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Twitter and the Global Authoritarian Protest Culture

For the last couple of weeks, I have been reading Zeynep Tufekci’s book: Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. It seemed like an incredibly relevant text to read while our nation is in the throws of the Black Lives Matter protests and at a time when the current administration in Washington is seen as being increasingly authoritarian.

l met Zeynep Tufeki via Twitter a few years ago and occasionally hear her being interviewed on NPR. She is an Associate Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology. She also writes for the Atlantic and both my wife Scotti and I are fans of her work. In fact, Scotti drew my attention to Zeynep’s most recent article in The Atlantic, “This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic.” I strongly recommend checking out her various contributions to The Atlantic. Zeynep Tufekci is an academic whose writing is relevant and timely.

In “Twitter and Tear Gas,” the author tells a number of stories that demonstrate how individuals and groups within the global authoritarian protest culture use Twitter to organize. From the protests in Tahrir Square (Egypt uprising) to the Occupy protests in the United States, Tufekci looks at how these movements with their cultures of horizontalism, institutional distrust, and participation have been and continue to be enabled by digital tools such as Twitter. Of course, over time, “governments have learned how to respond to digitally equipped challengers and social movements, and have even adopted portions of their repertoire.” (Twitter and Tear Gas, p. 225)

I definitely recommend reading “Twitter and Tear Gas,” and following @zeynep on Twitter. I’ve certainly benefited from her insights during this time of global pandemic, upheaval, and unrest.

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