In his 1971 funk, spoken word, masterpiece The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil Scott-Heron artfully criticized the banality of broadcast television. Deftly weaving over 50 cultural references together in just 3:06 – including Bullwinkle, Spiro Agnew, and Liquid Plumr – he elucidated that television did not foster social transformation but apathy.

Back in the 70s in the United States, only three broadcast companies (four if you count PBS), controlled what the nation saw and thereby had an enormous conforming effect in setting mores and values – both through entertainment broadcasts and coverage of current events. When Walter Cronkite told the nation “And that’s the way it is.” That’s the way it was.

Since the 70s television has grown in banality but lost much of its culturally unifying influence. We now live in a world of endless media choice. Individuals have total control over what they watch and where, when, and how they watch it.

Some have argued that this diversification and the rise of the Internet, YouTube, and social media foster political activism. I, however, am skeptical. I question if the much needed Revolution will be on Facebook. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.

Image by Eugène Delacroix from Wiki Commons.

4 thoughts on “The Revolution will not be on Facebook

  1. The revolution won’t be on Facebook, but it might be organized using Facebook. Many of the recent protests in both the United States and Slovenia were organized by people in like-minded Facebook groups. Times, dates, and messaging were agreed upon using social media contacts and then the protests took place in the “real” world.

    I also think that younger people mentally connect their digital lives and physical lives more organically than some of us older ones, and they may in fact plan a revolution with Snapchat. Time will tell.

    1. Hi Dawn,
      Thanks for your comment. Interesting point about the organizational aspect of social media. There is also some support for the idea that social media played a critical role in the Arab Spring uprisings, as well as arguments that it couldn’t keep the movement going.
      I don’t know enough about Snapchat to offer a comment.

      1. Snapchat could be useful because the videos and photos are deleted a few moments after they’re viewed by the recipients. Of course they can be screenshotted, so they don’t necessarily “disappear,” but it could be useful. I mostly used that as my example because young people are more into forums like Snapchat and Tiktok than Facebook, which is mostly a realm for old fogies and business networking (kind of like LinkedIn wants to be but really isn’t, in my opinion).

        I do think the organizational aspect is important. Instead of printing and distributing secret pamphlets, communication can take place on social media platforms (even including pseudonyms and coded communication, just like in other revolutionary activity). I read about the Hong Kong protestors developing support networks (people to bring water, provide protective gear and first aid, etc.) using social media, so they really had a good system on the ground. Then they shared “best practices” with one another so that the next group of protestors could emulate what had worked for those before.

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