One could argue that the ultimate test for the power of social media would be to effect change on the totalitarian run ‘communist’ government in China, which perhaps represents the greatest degree of censorship and opposition to free speech. [If you would like to more fully understand the Chinese regime and what it is, you can read the nine commentaries at your liesure.]
In a difficult ‘one party’ non-elected type of government that has ultimate power, we might find the ultimate test for the ability of social media to create change. As evidenced by the MSNBC article, it is clear that at least there is some small value in using social media to effect change, even in a difficult environment such as that in China today.
I have to say that knowing the little bit that I know about China, I am surprised that social media had any effect at all. To be able to stop a trial or even put the charges on hold is utterly amazing to me.
I personally went to China in 2002 with a group of peaceful western and asian people to protest the violent persecution of Falun Gong in China. [read about the persecution at FalunInfo.net]. Therefore, I have first hand experience to physical supression by Chinese ‘authorities’. I use the term ‘authorities’ lightly because I do not believe the government of China to be legitimate due to the fact that the leaders are not elected.
As you can see from the aforementioned article, the power of social media is limited. In the face of enough physical suprression in the form of police or military, it is difficult to make lasting change. But in the few cases mentioned in the article, such as shutting down an incineration plant, being released from police custody and exposing corruption, there is a seed of hope.
When I read instances like this, I can make out the distant image at the end of a long and dark tunnel of a day when people can quickly relay the facts of an injustice and have an army of people then blog, tweet, and use social media to get the word out and perhaps have some power to create change. This would be a day when governments would be hyper conscious about what they are doing and the effect it has on people.
Even more encouraging would be the quick exposure of corruption – no matter where it is or what form it takes. Perhaps law agencies would be alerted to such crimes quickly and start their investigation.
When the situation reaches the point where people are afraid of exposure for what used to be ‘hidden’ transgressions and even criminal activity, they might think twice about doing what is wrong and take more time to consider what they could do that would be best for society.
This would have a powerful and very positive effect on our society at large and the world would truly become a better place for us to live, work and grow. Our lives would be better, happier and we would be closer to ‘utopia’. (Although, I doubt we will ever be at the full expression of that last term).
Alas, we are not anywhere near the manifestation of that vision, but if small changes can be affected by social media, especially in a place like China (with the current government being what it is) then there is indeed a small ray of hope!
Comments are welcome. I would like to hear your point of view!