John Horvath on Thu, 5 Dec 96 21:40 MET

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nettime: The Internet Revolution in Belgrade

Dear Pit,

INTERNET. As the author starts out with:

>Even revolutions aren't what they used to be, since there is internet. The
>times of illegal printing-presses in wet cellars, seditious pamphlets spread
>by revolutionaries in duffle coats, are over. The students of Belgrade
>University agitate per homepage (
>against the Serbian president Milosevic.
>Evening after evening the newsreader of the Serbian television summarizes
>with a long face the soporific activities of the statesmen, explaining about
>the visits of official delegations and especially about cutting through of
>endless numbers of ribbons. What about the protests - which protest? Even
>when already for two weeks every day, a hundred-thousand people demonstrate
>against Milosevic, because he falsified the local elections, the media act
>as if nothing is going on.

For Barlowian utopianists, this is a perfect example of the liberating
power of computers and the Internet. However, I am sorry to be a killjoy
and throw away your hopes among the trash heap of Internet hype. The
statement that "even revolutions aren't what they used to be, since
there is internet" is a little premature. The "revolution" is being
carried out by Serbs, and not the Internet community. The vast majority
of people in Serbia don't have access to the Internet. Moreover, the
information and pictures that the students are putting on the Internet
complements the images that traditional media -- namely CNN -- is
already broadcasting to the rest of the world. For the citizens of
Serbia, the BBC World Service and CNN are doing a lot more to inform
people than the Internet.

This is not to say that what the students are doing is a waste of time
and useless. Quite the opposite; it gives *us* more information and a
more personal view to what is going on. But to think that the Internet
is somehow (or will somehow) profoundly change the outcome of what is
happening in Serbia is wishful thinking. No doubt John Perry Barlow et
al will distort the reality of what is happening and start extolling the
revolutionary virtues of the Internet, thereby missing the whole point
of what is going on in Belgrade and, to some extent, downgrade the
heroism and courage of those who still revert to the 'by-gone methods'
of "illegal printing-presses in wet cellars" and "seditious pamphlets
spread by revolutionaries in duffle coats".


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