Disenfranchisement in the Digital Age

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

What do the Arab Spring, austerity protests in Europe, Occupy, the student protests in Quebec, and now the protests in Turkey all have in common?

Despite the individual detailed grievances, they all boil down to the same thing. They all are about a sense of disenfranchisement. Perhaps the disenfranchisement is the direct lack of effect of a vote of the Arab Spring. Or perhaps it is a government that has loyalties to the rich and to large corporations and not to people. Or perhaps it is the sense of disenfranchisement caused by a government, which, once elected, believes they have ultimate power.

Regardless of cause, the disenfranchised have a kinship. And so when a group decides to rise up and yell “NO MORE! We will not have our voices silenced!” a thousand other voices scream out “Solidarity!”

Solidarity is powerful. When Occupy Wall Street chanted “The whole world is watching” to abusive police, they weren’t exaggerating. People from every corner of the globe who felt the kinship with people crying out about a government choosing banks over humans were indeed watching. They were watching on livestreams and twitter. They were using the digital age we live in to connect across great distances and share one another’s suffering and struggle.

And the digital age makes it irrelevant that (in the words of Gil Scott-Herom) the revolution will not be televised. Because while Turkish news channels showed a documentary about penguins as tear gas filled the streets of Istanbul, people around Turkey and the world read twitter and watched videos of the protest. Erdogen called twitter a menace. And to someone who seeks to control, it is. Twitter is fast, easy to use, and broad reaching. It makes it decidedly hard to control the images coming out of a nation. State control of media be damned- we will make our own media.

And media designed for the world. Out of Turkey the images of the graffiti often contain English. As if to say, hey we know more people looking at this online will know English than Turkish and we want this to spread. The images that come with this global sense of a unified struggle are poignant and powerful. A twitter bird wearing a gas mask speaks to everyone who has seen a brutal response by police, not just to those in Turkey.

So, unified in their disenfranchisement , normal people- the common man- share the story of struggle through digital means. And thus become more powerful than they ever could have been otherwise.

Oh and Erdogen, the whole world is watching you too. Whether or not the people there are chanting it.