Rebellion in Chiapas: insurrection by Internet and public relations
Jerry W. Knudson

This article was an informative read and discussion about the Chiapas revolution in Mexico. I had previously not heard about this revolution and found it interesting that this was the first post-modern rebellion. This article is a good examination about the role internet plays in rebellion attempts, but also the limitations the internet has. I particularly liked Knudson’s approach to the role it plays when she said “Perhaps the greatest value of the Internet during periods of social strife is its ability to mobilize public opinion and bring pressure to bear on authorities to act cautiously.” The internet allows those who are oppressed in the shadows and overlooked to have a voice and bring their issue to national spotlight. When the movement first started to gain momentum, it was citizens in the streets discussing the growing talks of the injustices. In a sense, they were forming peer network groups across Mexico and coming together online. Before the internet, no one spoke of the injustices because they were afraid of the possible backlash from the government. On forums and chat rooms, everyone’s identity is a mystery and the chance of repercussions greatly decreases. That is why so many citizens gravitated to the leader of the rebellion, Marco. Little was known about his background or even his name, and in a sense this mystery represented the oppressed citizens and sub-culture. They felt like they had been overlooked and a mystery to the world, and Marcos provided a voice on a national scale for them.
    Marcos utilized the internet to counteract the disinformation that the government had been producing. The media reports were a case of appearance vs. reality, where Marcos combatted the reports of the Mexican government and showed how life really was. The rebellion began to garner a large amount of attention, and now the whole world was watching the Mexicans government next move. As we discussed in the class, rebellions are only successful in areas where a strong and central government is established. People hold daily protests in America dealing with a large number of issues because they know the police cannot legally put an end to them. They can say close to whatever they want without the fear of death. As we read about in Iran and Thailand, challenging governments can lead to death, which is why people rarely do so. In Mexico, the government was not as relaxed as America, but it was just enough to allow protests. Prior to the internet, Mexican officials could have rounded up the rebels and threw them in jail or murdered them, because no one knew of them. Now with the internet, there were daily interviews and newspaper articles, as well as news outlets from around the world traveling to Mexico to write stories. The Mexican government was now under a watchful eye with every move being examined. They had no choice but to act in a kind manner and allow the protests to continue.
    The most fascinating aspect I found about this story was the abruptness with which is ended. When Marco was finally identified   as Rafael Sebasti´an Guill´en Vicente, son of a well-to-do furniture retailer in Tampico, his image and notoriety instantly diminished. The internet allowed for Marcos to be an imaginary figure, a person who the viewers could create out to be someone they wanted. Every supporter probably viewed him as something else, as a superhero or former poor child who rose to greatness. When his mask was taken off, the energy from the rebellions was zapped, and it suddenly wasn’t cool to support Marcos anymore. I know we always bring up this example in class, but it reminded me of the Kony supporters. For two weeks strait my facebook was bombarded with Kony supporters. Everyone was purchasing shirts and sharing the video, but when it was revealed that Kony hadn’t been in power for years, it was no longer “cool” to support him. It also reminds me when I was a ten years old growing up watching the Celtics play every day. My favorite player was always Antoine Walker and I dreamed of being like him. One day, my father came home with courtside tickets from work and the opportunity to meat Walker after the game. When I finally met him, he was an absoluter ignorant person who wanted nothing to do with me. I think it just shows that when we see people online or on television, we make them out in our minds to be something we want to be, but that is rarely the case. The people of Mexico wanted Marcos to be a cunning leader who was humorous and witty like he was in his interviews, but his appearance and background could not live up to that standard. I just find it interesting that every social movement we have studied that starts due to the internet always comes up short. They always start with a large boost of momentum and supporters, but always seem to wean out. Maybe that speaks to our cultures short attention span and obsession with what’s the current popular trend, but I am curious to see in the future if anyone can harness the power of the internet and run a successful social movement.

