Tl;dr: The NATO intervention was made possible by the UN mandate to protect civilians which was as a result of news broadcast by western media and Al Jazeera (Owned by Qatar who is part of the NATO coalition) and public opinion going against the Gaddafi regime.
As the war has carried on, it is clear (my opinion) that the media reports are one directional (Pro NATO/Rebels and Anti – Gaddafi). I am asking if the outcome would have been different had Gaddafi used social media (represented by Twitter in this post) to communicate directly to the world thereby bypassing traditional mass media houses who seem to be against him. Changing public opinion and maybe the war outcome in the process.
Now let me clarify one thing I do not think Twitter is the second coming of Jesus. Actually, this new line of reasoning came up when I was thinking of how my position on Gladwell was right (the Twitteratti did not claim victory in Gaddafi’s fall like they did in Egypt or Iran’s ‘almost revolution’.
Disclaimer: I am utterly opposed to the destruction of Libya(ns) and the UN endorsement and execution of a selective violent coup in search of ‘freedom’.
- Public opinion is an under estimated extremely powerful force in this world. Using public opinion, world leaders and organizations push their cause. If they do not succeed, they quietly fall into line with public opinion. (Once Mubarak was obviously falling, the US fell in line although they supported him). Maybe the WMD war in Iraq is a clearer example?
- The foreign press in this Libyan conflict has been at best a PR machine for the NATO–Rebel alliance.
- The passing of the UN resolution was driven mainly by *public opinion alert* “international outrage” which was created by news reports and unclear YouTube videos. Basically, it was based on “unconfirmed reports”.
- I am using Twitter to represent new (social) media (Facebook, Blogging, YouTube Google+?). In my opinion, Twitter is the most fluid when it comes to disseminating information and it is seen as a very important source of authentic news. Even Joey Barton’s Twitter account is worthy of a BBC editorial.
So how could Twitter have saved the day?
So let us imagine for a moment Gaddafi had a Twitter account:
- We would have known the correct spelling of his name (Yaaay!)
- He would have had over 1 million followers (potential re-broadcasters). Which would include EVERY major news source and opinion shaper in the world.
- Most importantly, he would have had a shot at getting his own word (spin/truth/propaganda) out which the major news network would have had no choice of reporting and reporting it accurately. When there is a public link to a source, it would be difficult to put any spin on it.
- What if the Gaddafi regime had it own YouTube clip of people in Benghazi asking to be saved from terrorists taking over Benghazi? Showing ‘proof’ that it was members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that was behind the uprising?
- What if instead of ranting broadcasts which would be shown (translated) for about a minute, the Gaddafi’s wrote blogposts stating what was happening was no different from that in Bahrain and Yemen and did not need interference? Or anterior motives for the invasion.
- If Gaddafi had tweeted he was ready to step down and begin a transition immediately but NATO and colleagues adamantly refused?
- What of if Gaddafis Tweeted that mass murder scenes were orchestrated by the LFIG’s Tripoli Military Commander? Citing the random execution of blacks as reported by the guardian
- That 60 countries recognizing the rebels means over 100 countries do not.
- That NATO and co are killing Libyan soldiers and civilians in defensive positions.
These few points are some of the alternate views I see in comment threads and opinion columns. These alternate positions have failed become main stream news, as the mass media have taken a pro NATO-Rebel position.
But Gaddafi publicly stating (Blogging/Tweeting/Facebook Updating) these positions would FORCE the media to report them thereby bringing those views to the forefront.
I believe although this might not have changed public opinion, it would certainly have divided it. Maybe Russia and China would have been encouraged and used their veto powers to prevent the invasion or try to stop it now it has started.
Al Jazeera came to prominence during the earlier ‘War of Terror’ and the invasion of Iraq. It was seen as the station where you could watch and get the other perspective. However, this Libyan war the other side only means Qatar’s side. I was surprised for the first time, Al Jazeera sounded no different from CNN only to realize that Qatar was part of the alliance.
Lesson? Do not depend on any entity you do not have direct control of to speak your side of the story .
Two things going against that line of reasoning are
1. They do not have the audience size an official Gaddafi account would have.
2. More importantly would not have the credibility that information from an Official Gaddafi news source would have that would make it worth a news story.
So why did the Gaddafi regime not do all these?
I am guessing when you have been all powerful for 42 years, you tend to start believing you are a god of some sort. Other than that i have no idea,
What do you think?