Some ask if the impact of the new technology is exaggerated. No. Twittering and YouTubing made the story take hold and take off. But did the technology create the rebellion? No, it encouraged what was there. If they Twittered and liveblogged the French Revolution, it still would have been the French Revolution: “this aft 3pm @ the bastille.” It all still would have happened, perhaps with marginally greater support. Revolutions are revolutions and rebellions are rebellions; they don’t work unless the people are for it. In Iran, Twitter reported and encouraged. But the conviction must be there to be encouraged.
The interesting question is what technology would have done after the Revolution, during the Terror. What would word of the demonic violence, the tumbrels and nonstop guillotines unleashed circa 1790-95 have done to French support for the Revolution, and world support? Would Thomas Jefferson have been able to continue his blithe indifference if reports of France grimly murdering France had been Twittered out each day?
The great question is what modern technology can do not in the short term so much as the long. It is not the friend of entrenched tyranny. Connected to which, it would be nice if the technologies of the future were not given babyish names. Twitter, Google, Facebook, etc., have come to be crucial and historically consequential tools, and yet to refer to them is to talk baby talk. In the future could inventors please keep the weight and dignity of history in mind?