protests continue in TurkeyIt appears that Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the protesters clogging up the downtowns of Turkish cities who are agitating against him agree on something. Erdogan recently decried “a menace that is called Twitter . . . . The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.” Meanwhile, many of the protesters also see the social media as having unlocked the forces of popular uprising. (Notice the women on each side of the flag-carrier in the picture.)

Everywhere we read and hear the claim that smartphones and social media have ushered in a new era of protest and revolution, enabling people to mobilize crowds locally and to arouse the discontented in other cities and even other countries. This theme was common during the Occupy chatter, too. History, just about everyone says, has turned a (virtual) corner.

People, let’s get a grip – and I don’t mean on your smartphone; I mean on history.

Let’s go back to 1968, decades before the World Wide Web. As anyone who lived through it (I raise my hand) or read about it knows, it was a year of widespread youth protest in much of the western world and some Soviet bloc countries, too: Prague Spring; May 1968 in Paris (still a touchstone for the French); Grant Park riots at the Democratic Convention; and much more. And protesters in each place knew about one another and were inspired by one another. Todd Gitlin’s book The Whole World is Watching reminds us that the world was — and people copied. Read the rest of the story at the Berkeley Blog.

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