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November 09, 2009


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If there's one thing the mainstream media can't resist, it's a breathless trend piece about a new technology subverting a dictatorship -- regardless of accuracy, it seems. Now, if we can only get the various papers of record to stop starting every story with "In an age of instant Facebook and Twitter updates..." Thank heaven it's been semi-displaced with "In these difficult economic times..."

Well if a study shows it, it must be true!

In seriousness, I doubt that twitter will be causing any revolutions any time soon. But the study seems to me to be pretty erroneous. It's not as though revolutions historically involve majorities or even substantial minorities overthrowing a regime. It's always a pretty small minority that's able to get organized and seize control, when an overthrow actually does occur.

I think Macur Olson's Logic of Collective Action gives the reasons why this tends to be the case.

Good point, Adam; spot on about Olson. Note that I'm not saying it takes more than a small minority to precipitate and consummate a revolution (the American Revolution being Exhibit A for your points)--I'm specifically taking issue with the media and others' immediate impulse to declare Twitter a revolutionary technology (double entendre intended). The mere whiff of Twitter around the Iranian protests, irrespective of any systematic evidence, was enough to tend techno-utopians into gleeful new age reveries.

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Tim: As I wrote on my blog, Truth on the Market, I think Tyler is pretty far off base with this one. See http://www.truthonthemarket.com/2009/04/28/what-does-tyler-know-about-law-and-economics-anyway/

He is a good friend that speaks well of us behind our backs.

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