Can’t Tweet a Rev!

There is a tendency amongst a lot of liberal-minded people to go ape about Wikileaks, beyond and above what are its obvious and spectacular contributions. After all, revelations of gory illegal acts, diplomatic about turns and faux pas and sickening details of underhanded criminal activity by the military powers that profess to uphold democracy and the rule of law, cannot but turn the stomachs of those who still believe that fair play and equity is possible in world politics.

Wikileaks is exemplary when it exposes imperialism and its secretive and militarist execution of global domination. Wikileaks is good when it exposes the real language and racist mindset of Western diplomats. Wikileaks is good when it exposes videos that depict the lawlessness of the US and other MILITARY FORCES in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wikileaks is good when it exposes the fact that the Indian state has used torture routinely in Kashmir and elsewhere. Wikileaks is excellent when it clearly reveals that the Saudis are never to be trusted by the Muslim world.

Wikileaks is also very good because it snatches away the control of mainstream media (and the resultant cultural consensus) and provides “other” information (although there is significant evidence that it also collaborates on what it will not release). Wikileaks also expands on the notion that the industrial working poor are not the only people by definition who are fertile for surplus value extraction. Knowledge workers are at the core of creating the code that allows the gears and cogs of the information industry to turn. Their surplus value extraction is increasingly critical for the military-informational complex. Drones, satellite based warfare, counter-hacking, cyber surveillance would not be happening if this farm of ants was not at work so industriously. Thus their rebellion against the complex is a good thing. Otherwise why else would a Canadian Conservative Minister call for the assassination of Assange on an open line TV show?

But those who say that Wikileaks and Facebook and Twitter, as social media and information technology, are going to bring about revolutionary transformation in “despotic” areas of the world, be it Tunisia, Egypt, Libya or Iran, are actually displaying an old “centre country” colonial attitude towards the “periphery”. It is the old notion of “modernity”, liberating the backward and the medieval. It is an archaic notion that Western democracy and information exchange would be a godsend for a pre-capitalist or neo-liberal society.  A battle tactic, a guerilla weapon, is made to sound like “enlightenment” theory for the underdeveloped. It is like worshipping at the altar of the ultimate transcendental information guru–Baba Ram Twitter or Guru Wiki! Information is good, but worshipping media is not good.

As James Carville, Clinton’s campaign strategist in 1992 once said … It is the economy, stupid! It is the plight of people, poverty, hunger, lack of shelter, poor health, disease, lack of justice and personal freedoms that make people self-immolate and rebel. It is the failure of globalization and neo-liberalization that make people take to the streets with their I-phones, BBs and FB. Twitter does not do it. Twitter and Facebook and even SMS-ing are like lookout couriers for the street corners and rooftops in the real world of rebellion. They are battle hardware, perhaps. The whistle and bird calls in the jungles that guerillas use. To suggest that Wikileaks is the harbinger of a social movement, the unifying core of a world movement opposed to the politics of globalization etc is perhaps in that colonial or post-colonial mode, where khaki clad monkeys from the West tried to tell real monkeys in forests how to whistle and talk English.

A critical thing to observe, however, is that contrary to the fears and anxiety of the Western press, this entire revolt in the Arab world has been an extremely tolerant, secular movement, not at all in the clutches of any extremist religious group. This must worry the West. Because the leverage of using “fundamentalists and fanatics” to stage an invasion by NATO is not really possible. At the same time, it is interesting to note that in cities like Benghazi, where Libya’s oil base is primarily located, flags of the old monarchy which Gadafi overthrew –the Idris dynasty–have appeared prominently. When the mainstream press asks for democracy and peace and bleeds for the people, one must worry.

In this issue of Serai, we have concentrated on the advent of social media, information technology, the imagery for social context and advertising and the relevance of information in bringing about social and cultural change. Contributors who are familiar with code writing, ciphering and deciphering and also those who have engaged for long in thinking about their roles as information workers have put their thoughts together. Bottom line is that you cannot tweet a revolution to completion!


A link to a brilliant set of photographs from Reuters, from the Egyptian Revolt :,2