Bloggers, journalists, and social media certainly inspired a revolution in Egypt, but one must ask how seriously similar measures could affect change in a different sort of society—namely ours. In his article “Whence the Revolution” Stephen Franklin describes the efforts of various Egyptian bloggers and journalists in standing up to the government in Egypt and its role in prompting the people to unite against the Mubarak regime. The courage of those that would not be censored as well as the potency of their efforts must be commended. However, one must beg the question as to how similar efforts would register with the American public.
The American public stands in a pool of media with a ubiquitous deep end. The majority of Americans have nearly constant access to newspapers, magazines, books, local news programs, national news programs, news networks, countless blog sites, and the ability to blog, tweet, and update their status whenever they like. The news networks, blogosphere, and political commentators are fractured and almost always polarized to one of two sides. Furthermore, there is always a story. Whether it be a new story, or just the rehashing of an old one with no real change, because of the constant need for network news and the massive market for opinions the American public always has one story or another to distract them from yesterday’s news.
The American media is a bright, hot room with more voices than anyone can count all speaking at once. With that in mind, even with a real threat to the people, how easy would it be to unite the public through the media? If bloggers and young journalists discovered and started reporting on the government violating citizens’ rights, let’s say, through the Patriot Act, there would likely be another, perhaps more powerful news organization with an opposing view—let’s say, Fox News (just for the sake of creating a hypothetical). If a media outlet started reporting on the homeless, ex-convicts, or impoverished and in response bloggers and pundits demanded a social welfare program be put in place to help, would that not give rise to a wave of bloggers and pundits with an opposing opinion, a different solution, and a trepidation towards “big government” taking taxes from one group to help another? Even when a social movement does get off the ground in the United States, take the Occupy movement for instance, how long does it last before there is a new story to replace its appeal and the movement loses steam.
One might suppose that the effectiveness of the media in Egypt at affecting change came as a result of the severity of the situation the Egyptian people where in, and that American problems do not compare. Perhaps this is in fact the case. Perhaps when faced with a dire enough crisis the American media can unite and the American people can rise with the aid of the Fourth Estate. However, one must wonder how bad things need to get before the American public can affect necessary changes.