Today the former president of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, resigned from power after twenty three years of (despotic) rule after weeks of protests against the lack of democracy withstood the pressures of the repressive powers of the police. It has been an busy week concerning the legitimacy of governments around the world, but the Tunisian revolution has a claim to fame in that it is being dubbed, by some, the Wikileaks Revolution, in honor of the fact in which Tunisia’s tottering government and its reliance on police repression to ensure the rule of a president past his sell by date was one of many interesting foreign policy details included in the wikileaks reports about Africa, yet another way in with the United States has been well-served by its candid diplomats .
There have been a few revolutions around the world in recent years that have been dramatically aided by technology. The connectedness that results from such technologies as twitter and facebook and cell phones is that it allows people who might otherwise be dissatisfied and alone to realize that there are a lot of other dissatisfied people around who can be aggregated into larger groups (mobs even) and then sent to work at tottering corrupt regimes. This power can obviously be used for both good and evil, as every human tendency can, but it is clear that we are in the first phase of changes that are temporarily resulting in the ability of people to unite en masse against governments which have lost their legitimacy and whose offers of reform are often too little, too late.
Though Tunisia is itself a small country, known for its large amount of freedom to women and its friendly attitude towards the west, as well as for housing the ruins of the center of the Carthaginian Empire, located not too far from its capital of Tunis, the implications of yet another revolution inspired by mass technology ought to be a warning. When people are free to communicate and join forces, and are willing to face down the deadly threat of repression from the police in large numbers, few regimes are going to be safe from that kind of political pressure.
For example, Iran’s elections led to a protest dubbed the “Twitter Revolution”  and Moldova’s Communist government also eventually due to a “Twitter Revolution” in 2009 . It would appear, at least from anecdotal evidence, that the presence of social media can allow the aggregation of mobs with similar grievances (as well as others just along for the chaos, to be sure) which can then be used to topple governments. There has been no evidence that I have seen that shows that such revolutions lead necessarily to the practice of good government, but they can serve as a check to corrupt ones. That is at least a start, I suppose.
So long as social media remains “free” for people to use, we can expect that it will be used to provide unfiltered opinions and evidence in ways that the official and regulated channels are prohibited from doing. Who knows when such social media will themselves be co-opted into the propaganda machines of governments so that they serve to glorify the state (much as larger mass media, which originally spoke for freedom as well, have largely been co-opted, regulated, or controlled), but no doubt the world’s corrupt governments wish eagerly to remove any possibility for people to meet together or provide information to the outside world about conditions without their control.
It is, though, sadly far too easy to get rid of corrupt governments than it is to build up godly ones. It is easier to tear down than to build up, easier to throw out bums than to train and mold good leaders. This is as true in the United States, with protest movements like Get Out Of Our House seeking to throw out the bums in the House of Representatives, as it is with rioters in Tunis or Kiev or Tehran or anywhere else. Do we have the time and the patience to build up good leaders who will be faithful servants of the people, or are we committed to constant vigilance to throw out the bums periodically to give them at least a salutary fear of the people so that they at least act on good behavior? We shall see. It is easier to start a revolution than it is to build a free nation. Throwing out the bums is only the necessary first step.