Friday, November 19, 2010

Two-Way Communication and power

I was interested to read Power’s and Gilboa's chapter on Al-Jazeera's success in becoming a transnational political actor, not that that was its original goal. The fact that so many governments, in both the Middle East and Western countries have targeted Al-Jazeera, has actually given them more power.
One idea that struck me was about how Al-Jazeera views itself as creating two-way communication. I actually think it is more complicated than that. I think that they are allowing multiple voices to be represented because of both their internal and external agendas (giving a pan-Arab viewpoint, promoting democracy). I don't see the media in such polarized terms and reading their website doesn't give me the impression of a polar opposite view from western media. I understand that there is the symbolism in the idea of western/eastern ideas getting equal representation, beyond what the actual realities of daily reporting may contain. And I think that the work Al-Jazeera has been able to do on the ground in terms of access to images that western media does not get is important to expanding the dialogue in the public sphere.
I agree that the way that the Bush administration handled Al-Jazeera’s coverage of Iraq was very polarizing and alienating. It eroded the soft power of the US as well. As Nye discusses in his book “Soft Power”, the US public diplomacy efforts were very weak during the 2003 Iraq invasion, which was a mistake. Al-Jazeera gained its strength through its interactivity and innovation (p. 72, Powers and Gilboa) and was able to become a powerful influence in the public sphere. I’m not sure that I agree that this means it is actually setting the agenda. I think this is hard to trace and prove. I think they can definitely influence outcomes in policy because of their broad reach. And this is a form of soft power, where they can decide to pursue framing an issue in a way that will shift public sphere opinion and put pressure on political leaders to make changes. Of course, this is why political leaders across the spectrum have tried to shut them down.

Liu Xiaobo update

As promised, here's an update on the progression of the Liu Xiaobo affair since our group presentation on November 9. According to the New York Times, Beijing is continuing its campaign to get other countries to boycott the Nobel ceremony on Dec 10. So far, Russia, Iraq, Cuba, Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan have announced their plans to boycott the ceremony, while 36 others (including the US, Canada and all EU member countries) have announced that they would attend. Predictably, the two lists reflect liberal  with a strong commitment to human rights on one said, and autocratic regimes with a strong commitment to national sovereignty (ie the right of states to abuse human rights) on the other.

While the Nobel Committee says that there will definitely be a ceremony, it is unclear whether anyone will be able to accept the reward since it is customarily only given to the recipient or to a close family member. The last time that the prize was awarded to someone who was in prison, Aung Sang Suu Kyi's son accepted the award and delivered remarks on her behalf. Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, remains under house arrest and his brothers are incommunicado due to the heavy surveillance to which they are subjected. The Chinese government is preventing Liu sympathizers from leaving the country, presumably fearing that they might be headed for Oslo, and there is no way that that they would let any of the Liu family exit the country.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ebb and Flow of Soft Power

Nye’s article on public diplomacy and soft power really resonates in its assessment of US efforts in this arena in recent years, and how our standing in the world has shifted in response to our foreign policy. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden was absolutely right when he stated that “good cultural propaganda cannot remedy the damage done by a bad foreign policy, but it is no exaggeration to say that even the best of diplomatic policies may fail if it neglects the task of interpretation and persuasion which modern conditions impose.” This is reflected in the decline of America’s soft power ever since the initiation of the unpopular war in Iraq and the debate over Guantanamo, leading to the perception of Americans as warmongers and self-righteous hypocrites. I felt the impact of these negative perceptions especially distressing while studying abroad in 2006. I viewed my daily interactions with locals as an opportunity to change perceptions of the US through fostering positive relations on an interpersonal level, but at the same time understood my classmates’ reservations about broadcasting our nationality for fear of the backlash. We found that telling people we were from California elicited a much more positive reaction than when we introduced ourselves as being American, which inevitably was met by a more aloof attitude. California elicited ideas about Hollywood and American pop culture, which was still generally well-liked, but the idea of America brought forth negative feelings because of its association with unpopular foreign policy. However, ever since Obama assumed office, his far-reaching popularity has led to an improved perception of Americans around the world, as popular sentiment shifted and Americans began to be regarded as being progressive for having elected a black president. These trends indeed demonstrate the inextricability of foreign policy and soft power, and its resulting impact on the effectiveness of public diplomacy.

Parking garages and McDonalds Food

I just finished reading through the Sean Aday and Steven Livingston article (Taking the State out of State), and I'm a little confused.

