The great Bill James (the great baseball thinker, not the great crime writer) committed a sin years ago that would be positively heretical in today's America: He was sober and clear-eyed about information technology.
That's right. The father of the new generation of baseball statistics, the author of studies and projections involving mounds of data that would have been impossible without computers, knew that computers were nothing more than tools. There's no such thing as "computer information," he wrote, just good information, bad information, true information or false information.
Today, I find it comical and vaguely pathetic that news outlets report on "Facebook revolutionaries" in the Middle East, treating social upheaval as if it were the next-generation smart phone — just one more consumer product. At best, this smacks of middle-agers' desperate eagerness to be down with what the kids are thinking. At worst it implies a will to ignorance of the historical, political, religious, economic, personal and other social forces that really drive revolutions. Either that, or an easy hook on which media outlets can hang their stories.
So, to paraphrase Bill James, I'll say that, as useful as social media may be to activists in the Middle East, there's no such thing as Facebook revolutionaries, just oppressed revolutionaries, religious revolutionaries, violent revolutionaries, peaceful revolutionaries, maybe even good and bad revolutionaries. The medium is not the message.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011