Let me get this straight. A web evangelist, working for the US government, admires the ability of the internet to assist Arab revolutions and compares its power to Che Guevera, a man the establishment regards as a terrorist.
I guess backing real freedom in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is a bridge too far for this real lover of democracy:
Speaking at the Guardian’s Activate summit in London on Wednesday, Alec Ross said “dictatorships are now more vulnerable than ever” as disaffected citizens organise influential protest movements on Facebook and Twitter.
The US has pledged to back the pro-democracy movements that have swept the Middle East and north Africa since January. Ross welcomed the “redistribution of power” from autocratic regimes to individuals, describing the internet as “wildly disruptive” during the protests in Egypt and Tunisia.
“Dictatorships are now more vulnerable than they have ever been before, in part – but not entirely – because of the devolution of power from the nation state to the individual,” he said.
“One thesis statement I want to emphasise is how networks disrupt the exercise of power. They devolve power from the nation state – from governments and large institutions – to individuals and small institutions. The overarching pattern is the redistribution of power from governments and large institutions to people and small institutions.”
Ross said that the internet had “acted as an accelerant” in the Arab spring uprisings, pointing to the dislodging of former Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in little over a month. The internet had facilitated leaderless movements, Ross added, describing it as the “Che Guevara of the 21st century”.
However, he said it was a “bridge too far” to describe the Egyptian uprising as a “Facebook revolution”.