Not about what Transnational Advocacy Networks (TANs) or as I'm assured, is an interchangeable term, Epistemic Communities are. I'll come back with my issues on that in a moment.

Aday and Livingston have a valid question; is the media, which is supposed to inform the public biased or been stagnated to depend solely on governmental sources for the presentation of their reports? What hangs me up is this though; what are they're talking about when they say media? Are they referring to "mainstream" media? National media? International media?

Their primary example is a 1973 study of The New York Times and The Washington Post, which found that those media in particular favored government sources over TANs, and was often limited in discussion to the extent that the issue was controversial within government. I'm going to presume they were talking about national popularized media coverage, particularly in the U.S., within the context of during and after the cold war. The chief problems as I see it with their thesis then is this: There are thousands of groups that fit under the authors' definition of TANs in the U.S. (many of them often founded here), but it's questionable whether that all of them would correspond to their own definition of Epistemic Communities. Even if they do, are they relevant?

If we go by the idea that Epistemic Communities are "networked advocates possessing particularly expertise," (Aday and Livingston, 103) we have to define what qualifies as "expertise" and whether or not it's appropriate to associate it "interchangeably" with non-state actors who "develop information that is transmitted, printed and broadcast around the globe." PETA is under this definition a TAN, but I would argue against the idea, based on some of their bizarre and extremist propaganda (not to mention actions), that they are necessarily as reliable and objective a source as other organizations like The International Fund for Animal Welfare on matters of animal protection.

Admittedly, that example was probably biased. But my point is, should news organizations start to quote TAN's on every issue that they report on, it requires a lot of work. Which TAN is an Epistemic Community on any given issue, and which one is not? Which TANs are a proportional counterpart/complement with something of substance to add to an argument and which ones are spouting talking points they read online or in other media? Within the limited amount of space in a newspaper column, who deserves a soapbox and who doesn't?

I'm not arguing against coverage of different views of an issue. All I'm saying is that the government position is orderly and reliable. TANs are not, and we may need a new model entirely before they can be made relevant.

Despite the infinite capacity of the internet (which is a whole different can of worms, but we weren't talking about that medium), I'll get off the soapbox now, and let somebody else have a turn.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Modern art as CIA weapon

A few weeks ago I came across this article in The Independent (UK) about the CIA's use of modern art as a "weapon" during the Cold War. In brief, the CIA's covert public diplomacy activities (ie propaganda) toward the Soviet block focused on putting out an image of the US as a free, creative society where artists, dissidents and counter-culture thinkers were free and encouraged to express themselves and participate in the social sphere - everything that the USSR was not. Unfortunately, American public life at the time featured a number of loud voices that contradicted this idea, notably Joe McCarthy, and the majority of Americans were quite conservative. So, the CIA decided to promote modern art as a way of marginalizing Mccarthysim. Thought the article doesn't explicitly make the connection, I think in many ways this "long leash" policy was a precursor to present day public diplomacy in its recognition that in order to be compelling to international audiences, a country's image needed to be diverse and even contradictory, presenting a mosaic of viewpoints and forms of expression. Indeed, people and institutions in a position of authority gain more legitimacy from a robust opposition than they do from suppressing it, as my group discussed in our presentation on censorship and public diplomacy in China this week.
The dilemma of how to deal with voices in the domestic public sphere that are unpalatable to international audiences is very much in play today. If anything, this is more of an issue now than it was in the 1940s and 50s because technology and global information flows make it easier for ever before for international audiences to get information about the US, even if this information is inaccurate or incomplete. For example, earlier this fall when the pastor in Florida wanted to hold "National Burn a Koran Day," the US Government was deeply concerned that this lone voice would have disproportionate resonance in the Muslim world. This is why it is so important for US public diplomacy efforts to publicize the successes of American Muslim communities and the tolerant, cosmopolitan segments of our society, which hold much broader appeal to key global audiences than the Tea Party and nativist movements do.

Listening and Forgetting and Public Diplomacy

Hansen’s article on “War and Peace in the Information Age” brings up the important point that one of the failures of US policy in its attempts to win favor in the Arab and Muslim world came about because the US government did not take “the first important step of listening to the targeted audiences and trying to understand their values and worldviews.” (p. 118)

The US is seeking to regain credibility in the world. Many people hoped that Obama would help in this cause, but the wounds from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, combined with other polices, run deep.

