Peoples' movements and protests




Social media are an overrated asset



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By Jan Wiklund



Has the internet and social media broadened democracy and made it easier for ordinary people to act politically? No, believes a researcher, and points out that social media is easier to use for political purposes the more money you have.

During the revolutions in the Arab world at the beginning of the 2010s, it was often claimed that it was the merit of the internet, twitter and facebook. And by all means, such things were used – but would have been completely pointless if you hadn't organized in the old fashioned way as well, three other researches found.I.e. sat together and talked together, from different movements which in turn had been formed by people who had been in the same circumstances and saw a need to cooperate. Social media can of course be used to broaden your reach even more, but it's pretty useless if you don't already have a solid foundation to stand on.

Social media have economies of scale. And economies of scale mean that the millionth dollar has a greater effect than the first. This is why it is so effective for the likes of Trump and Bolsonaro to use social media – much more effective than for e.g. Friends of the Earth. Trump and Bolsonaro can hire entire staffs of people who work full-time with social media, popular movements can't, except in extremely exceptional cases.

The strength of people's movements lies in what Marwa Maziad, Norah Abokhodair and Maria Garrido say in the second link above: the conversation person to person and being together in groups. There, it is more effective the more people there are, not the more money you have. Paid people can't argue convincingly in a personal conversation, and they don’t socialize, but they can lie as much as they want on twitter.

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