When the Little Guy's Tools for Change Are Co-opted
By Mathilde Dratwa, Huffington Post, 09 May 2012 - "Pledge support for SL by signing the petition at www.peacepetition4lk.org" -- this seemingly innocuous exhortation suddenly began appearing on my phone screen every time I sent a text or made a call in Sri Lanka. The simple message belies the complex realities of a 26-year civil war and a government eager to hide its human rights abuses.
Should Sri Lankans be left to negotiate the terms of a long-awaited peace on their own terms? Should change.org censor content? The company's mission is to "fight for what's right." But if it allows "anyone, anywhere" to start a petition, then who defines "what's right?"
While we celebrate this latest medium of change, we should not over-romanticize this latest incarnation of propaganda. Remembering the lessons of radio (Rwanda) and film (Nazi Germany), it becomes clear that the tools of change can empower the oppressor as well as the oppressed. Who decides which way the balance of power tips?