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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY - A U G U S T 2 0 1 1
April edition of Cybernotes, we exam-
ined the impact of social media on the
revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. This
month we’ll focus on the ability of
these tools to help advance democratic
change in the long term.
In October 2010, sociologist Mal-
colm Gladwell sparked the debate
a piece in
The New Yorker
“Small Change.” According to Glad-
well, social media cannot be decisive
factors because they fail to promote
the strong interpersonal ties that sus-
tain high-risk activism. Rather, they
create weak ties among large commu-
nities that are inadequate for over-
coming the fears that revolutionary
groups must confront.
Gladwell maintains that the decen-
tralized networks created online consti-
tute inadequate structures for revolu-
tionary groups. To support this claim,
Gladwell cites Mette Eilstrup-Sangio-
vanni and Calvert Jones’s fall 2008 essay
International Security
, “Assessing the
Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why al-
Qaida May Be Less Dangerous Than
Many Think.” Sangiovanni and Jones
argue that decentralized networks are
problematic structures for illicit groups
— and can present new organizational
dilemmas that threaten both group co-
hesion and the ability to act collectively.
However, other observers and poli-
cymakers foresee great possibilities for
social media. The State Department
has supported Internet freedom with
more than $20 million over the past
Site of the Month:
Project Syndicate describes itself as a “unique collaboration of distinguished opin-
ion makers from every corner of the globe.” It is both a nonprofit newspaper syndi-
cate and an association of 459 newspapers from 150 countries, based in Prague.
Contributions from the Open Society Institute and the syndicate’s member papers in
developed countries support the organization, which provides opinion editorials free
of charge to newspapers in less-developed countries, where journalistic resources
may be in short supply.
The syndicate collects original opinion editorials for these newspapers, on topics
ranging from philosophy and science to international economics and foreign affairs
— and publishes them online. This makes its Web site a unique resource for fresh
perspectives and incisive expert analyses.
It has an impressive list of contributors, including Ban Ki-Moon, Jimmy Carter,
Mikhail Gorbachev and Joseph S. Nye. Recent contributors include Council on For-
eign Relations President Richard Haass, who wrote a Feb. 13 op-ed titled “Reflections
on the Revolution in Egypt,” and Christopher Patten, the current chancellor of Oxford
University, who addressed the topic of
“Turkey and the Future of NATO”
on March 31.
Recent op-eds in its Special Series section include a Dec. 16, 2010, piece by for-
mer British Prime Minister Tony Blair titled
“Faith in a Globalized Age,
” and a March
13 commentary by U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill titled
“Obama of Arabia?”
cause of its broad scope and membership,Project Syndicate translates most of its ed-
itorials into eight languages: English, French, Czech, Spanish, Russian, Arabic,
German and Chinese.
The site also has Twitter and Facebook accounts, and produces Podcasts with
commentary from its contributors and an iPhone application.
— Danielle Derbes, Editorial Intern
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