A team of us from the Peace, Freedom and Prosperity Movement had a great opportunity last night to get out and talk to participants in the Occupy Raleigh movement.
Our goal was to educate while supporting the movement, discussing our beliefs as essential identical to theirs. However, as Voluntaryists, we hold one differing principle: No government involvement.

We spoke to a variety of participants from across the political spectrum. Most admitted that while the concepts of Voluntaryism and anarcho-capitalism were new to them, they agreed that people should be allowed to govern themselves and live without coercion.  We also spoke to a few different types of anarchists, who were also supportive.  Interestingly, this negates the assertion on OR’s Twitter that “this is not an anarchist movement”.

The Status of Occupy Raleigh

The movement was denied an extended permit and, from on-ground participant reports, is now allowed sidewalk space by the Capitol.  It is not allowed to move past the sidewalk gates onto Capitol property (even though this property is public, and we witnessed a wedding photo shoot and a zombie flash mob.  Apparently those are fine).  Most of the participants we talked to had been in the space on a daily basis, with some staying nights.  There are daily General Assembly meetings.  Attendees have been assembling supplies into the space for increased safety, including food/water, sleeping bags and pillows.

 

Examples of Social Media’s Role in the Movement

I spoke with several participants who were actively involved.  When I asked how they first got started or what the best mode of communication within the group is, they each pointed to Twitter as the primary source.   The OR Twitter account includes three different posters, Tweeting multiple times per hour.  OR also employs a Facebook page (about 15 posts within the last hour as I type this), blog, discussion page, and wiki in its efforts to connect interested volunteers with its cause.  Overall, interaction of this type is expected and encouraged; participants even created hashtags and Twitter handles with sidewalk chalk in their space.

What’s Next?

We look forward to joining OR as is feasible, and appreciate their support from last night.  Some event suggestions have included teach-ins, already happening in the @OccupyColleges movement. Stay tuned for more.

Hi fellow liberty supporters,

I wanted to say 2 things:

a) Thank you for your support so far! The Facebook page has grown to around 600 monthly active users. I have enjoyed talking with all of you about what liberty means to you and how it influences your life.

b) I cannot wait for all of you to tune in to the talk I am giving this Sunday 3/27 at 5pm for the Agora I/O Unconference! It is titled “Social Media for Liberty–Creating Non-Coercive Community Through the Power of Networking”. It will explore the strategies for building and sustaining an online community using social media. You can tune in and chat with me here starting at 4:58pm on that day.

Meanwhile, check out this intro I posted about my chat on Stateless Social’s justin.tv channel.

I look forward to seeing all of you there!
Thank you again for all of your support!

I wanted to address a common question that has been thrown
around since the Middle East revolutions started.
Namely, did social media cause them, or merely aid them?
More accurately put, has social media incentivized revolutionaries
to organize? Or has it been ineffective?

No, the revolution was not caused by social media–it was caused
by the atrocities committed by the respective regimes on their
citizens. Without social media, the revolutions could have still
existed. But their potency would have greatly diminished, both from
activists and from those watching from around the globe.

By now you have likely read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Small Change” piece
in the New Yorker,
in which his purpose evidently was to explore
“why the revolutions will not be Tweeted”.
He asks: “Are people who log on to their Facebook page really
the best hope for us all?”
We also “seem to have forgotten what activism is”.
But if that’s so, then I guess my other posts are irrelevant–
the ones about Egyptian and Libyan activists leveraging these
tools for their cause, and how governments are censoring it.

But that’s exactly the point–if social media is ineffective,
why did Mubarak and Gaddafi bother to shut down certain networks?
The fact that they did this, and that activists immediately
started using other available networks, evidences two things:

1) Social media is a powerful communication tool for its
ease of use, speed, and decentralized format.
2) Governments recognize and fear these qualities and
their role in the power of revolution.

