Toppling dictators in the YouTube age

In February, two days into the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi, a crowd of protesters in Tobruk, in eastern Libya, created a political icon.

At a square in the city, they toppled a larger-than-life version of Qaddafi’s Green Book—the cement pages were six feet by four feet—and cheers went up as the monument went down. The event was recorded on a cell phone and posted on YouTube, offering vivid proof that the uprising was for real.

The monument-toppling episodes that have emerged from the Middle East in recent months are exceptions; most of the uprisings have not relied on the visual clichés of the pre-digital age.

There are lots of reasons for this.

The most important of which is that camera-equipped cell phones are in the hands of everyone and Web sites like YouTube and Facebook are serving as distribution platforms; a far wider range of imagery is being produced by a far wider range of image-producers.

We are flooded with photos and videos that used to be exceptional, such as graphic shots of protesters being beaten and gunned down—or its opposite, protesters standing up to security forces and forcing them to flee.

Who needs effigies when you have the real thing?

Read more about the toppling of dictators in the YouTube age, accompanied by several YouTube videos of events.

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News category: Features.

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