How do you create a culture of listening in the front-lines (soldiers, diplomats, business people) that can effectively be translated back into policy decisions? And the government does have the primary goal of serving its own citizens. So if the government is hearing messages that don’t align with those goals, they are not going to try to appease another population at the expense of its own population. And even if those policies would help its own population in the long-run, the perceptions of the home country are equally, or more, important to politicians. But, with this concern aside, what does a culture of listening look like?

Some of the ideas that make sense to me include creating an effective data gathering system for:
students who are abroad for studies
International students in the US
Peace Corps volunteers

Government workers in the State Dept and US AID
NGO workers who are abroad
Private citizens working/living overseas

The challenge is to figure out a way to gather all of this information in a useful way for policy makers. It seems to me like we don’t lack information or resources in terms of people who are overseas and have access to other publics. I think what is lacking is a way to organize all of the knowledge to help improve listening. The other problem in the US government and public sphere is that we forget so quickly. Most people don’t follow the daily decisions of their representatives. And I do agree that the way the media frames news does not help improve retention of information. (I also think it comes from our approach to education). The problem with forgetting is that then all the listening gets lost.

I come back to listening the media and public diplomacy. How can the media incorporate listening? Citizen journalism? Blogs, comments, discussions? Does this increase media credibility and help media outlets to create effective frames (that stick) for issues? Does this then mean that the public is better informed and able to make better choices? If the media can succeed in empowering citizens through better listening and dialogue, then maybe conflicts can be resolved without the devastation of war.

Tool of the state or of the people?

Aday and Livingston make an important distinction between the different roles the media can play according to the type of event that is being covered – whether the media functions as a state apparatus, or if it provides a wide range of viewpoints that challenges statist discourse. Though the media can certainly serve as a government mouthpiece during extreme circumstances such as state emergencies, or in political environments such as censorship in China, one cannot ignore the role of transnational advocacy organizations in framing, supplementing, and sometimes serving as a foil for official discourse. However, I would like to add the capacity of local citizens and grassroots movements in contributing to the discourse on the more personal, local level as well. Though they are not necessarily part of an epistemic community considered experts on particular issues, the authenticity of those who live in the reality in question lend an authority that cannot be disregarded.

This is perhaps seen most clearly in the media attention generated by news of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize. That the news spread even amongst the Chinese people who are under heavy censorship and state propaganda may be attributed in large part to citizens who utilized social media to subvert the state media apparatus. This affair also demonstrates how “[transnational advocacy organizations] are able to overcome the ‘deliberate suppression of information that sustains many abuses of power’. They can ‘help reframe international and domestic debates…when they succeed, advocacy networks are among the most important sources of new ideas, norms, and identities in the international system” (Aday & Livingston, 2008). Thus, IR theorists and media scholars must reconcile the different functions of global media based on the circumstance, and recognize the power of citizen journalism and activism to impact global discourse as well.

Expo Dismemberment Censored

CDT's latest in their ongoing translations from the Chinese blog the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee reveal a list of eight prominent news items that the Propaganda Department doesn't want "hyped" in the Chinese media. Among the typically sensitive subjects of murder, death, promiscuity, etc., there is a more bizarre missive: "The retention or abandonment of World Expo pavilion buildings."

The dismemberment of the pavilions has thus been deemed simply too painful for the people to watch. Everybody knows that the government spend billions of RMB to build them and advertised the Expo for more than three years; people who visited Expo had to wait in line for more than eight hours in order to see one pavilion. They have a very strong feeling about the Expo and of course those pavilions.

So what is to become of our absurdly expensive beloved pavilions? The interesting thing is when I searched information on line about how government dealt with those pavilions; most search results have been censored. I tried different key words, until I exchanged the words "demolition of expo" with "fate of expo." Keeping with the holy personification above, apparently we're dealing with a broader destiny here, not just pretty hunks of metal and wood.

Interestingly, according to one CCTV report, the reason China won’t be keeping some of the more pricey pavilions like Japan or Saudi Arabia is that they can't afford the intellectual property rights regarding technology used during construction required to own them! So instead, they're either selling them off (Most recently sold: the Taiwan Pavilion for 97.2 million RMB ($14.45 million USD) to Hsinchu City in Taichung County, Taiwan). The price tag includes the design of the Taiwan Pavilion's day and night view, LED screens and the flying-lantern platform, the globe-shaped theater, logo, and its metal frame), auctioning them off for charity (if you bid for a piece of UK pavilion on line, the money will go to charity), shipping them back to their respective countries, or of course dismantling them for scrap.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Free speech

One of the things that struck me when I was looking at the Al-Queda Media Nexus article by Daniel Kimmage was a screenshot of the "Al-Ikhlas jihadist forum" (page 4). The reason it stood out was because it looked, at least by the picture that it use phpBB, an open source, free software package for creating message boards that's distributed over the internet. Now even though the phpBB website advertises its software under the friendly tagline, "Creating Communities," I doubt that facilitating branches of Al-Queda was what they had in mind.