The Cute Cat Theory Talk at ETech

I found this article to be rather dry as I am not really into internet activism. The cute cat theory is a simple concept but one that I never thought of. The theory states that when governments attempt to shut down popular sites and mediums due to internet activism, the plan back fires as it alerts those who previously were unaware. In Pakistan, they shut down the very popular site youtube because it contained several videos undermining the government. Citizens who were visiting the site solely for entertainment purposes- to see cute cats- were suddenly shocked to find that it was shut down. As a result, they began to research why this happened and found out that the government had done so. Now, rather than ending the activism, the government simply ignited more rebellious citizens to the already growing cause. I found this to be interesting and the main concept I took away was that when people see strange things or pictures online, they tend to research it and become more involved. I know personally in the past couple weeks when I saw on facebook people posting pictures supporting gay marriage I began to research what they meant and why they were doing it. I think people often do this on twitter and during debates. When Romney made his infamous Big Bird remark, twitter exploded, and my roommates and I went from watching the Celtics to watching the debate. I think this can be a positive as it ignites awareness from spectators who previously would not have tuned in. They see or hear people on social media discussing it and as a result they want to research it to become informed and participate. It is also similar to when Wikipedia shut down for a day to protest the government’s attempt at censorship. Some high school kid who was planning on using Wikipedia that night for a paper would go to the site and see that it was blocked. As a result, he is now exposed to Wikipedia’s movement and a potential supporter. This is the case with the cute cat theory. Citizens who were uninterested in governments or social movement, rather just wanted to watch some funny videos during their lunch break, are suddenly exposed to these issues. It’s interesting to see how different governments attempt to censor their citizens, and how smart those citizens are at getting around it.

Social networks, social revolution:

This thirty minute discussion with the likes of Clay Shirky and Evgeny Morozov was interesting, but also dull at times. It was nothing we had not heard or read about before, but it was cool to see all of these awards winning people on the same stage. I found it interesting how the government’s main objective when censoring internet is blocking people’s ability to coordinate points. That is exactly how social movements become successful, so it makes sense that is at the forefront of government’s agenda. I am always drawn to what Shirky has to say as I tend to agree with him and respect his opinion. He always puts things in perspectives and is never too obsessive with the internet. One of the points he discussed that I gravitated towards was acknowledging that the social movement in Egypt succeeded because the climate on the ground changed. The protestors began to get more support on the ground and the government became more relaxed. As I mentioned earlier, in order for movements to succeed there needs to be a certain climate within the country.  I also like when he discussed how we are only exposed to the success stories and not the failures. People think twitter and facebook are the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to movements, but he explains how in Belarus and Thailand and many other instances they have failed. Overall, the video just reiterates that social movements are not successful solely because of social media. They are simply a means to mobilize.

Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks

I was very torn between how I feel watching this interview. I was excited to see it on the reading list as I have always heard people discuss Wikileaks, but I knew very little about them.  The reason I am so torn is although I think Wikileaks expose injustices and hold officials accountable, I can’t help but think sometimes these are an example of necessary evil. The video of the U.S. army killing those people and laughing is disturbing, but we do not know the whole context of the situation. Sure, enemies were killed, but so to were children and innocent journalists. I think the Wikileaks are effective for instances such as Kenya and the political race. The leaks exposed the current president and shed light on his injustices. As a result, the race swung 10 percent and a new official was elected.  Rather than having to live under injustices, the leaks shifted the vote and restored justice. The leaks demand progress and just which I am all for, but I just do not know at what extent. One portion of the video I liked is when the host asked what would you say to a mother who says my son is a good soldier those leaks make him out to be bad. I did not like how the guy (don’t know his name) simply brushed it off. I thought it was a fantastic question and was ignorant side stepping it. I think the Leaks are best served for exposing the injustices in which people spend money and effort to conceal. I think they are good for holding officials accountable and thinking before they act and greatly alter the way people live. It just shows that despite governments attempts to conceal information and stop hackers, they are always one step ahead. I think this aspect of it is scary as I feel like we are always moments away from another 9/11. It does not take much to make a suitcase bomb and leave it in Time Square and kill millions. It’s a scary time period where a certain group of intelligent internet people can get any information they want. If it falls into the wrong hands who knows what could happen.  Like I said, I am all for Wikileaks exposing injustices and those cruel people in power. But as we often see, people abuse there power and I fear that could happen with instances such as Wikileaks.

Do people feel Wikileaks are a necessary evil or obstruction of justice?

What solution do people have for social media movements? What is the next step other than simply creating facebook groups and group chats?