Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Twitter revolution?

We live in strange times. On the one hand, the rich and powerful appear untouchable, able to twist political decision-making at their whim, hide their wealth from taxation, bully opposition into submission.

At the same time, technology is opening up surprising fissures in this edifice. Two examples, from the world of football (OK, not quite the Koch brothers, but bear with me). First, the notorious Ryan ****s case, demonstrating the futility of a super-injunction in these information-rich times. Interestingly, the same happened with Fred Goodwin, a more interesting target (see here). The neat thing about these cases is that although the motives of the injunction, at least in ****s' case, were understandable, the backlash against reporting restrictions did not come from the powerful tabloid press, but from the anarchy of the twittersphere.

Next example: the notorious bully Alex Ferguson got caught out by the amazing recent advances in microphone technology. Even his sottovoce whisper to his media assistant - along the lines of 'sort that rude journalist out' - got picked up and circulated, much like in the Gordon Brown case last year. Here there is no obvious justification for Fergie's behaviour, but it's interesting that the dark arts of media manipulation that he's mastered over the years didn't prevent him being revealed for what he is: an old-fashioned bully.

So, the rich and powerful are rich and powerful as never before, and we're not doing a very good job of reining them in. But new technologies are also making it harder than ever before for them to keep bad publicity under wraps. I guess we should be thankful for small mercies.