There’s been a lot of debate recently over the role social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter played in the recent Egyptian uprising, however very little has been mentioned of their importance in history’s other great revolutions.
This report chronicles the significant contributions social media sites have played in helping to foment past rebellions throughout the world. But before we begin, it’s important to note that this list highlights only a few of the more famous examples, and is by no means comprehensive of the Web 2.0’s vast historical influence.
The Babylonian Revolt Against the Assyrian Empire
Around 612 BC, Babylonians fed up with their Assyrian rulers took advantage of the weakened empire after Ashurbanipal’s death in 627 and began posting “We are all Babylon” cuneiform texts on Facebrick, the precursor to Facebook. The clay tablets quickly garnered thousands of supporters, and spread across the Assyrian Empire via carrier pigeons to and from the Medians, Scythians, and Cimmerians. Assyria was unprepared for the massive onslaught, and the city of Nineveh soon fell. A few years later, the remaining holdouts of the empire were defeated by the Babylonian blogging hordes at the Battle of Megiddo. Ironically, it was the Egyptians who were on the losing side of this particular revolution, as they lent their support to the Assyrians.
The Roman Slave Rebellion
Between 71 – 73 BC several disparate and, largely unconnected, slave rebellions rose up to take on the Roman Republic. At first unsuccessful, it wasn’t until a Roman googladiator named Spartacus started using social networking as a tool for organizing did the various slave discussion groups band together. Beginning with a small, but dedicated group of about 78 googladiators, all of whom created their own “I am Spartacus” pages on Mywaxtabletspace, did they finally amass an army of 120,000 followers. Unfortunately, the rebellion failed, and Rome soon after became an empire, censoring all webtychs that didn’t have Caesar’s approval. However the rebellion did eventually inspire several action-packed Hollywood blockbusters, which went on to amass loads of money and win Oscars by exploiting its story of the plebian underdog. So, it wasn’t like a total failure.
Moving on to after Jesus’ death who, we should mention, pooh poohed the power of social networking during his lifetime and subsequently amassed only twelve followers on his Twitter account because he didn’t see the point in tweeting his sermons in 140 characters or less. But we digress…
The Nika Riots circa 532 AD
Gangs of anti-Justinian youth divided into Blue and Green teams organized a week long riot on the emperor’s palace, which began after a chariot race at the Hippodrome (think of a football game at the Superdome, but with hooved animals instead of padded ones). Anyway, angry over the high taxes imposed by the emperor, the rioters managed to burn down half the city of Constantinople and kill thousands. Justinian tried to bravely run away, but was pressured to stay by his nagging wife. He eventually bribed the Blue team with gold, who all then went home, leaving the Greens by themselves to be slaughtered by Imperial troops.
The Internet was shut down for a long period following this event, otherwise known as ‘The Dark Ages’.
The Peasant’s Revolt
Jumping almost a millennia, and a subsequent increase in technology and its usage, we arrive at the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, where disgruntled serfs fed up with things like the poll tax, labor shortages, and the Black Death, created a website called serfdomsucks.com, and started tweeting. What began as a series of protests, eventually escalated, culminating with the storming of the Tower of London, and the execution of the nobles hiding therein.
The Eighty Years’ War, or Dutch War of Independence
One of the longest revolts in history to use the power of social networking to connect and sustain the people was the Eighty Years’ War between 1568 – 1648. Without instant messaging capabilities, the Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries would never have stayed united long enough to have their Beeldenstorm and overthrow Hapsburg rule.
Which brings us to…
The American Revolution
Between 1775 – 1783, the thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from British rule, and become The United States of America. Inspired by popular ‘Age of Enlightenment’ bloggers like John Locke, David Hume, Emmanuel Kant, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, Goethe, Rousseau, and Thomas Jefferson, the colonies mobilized their militias through the Patriot Forum, moderated by admin Paul Revere. His famous midnight tweets, “The British are coming!, The British are coming!”, are still revered as the 48 text-based characters that brought us the freedoms we enjoy today.
The French Revolution of 1789
Wherein the egalitarian spirit of the Internet age brought down the aristocracy and the collapse of absolute monarchy.
The American Civil War
And what list would be complete without mention of the War Between the States between 1861 – 1865. Slavery in the United States might still be in existence had it not been for the Luddite Southern states, who stubbornly refused to adapt to that, “Internet thingy”, thereby giving the North a distinct technological advantage.
All this inevitably leads us to the 20th century, which includes:
The Bolshevik Revolution
The German Revolution
Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement
The Civil Rights Movement
The overthrow of the Shah of Iran
and, arguably the most significant example of social networking’s influence…
The Fall of the Soviet Union
All surely would have failed had it not been for Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.
Of course, let’s not forget the great Sumerian king Al Gore, who invented the Internet back in the early Bronze Age, as well as Larry Page and Sergey Brin who capitalized on the ‘greatest invention since the wheel’ to allow people to find these social networking sites. Honorable mention must go to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for giving people the hardware and software to access these revolutionary tools to begin with.
As these, and many more, examples show us, it’s a wonder how the world ever got by without the Internet at all.
The author also wishes to acknowledge the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, for providing the in-depth, and incontrovertible, research material that went into the writing of this article.