This proves Gladwell and the other social media skeptics wrong.
It also proves Southwestern University law professor and author Butler Schaffer right.
His assertions on LewRockwell.com state that more decentralized
tools are quickly becoming popular with citizens, in an attempt
to reorganize societies globally. Nowhere is this more evident than
with social media.

“Perhaps it is reflective of mankind’s capacities for tool-making that,
rather than plumbing the depths of our thinking, we have created
technologies that allow us to share the contents of our respective
conscious and unconscious minds. Our computerized technologies are not
only the products of our thinking, but the means for expanding its content
to exponential levels of awareness”.

That very awareness, contrary to Gladwell’s speculation, indeed led
to offline action in the streets. This escalated once Mubarak and Gaddafi
started shutting down various social media networks. We even saw knee-jerk
reactions to this decentralized activism from China, who quickly
put the kabash on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

This reinforces the second point about governments’ fear.
If what you say about your government can be instantly seen
and shared worldwide, you have a problem on your hands as
an authoritarian system. You have to still maintain some
desperate forms of control as your state is crumbling.

The question now is, what will the ‘replacement society’
be for Egypt and Libya, and how will social media play a role in
that? (Hint: Libyan citizens don’t want us there, but Obama
and the UN Security Council think sanctions and intervention actually work).

From now on (sorry Gladwell), the revolutions will be Tweeted,
as decentralized tools continue to reinforce revolutionary ideas.

Go here today at 3:30 to see Cato on Campus host a live debate on social media’s role in the revolutions. Does it in fact benefit protesters, or does it only make them more vulnerable to authoritarian governments?

Speakers

  • Christopher Preble, Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute
  • Alexander Howard, Government 2.0 Washington, D.C., Correspondent, O’Reilly Media
  • Tim Karr, Campaign Director, Free Press

Moderator

  • Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

Bits and Pieces from the Panel Discussion:

Alex Howard: Don’t just look at # of followers on Twitter–measure influence offline.

  • Revolutions are ‘people-powered’–calling them ‘Facebook Revolution’ or ‘Twitter Revolution’ downplays the offline roles of citizens.

Christopher Preble: The argument that authoritarian governments become unsustainable once barriers to information flow are removed is a straw man; the Internet is not a complete ‘key to liberty’.

Internet does, however, have a net benefit for liberty, as it “makes leadership less important over time”; tactical organizing and information dissemination are too spread out for governments to catch up with.

Tim Karr: End-to-end network principle translates well to politics: the most control resides in end nodes (key influencers).

  • Social media is oppositional to government ‘gatekeepers’
  • But it can also be turned against protestors, e.g. GPS tracking

Some interesting chat notes:

  • Internet innovation as an example of a market, and how that allows it to evolve at an accelerated rate past government regulatory processes
  • U.S. security corporations’ role in the privatization of censorship (see our post featuring a link to AJE’s Naras story)
  • Internet privacy: how much information should users be required to submit?

Thanks to Cato’s Chip Bishop for moderating the FB chat!

View the archived presentation here.

The Syrian government detained blogger Ahmad Abu Khair for ‘unknown charges’ on Sunday.

Fellow bloggers commented that “Khair’s comments were not seen as particularly controversial and were echoed by many in the blogosphere […]

“”All Syrian bloggers praised the revolution and talked generally about why change is important,” a source in Syria with knowledge of social media told Babylon & Beyond. “If his blog was the reason” for his arrest, “then this is surely a change of policy: If you support a revolution you’ll be detained””.

Read the LA Times article here.

“The importance of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in a completely closed society like Libya—a country which, unlike Egypt and Bahrain, journalists generally cannot access—cannot be overstated”. –Reason editor Michael C. Moynihan

A Helpful Resource
Protesters maintain the website LibyaFeb17th.com, which is populated with the latest updates from Twitter, LiveStream and YouTube.
You can support their efforts by following and subscribing to these accounts.

Read the full article at Reason.com.

“Has Facebook become so powerful that a dictator is threatened by what it’s capable of? If not, then they should be”.

Learn why Gaddafi is indeed so threatened by social media: read the article at DigitalTrends.