Only because I've bought a book. It's Evgeny Morozov's The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World. His thesis is that technocentric utopians have assumed that access to new media will inevitably liberate the oppressed. (In these circles, 'the oppressed' always refers to the citizens of countries you don't like: the joy of Wikileaks proves that these things are double edged).
Morozov also feels that there's a difference between online activism and street politics, and I partially agree. Joining a Facebook group calling for world peace or the immediate execution of paedophiles makes absolutely no difference to the world at all. On the other hand, TheyWorkForYou has been indispensable in my ongoing pursuit of that Tory ratbag Paul Uppal (according to his voting record, he'd like you to carry on smoking while waiting for the nuclear holocaust - he voted to legalise smoking in pubs again, once more demonstrating his acute concern for the underpaid pub workers), and the fast dissemination of information is essential to activism. That's a double-edged sword, however: all governments have new media specialists, many of which shade into organised dis- and misinformation projects.
Activists are quick and nimble: governments have power, resources and lots of men with guns. When it comes to iPhones v. M16s, M16s win. I can't see that the Tiananmen Tank Guy would have done better if he'd been Tweeting, though it's true that a lot more people (though no Chinese people) would have known about it. The attempted Iranian revolution last year was widely promoted as the Twitter revolution, mostly by American spies keen to exert influence without spending any money, but it turns out that Twitter was hardly used within Iran, and a lot of what was carried turned out to be inaccurate or untrue. The moment may well have passed anyway: so many new media organisations are happy to turn in their users to whichever government they happen to need licences from (Google bows to everyone from the US to China and Blackberry have given in to all sorts of regimes to retain business). Twitter has just been ordered by an American court to turn over the details of people connected to Wikileaks, whether they're American or not. There's certainly no security online: even if courts refuse access, you can guarantee that the security services have their own ways in.
The most interesting thing about Morozov's argument is that the Internet is becoming the Opium of the People: distracted by the feeling that Twitter, Facebook and so one actually are protest, we might not be engaging in the kind of activity which really overthrows tyrants. It's an interesting idea, though I imagine the truth lies in between. Tunisians seem to be getting on quite well without Twitter (there are a few users), and it's probably wise to distrust a lot of what gets passed around. On the other hand, I followed the student protests in London via Twitter, which was exciting and useful. Colonel Gadaffi of Libya clearly feels vulnerable: he condemned the Tunisian uprising as the product of Wikileaks distortion. I'm sure his 41 year undemocratic rule over Libya played no role in his condemnation of Ben-Ali's overthrow.
What do you think? I know Ben's a keen blogger (I've lost track of how many he has) and Twitter, and many of you use all sorts of services.