To a political junkie, the events that have unfolded in Tunisia over the last several days have been irresistible. Everyday people rising up against an autocratic government led to high drama in the streets of Tunis and a politicalsoap opera in the presidential palace. It was a vivid, human illustration of so many of the themes of democracy and freedom that we argue about, usually more in abstract terms, here at Attytood on a daily basis. It was must see TV -- or it would have been, if I got al-Jazeera on my TV set.
Because while I found the events in Tunisia an irresistible story, the producers of our 24/7 cable news infrastructure here in the United States found it easy to resist, indeed, TV coverage of a revolution in the Arabic world, a mjaor global story, was virtually non-existant here.
Tech Crunch had a good post over the weekendhow the only way to follow the developments was on Twitter, while MSNBC was reporting on stories like the plight of Martha Stewart's dog:
Still, the most jarring thing about today’s revolution was the constant commentary about how the amount of Twitter and Facebook buzz didn’t seem to translate over to mainstream Anglophone media. After 4 weeks of protests, Paid Content founder Rafat Ali tells us he had not seen any “traditional” Tunisia coverage until yesterday and then “only [a] bit in NYT.” When asked to clarify his humorous tweet, Pareene said, “MSNBC has just mentioned Tunisia briefly a couple times, no video that I’ve seen.”
Analyst Evgeny Morozov thinks that unlike the Twitter revolutions in Moldova and Iran which got mainstream coverage, the novelty of “Social Media Changes Everything” stories has worn off just in time for Tunisia.
I realize there was a big story out of Tucson this week, and apparently it's impossible for our TV overlords to walk and chew gum at the same time. Still, it's baffling -- you'd think between the dramatic events available on video and the importance that we've placed on that section of the globe in the decade since 9/11, there would have been something for CNN and MSNBC and those other guys to work with.
It's not just a matter of being entertained. American ignorance (sounds like a good name for a Broadway musical, huh?) about international affairs has only grown in recent years, and an uninformed electorate doesn't always make the best choices. This weekend's inadvertent news blackout did not help.