The days when Arab dictators could take over the state-run TV and radio and shut off all information to their people are over. The Syrians can’t shut off their cellphone networks now any more than they can shut off their electricity grids.
Sir, think about this: Syria has banned all foreign networks, like CNN and the BBC, but if you go to YouTube and type in “Dara’a” you will see the most vivid up-to-date video of the Syrian regime’s crackdown — all shot with cellphones or flip-cams by Syrians and then uploaded to YouTube or to newly created Web sites like Sham News Network. Nothing stays hidden anymore.
The second trend we see in the Arab Spring is a manifestation of “Carlson’s Law,” posited by Curtis Carlson, the C.E.O. of SRI International, in Silicon Valley, which states that: “In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.” As a result, says Carlson, the sweet spot for innovation today is “moving down,” closer to the people, not up, because all the people together are smarter than anyone alone and all the people now have the tools to invent and collaborate.
The regime of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was just too dumb and slow to manage the unrest. The Tahrir revolutionaries were smart but chaotic, and without leadership.