The World’s New Superhero…?

25 06 2009

Perhaps the post should have been entitled “Can the Internet Save the World?”. But the above sounds better. Anyway, it’s an interesting question, which perhaps should be expanded to include ‘technology’.

I ask this bearing in mind Gordon Brown’s recent comments about Rwanda. It is an entirely debatable issue of course, but it is an interesting starting point. Would the Rwandan atrocities have happened had Twitter, YouTube, Facebook et al been in their pomp at the time? I think they probably would have, except that the world would have been much more aware of what was happening at the time. Fergal Keane’s writing about the subject was, for me, a brief glimpse into the events of the massacres. It’s well worth hunting down his book “Season of Blood” and giving it a read. It’s pretty harrowing in parts, but worth it. However, they have largely escaped media attention, and indeed, analysis. Perhaps, given how far the internet reaches into the lives of millions of people, if not billions, a crude youtube video of some of the events would have brought home the atrocity of the Hutu actions.

But what would the reaction have been? Perhaps the same as that towards the video of Neda Agha-Soltan that is now doing the rounds. I am not going to provide a link simply because it is there to be found, if you can bring yourself to watch the last thirty seconds of an innocent womans life. It’s not a comfortable watch. I find it is made worse because it is obviously in a foreign language. For me it increases the sense of helplessness I feel just watching it. Anyway, the point was that it has, despite some comments, been largely ignored. The Independent had a small article on the story on page 18, a page after it had declared that Silvio Berlusconi was like Teflon, with nothing sticking to him. Ok, so a story about Italian elections is important, but more attention should have been paid to the face of a cause that Neda has now become, at least in my opinion.

I’m not sure why there has not been more coverage than this, but I suspect there is something to do with uncomfortability floating around somewhere. By which I mean, it is not easy viewing for the public, despite it’s presence on the internet. The version of the video I saw had had 131,123 viewings in little over three days. Yet people will not know about Neda, who she was, or what she has come to stand for, despite this internet presence.

So I return to the original point, does Brown have a point when he says that the internet has made foreign policy very different now? Again, I’m not convinced. Yes, things such as this will be put online. But that’s just a by-product of the events. People in Iran know about the power of the internet, yet there are still disturbing scenes pouring out of the country on a daily basis. It has done nothing to stop the problems, it simply has made it more accessible to the rest of the world. The internet will not stop violence, it will not stop murders, or indeed, genocide. All it can do is to make them more internationally condemnable.