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The Lake News Online
  • Guest column: Social media has changed everything, even Syria

  • Remember when you had to wonder if your friends were crazy or what they thought about when they were drunk?
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  • Remember when you had to wonder if your friends were crazy or what they thought about when they were drunk?
    Thanks to social media, now you know.
    People who you once thought filled their days with normal activities now reveal themselves to be politically radical, emotionally challenged or both.
    I don't know why counselors don't make a living by sending private messages to these people who exhibit real emotional trauma on almost every post they make.
    There could be some real money in that.
    Social media has changed the world.
    But one of the most interesting ways it has changed the world is how propaganda is distributed.
    Propaganda has always been a part of any government.
    We like to believe that in America, our free press prevents propaganda from controlling political situations. But all the free press really does is allow a response.
    In totalitarian regimes, that answer is impossible to find.
    Propaganda is a funny term. Every country does it in all matters of foreign relations from trade talks to war. When other countries do it, it is propaganda. When we do it, it is getting the message out.
    Tokyo Rose broadcast Japanese propaganda over radio waves during World War II. State-run newspapers have been, and still are, useful tools in countries without a free press.
    But now every world leader has a Facebook page, Twitter account or Instagram feed.
    I don't know if Barack Obama is the Mayor of Burger King in Washington D.C. on Foursquare, but I wouldn't be surprised if he were.
    The shocking things about social media is how broad the reach is into areas where you would never expect it.
    Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei posting selfies? That just seems wrong on multiple levels.
    But the best current example of how social media is being used is Syrian President Bashar al Assad's Instagram feed.
    There are so many photos of the leader and his family making the rounds at hospitals visiting sick and wounded people and even interacting with children.
    Of course, there are competing accounts that dub themselves Assad's "real" account that show injured rebels and maybe even a few people who were victims of chemical weapon attacks Assad is accused of using on his fellow Syrian residents.
    The New Republic equated this use of Instagram to the bronze busts Julius Caesar and Ghengis Khan commissioned of themselves.
    But the messaging in today's instant artistic representations goes far beyond just a bronze bust showing people what the world leader looked like.
    Page 2 of 2 - It is one thing for a leader to have a headshot to put on the official state website or in a frame in the capital rotunda.
    It is far different to fight for the hearts and minds of people around the world with arranged and posed photos to demonstrate qualities that make your country more sympathetic at a time when a world power is considering a military strike.
    Social media has changed the world, and not always for the better.
     

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