Malcolm Gladwell indeed has established a career by making traditional wisdom. He curates and syntheses the research of other people for the consumption of the frequent reader. Nevertheless, Gladwell has been astoundingly remiss in analyzing the impact of the social media on various forms of activism. In fact, in his recent essay Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted, Gladwell declared that it is impossible to tweet the revolution, implying that social media practices are vain in regard to serious activism. The arguments of Gladwell are based on two major ideologies. First, he observes that social web is woven on susceptible ties between individuals whilst activism is propelled by robust ties. Second, social networks inherently are devoid of hierarchy that is essential for any organized activist movement`s success (Madrigal). Certainly, there is strong sociological evidence in support of both of these statements. However, his assertions regarding the nature of the online social networks actually are myopic, supported by evidence that is highly selective. In fact, Gladwell`s arguments in his essay take apart the ideology that the contemporary social media platforms actually are a galvanizing instrument for social activism, transformation, and revolution.
The classic Gladwell-ian twist is not only incorrect but actually pernicious. This simply means that the contemporary media platforms are not reinventing social activism so as to make it easier for collaboration, coordination, and airing of concerns by the powerless in the society such as the lives of the Black communities. As per Gladwell, the modern social media platforms make individuals lazy to an extent that they can seem to forget real activism. However, it should be noted that the framing device of Gladwell in his essay is the civil rights movements in America witnessed in the early 1960s. Yet the real target was the Iran Twitter Revolution during the post-election upheaval (Ingram).
He is relatively naive to the social media revolution by citing that in Iran there wasn`t Twitter Revolution. As per this argument, it implies that the hype surrounding social media such as Twitter is misplaced because they had a minimal role in coordinating and organizing huge street protests by the opposition in Iran. Nevertheless, as noted by many observers in the real-time, following the unfolding of the crisis, this was not actually the principal utility of social media in the context of Iran. Instead, the utility of social media emerged as a tool for disseminating images and information of the protests in Iran on a large scale as opposed to coordinating the protests. Particularly, following the expulsion of the much professional foreign press, social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other online platforms such as specialists listservs and blogs became the only way for the world outside to keep reading, hearing and seeing the events in Iran (Madrigal). In fact, the people of Iran and social media played an integral role in informing the world concerning the unfolding of events inside Iran. It assisted the outside world to focus their attention on the fight for human rights and democracy by the Iranian people. New media established in addition to sustaining unprecedented international moral togetherness with the struggle in Iran.
A person can quibble concerning the impact the outside moral solidarity presents against a reign like that of Iran and on the crisis such as the post-election turmoil. But what ought not to be debated upon and what is consistently underappreciated by Gladwell is the reality that with no social media, the opposition protests of Iran simply could not have attracted a massive worldwide audience, informationally and also in regard to the intuitive emotional many individuals had towards the people of Iran across the world. The social media revealed to the outside world images from the running street battles in Iran, the Basiji compound storming as well as people, especially young women and children bleeding to death as a result of gunshot wounds, and this indeed had an impact that was far beyond the incident that was being covered.
In regard to injustice thriving in darkness, Gladwell observes that social media creates laziness in people. In his analysis, platforms like Twitter and Facebook help to emphasize weak connections between individuals in order that the connection level as well as the effort required to, for instance, press the button of Like on Facebook or Twitter cannot be compared with individuals who actually take to the streets in high risk activism that necessitates strong ties (Madrigal). However, Gladwell vastly misstates social media`s real utility. Those individuals, for instance, those who support the black lives matter movement, can express their solidarity against discrimination through social media which permits them to join the online community of the like-minded persons. They can keep abreast of the new developments and can donate money to support the demonstrations. Nevertheless, Gladwell`s argument is essentially correct as much as it goes. It does not cost anything for the individuals sitting in their comfort zones to press a Like button on their computer or Smartphone and regard its solidarity.
Gladwell uses the hierarchies and network corollary in reinforcing the strong ties and weak ties. He explains that a high-risk activism which the civil rights groups participated in crucially was strategic activism that needed hierarchical organizational structure. He refutes that social media do not have this hierarchical organization. Nonetheless, this logic fails to take into account the fact that it is not only the hierarchies that have the capability of thinking and executing strategically. Also, it cannot be concluded that successful networks must have hierarchies. Strangely, Gladwell reinforces his argument by citing the Palestine Liberation Organization that failed due to lack of hierarchies. However, he fails to note the positive attributes and successes of this movement. Arguably, the PLO is one of the successful national liberation groups during the last a half of twenty century; hence this is not a classic example of a movement that has failed. However, with hierarchies, there is more organization and harmonized roles of all the group members which lead to greater success. For instance, in the Trump and Black lives matter, the movement has hierarchies in terms of leadership. The movement has leaders who spearhead their grievances while the members donate resources for the operations of the movement (“Black Lives Matter”).
In conclusion, it is irresistible that Gladwell is wrong regarding his arguments about the role of social media in bringing change in the society. Despite his arguments that social media weakens the ties between people and lacks hierarchies as they are network-based, it is important to note that social media, as in the case of Iran, and Trump and Black lives matter, serves as a platform for information dissemination and coordination of activities which otherwise could not be possible.
“Black Lives Matter.” N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Dec. 2017.
Ingram, Matthew. “Gladwell Still Missing The Point About Social Media And Activism.” N.p., 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2017.
Madrigal, Alexis. “Gladwell On Social Media And Activism.” The Atlantic. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Dec. 2017.