The internet has given an incredibly powerful open arena for 'free' free speech whose effect and range could only previously be achieved with pirate radio, and by word of mouth before that. Moreso, the software is incredibly easy to pick up and use, given the right motivation; phpBB is one of the more common types of software used for internet forums. If you've ever been a member of any internet discussion forums in the last 10 years, there's a good chance it was run on phpBB. Terrorists or would be terrorists are also getting fairly creative in adapting forums for 'free' free speech in ways that are confidential and almost untraceable. For example, the five American Muslims who were arrested in Pakistan last year kept in contact with their handler through a free Yahoo email account. Rather than sending emails to each other though, all six of them had access to the same account and would leave messages in "saved drafts" of email messages. As nothing was actually being sent, there was nothing that could be intercepted.

What is the cost of free open-source, and 'free' free speech? Simply from a benefit analysis, there's no argument; the vast majority of people using this software are not doing it with hostile aims or to communicate aggressive ideas. Still, in an age when a great deal of people depend on the internet and new media for information, the news and political affirmation, it does conceivably allow for an effective counter to the US' public diplomacy and political spin machines, and a valuable coordination and communication avenue for terrorism.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Global Crises: To be or not to be?

While I would love to agree with Beck that the magnitude and sheer numbers of global crises must unite us in cosmopolitan realism, I believe Cottle’s criticism of that argument holds truer of the reality of globalized news today. He argues that the emphasis of national media on that which is relevant to its domestic audiences cannot be underestimated, as news received through this lens undermines a cosmopolitan outlook that might otherwise transcend national identities. Chouliaraki’s work complements this assessment, as her case study of the disproportionate news coverage on the western victims of the 2004 tsunami demonstrates. News outlets shape what is salient in the minds of the people through setting the agenda of what events to think about. When we watch the news, there is the implicit assumption that it will highlight everything that is worth noting of current events. Such is our reliance that if something is not given media attention, then the world continues to revolve as if nothing happened.
The media is indeed inherently selective in portraying news in a way that will resonate with local audiences, whether that is engendering shock and outrage, sympathy, or a sense of distance from a crisis. Events that constitute a global crisis are determined by the media, who hold the power to “dramatize or minimize, transform or simply deny according to the norms which decide what is known and what is not.” Cottle makes an important point that the media exercises its power as an agent of legitimization not only on the audiences that depend on it for knowledge of what is relevant, but also on the field of research and academia as well. The framing as global crises of more supposedly “immediate” issues, such as the war on terrorism and climate change, has generated much research interest, while ongoing crises such as starvation and disease have faded into the background, due to the persistent nature of these issues. I believe that in order for these other crises to be properly addressed, the media must do its audiences justice in bringing these less sensational, but equally important occurrences, to the fore.

Does the Internet increase the effectiveness of Activism?

In this blog, I will define activism as individual acts such as letter-writing, phone-calling and participation in gatherings of protest. I also include giving money to groups for causes in order to have lobbying power and to stay informed.

In 1992, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and took a year off from school. I got a job canvassing for an environmental group called, “Clean Water Action.” I can still recite the 4 sentences that I said at every door that I knocked on (when they opened it anyway). Every weekday afternoon, we would meet at our office in the Tenderloin (depressed neighborhood in SF) to practice our talking points in pairs. I learned to shake my head up and down and make sure that sentences did not end up in pitch like a question. Then we would pile into vans to go knocking and ringing bells in neighborhoods all over the Bay Area, in the city and suburbs. Our quota every night was $120. Sometimes this happened with one simple check (only $10 a month!). Most often, it was the result of $5 and $10 and change buckets emptied out. We were gathering our membership base, getting signatures, and asking people to write letters about issues to protect wetlands in California (from developments like the ones we were often canvassing in....). We would ask people to please write letters (about bills in Congress) and then leave them outside their doors and we would pick them up at the end of the night. I met about 40 people a night.

I looked them up online and found out, they are still doing this work - in fact, there is a video all about why you should join their canvass team.

