I’m always amused by media types who smugly proclaim that they – the media – are what stands between the hoi-polloi and tyranny.
Part of it is the whole matter of “”The pen is mightier than the sword” can only have been written by someone who never had to bet his life on it” bit. And part of it is that the media, like any institution, is no less liable to being co-opted and turned than any other. Remember – Germany had a “Free Press” from 1918 through 1933. Fat lotta good it did them.
Ditto the alternative media – and maybe worse. The alt-media has wrapped itself in the cloak of righteousness…
…but as events in Syria show, it can be co-opted for tyranny just as easily as for freedom. Because while Syria’s government propaganda is the kind of thing that Baghdad Bob could have done, its population of pro-government nerds is drawing blood.
They call themselves the Syrian Electronic Army, conducting the most intense cyberwarfare in the Arab world, says Jillian York, with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“I’ve really never seen anything like this before, like the Syrian Electronic Army, which just seems to have so many members,” she says. “I think it’s really just their level of persistence and their level of activity that sets them apart.”
Are they a part of the regime? That is uncertain, says York, although Syrian President Bashar Assad saluted the youth of the Electronic Army in a June speech when they first emerged.
“So it may be that they are supported by the government; it may be that they are independent pro-government forces,” York says.
They’ve co-opted the “social media networks” that were so ballyhooed in the uprisings in Egypt and Bahrain,and hacked into pro-dissident sites in the West, and begun, perhaps, to turn the advantage of the social network into a liability.