I think that people join groups such as Clean Water Action(CWA) because they do want to be informed and to hold politicians accountable. These groups gain political leverage by lobbying congress with a membership base in numbers to back them up. Letter-writing campaigns and phone calls do get tallied in offices in DC. The impact of these public campaigns varies, but I know that some of the legislation efforts in California to protect wetlands did come about from CWA and other groups efforts. I don’t think that the Internet and mobile technology change the impact of groups such as CWA in significant ways. People aren’t all of a sudden going to join because it’s easier online. The groups still have to do the face to face grassroots exchanges to build a strong base that can make a large enough membership to have some power in its lobbying efforts. In fact, CWA canvassers still gather most of the revenue (about $10.5 million out of 10.8 in 2008). The network of environmental groups hasn’t significantly altered how governments are making policies about environmental regulations of the private sector. There have been some steps, but not big ones, and I’m not sure if any of them are because of the Internet and mobile technology. Maybe messages got out faster, but I don’t think that speed helps people to organize more effective issue campaigns.

I know that this example is very different from the more urgent organization of protest groups mentioned in our readings. However, I think that all activism does have to start in face to face settings in order for them to have any true long-term significance and effect.

Texting here and there

Skylar's post on texting earlier today really resonated with me - so much so that what was meant to be a comment turned into a full-fledged blog post. Texting is a really great topic, and not one that we've really touched on too much in class so far (other than freaking out at the Android text notification, which I'll confess creeps me out more than a little).

Between my bicultural background and general geekiness, it's no surprise that I'm fascinated by cross-cultural comparisons of text messaging. Texting is a relatively straight-forward technology, easily replicable across language barriers and with a relatively low cost to entry. You'd think that people would text the same way all around the world - but you'd be wrong. Based on my personal experience, observations and conversations with texters from all overall the world, I've concluded that while some differences are culturally based, most are actually grounded in the structure of the overall ICT environment, notably the comparative costs associated with different modes of communication.

When I got my first US cell phone in 2002, text messaging was almost non-existent here, even among teenagers and college students, who tend to be pioneers in new modes of technology-mediated communication. In contrast, in France text messaging was extremely popular. The explanation was in the pricing: voice calls were MUCH more expensive in France, whereas texting was cheap, while the opposite was true in the US. Texting didn't really take off here until phone companies started to offer text message "bundles" (for example, mine is $5 a month for 200 messages). Now, I would say that use of text messaging is about the same in France and in the US, though Americans are still much more likely to have long conversations on their cell phones than the French are - again, because voice calls are much cheaper in the US than in France.

One practice that is very common in France but nonexistent in the US (as far as I can tell) is "beeping," or calling someone and only letting it ring once before hanging up. Usually this means "I'm out of cell minutes but I want to talk, so please call me back." Friends can sometimes use it as a pre-arranged signal for "I'm outside." "it's time to check the grill" or "You're really late and I'm seriously pissed" (I have personally "beeped" to convey all of these messages). A few years ago, French cell phone providers started offering billing-by-the-second in response to consumer groups complaining that it cost twice as much to make two 30-second phone calls as it did to make a single 1-minute call. Airtime is relatively expensive in France to start with, making consumers price-sensitive, but in this case there's also a cultural factor: there is no such thing as unlimited local calls in France like we have for US landlines, so people are not accustomed to talking on the phone just to pass time. Thus, the phone is for the transmission of information, not for communication in the ritual sense.

Other differences that I've observed include the use of email vs texting, different approaches to chatting online, whether emails are more like phone calls (US) or like letters (France)... It would be really interesting, I think to try to tease out which differences are attributable to the ICT environment (price, regulations, availability of services, etc) and which are cultural. Thoughts, anyone?

Get Your Text Messages Today?

When I was buying my first cellphone here, “unlimited text massages” became one of the most important reasons for me to choose Virgin Mobile. I had a record of sending more than 1,500 text messages one month when I was in college. Like it or not, text massage has already been part of our lives and changed the way we communicate with others. There are several characteristics of text massages.

1. Interactive
Most of time, we use text messages to chat. The roles of sender and receiver are changing all the time. It can facilitate people’s interaction with each other.

2. Easy to access.
Since the first text message was sent in 1992, the text massage service is growing at an amazing speed. The total amount of text messages sent in China in the year 2006 was 4,300 BILLION, and the number is still growing. More and more people can afford to buy a cellphone and every cellphone can send text massages which are cheap and fast. The characteristics of grass-rooted and easy-access make text message widely accepted as a new way to communicate.

3. Private and indirect.
Different from face-to-face communication, text messages are more indirect and can keep more privacy. People are not necessary to know who the sender is and other people will never know the content of the text message unless the receiver wants to let people know. Also, if someone does not want to say something directly, he or she can use text message to express his or her feelings.

4. Butterfly effect
It is very easy to deliver messages by text message. A gets a message from someone, and forwards the message to B, B forwards to C, then C mass texts it to D, E, F, G… Two days later, A gets the same she sends to B from Z.

Two years ago, there was a boycott to Carrefour in China, I got a text message from a friend about it, and I forwarded it to another friend. To my surprise, he told me that he had already sent this message to more than 20 people. Text message helps to deliver and share information in any network and enlarge networks at the same time.
Due to those characteristics, text messages are making communication more and more convenient; however, it brings problems at the same time.

The reading material mentions the case of SARS in 2003 in China. Text messages helped to inform people about the real situation of the disease. However, at the same time, some people were using text messages to broadcast negative and unreal information which caused panic among people and disorders even chaos in the market. Also, some people are illegally selling clients’ personal information which causes people receiving lots of spam messages every day. Personally, I think there should be regulations on text messages from government just like regulations on any other markets; however, those regulations should never harm people’s freedom of speech. It is no doubt another problem brought up by the development of communication technology to the government.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I spoke about what Sean Aday calls "External attention" a little bit in a previous post, where I referenced the entire internet going around and turning their avatars green as an attempt to show solidarity with Iranian protesters in 1999. What drew me back to it this week was when someone mentioned that users of a certain message board on a site titled "4chan" had collectively searched for and outed the identity of a person in another country from that in which most of the users were located.

I will not link to 4chan here; it's easy enough to find with a quick Google search. I will warn that certain message boards of the site will undoubtedly disgust and/or be "not safe for work," although others may delight and amuse. 4chan, based originally off of the Japanese message board futaba-channeru (2 channel or more commonly, 2chan), is essentially a message board with the key point being that everyone is completely anonymous. There is no connection between one "post" and the next by any user, unless the author makes it known (and even then, could possibly be lying about it). Through the opportunities for chaos that this anonymity creates, 4chan has often been directly or indirectly responsible for the creation of most internet memes, internet "raids" on people/businesses that earn their ire, and as in the case above various human flesh searches, dispensing "internet justice."

Some of the recipients of this "internet justice," it could be said, deserve being brought to justice in some form or manner. For example, Anonymous (users of the internet community generally, sometimes connected through 4chan or other networks) received a lot of attention with their "Project Chanology," an ongoing campaign of real world protests against Scientology which brought a lot of negative attention to the practices and potential criminal activities of that international organization. In another example, some anonymous internet users, possibly in some cases connected by 4chan's message boards recently began to "troll" (baiting someone to get upset) an 11-year old for posting a video laced with profanity. This eventually lead to the posting of her information online and dozens of prank calls and pizza delivered to her address.

It should be noted that I don't believe that 4chan as an institution of new media is responsible for either of these things, no more than twitter is responsible for the success or failure of the Iranian revolutionary activities. The network is a means to an end, building a sense of identity between common individuals, connected by how successful they are at creating global appeal for the issue. Everybody wants to catch someone who mistreats animals, or to point out the flaws in a corrupt institution. And unfortunately as an aspect of human nature, there are a lot of people who will want to ridicule someone who they think is acting stupid or silly.

In the case of the Iranian revolution, Aday argues, "the limits of internet solidarity are also clear." But is that also the case in societies where the media is not or cannot be restricted on the same level? Where other institutions in a variety of different context are also hopelessly intertwined with the internet? And where does morality and concepts of jurisdiction fit in?

I guess what I'm wondering is whether the internet truly reached the limits of the "internet justice" that the global community could inflict on a corrupt Iranian government, and the extent that those actions, even if more effective are justified. Even if there is a positive result to those actions, does the global community have a right to take them? When are actions like a human flesh search warranted, and at what point is global solidarity towards or against the actions of an individual, organization, government, or nation 'appropriate?'

A note to all readers: This is a response to and reflection of Sean Aday's report "Blogs and Bullets." If I have misrepresented the concept of Anonymous or 4chan in any way, please let me know. This is merely meant to inspire a discussion/thought on the concept of communal activism and action through the internet, its limits, and what it should/should not be allowed to affect.