Can Twitter stop a genocide, or anything bad?

This idea came to me while visiting the Shoah museum in Paris for an exhibit of filmmakers who captured the horrors of the concentration camps. The exhibit demonstrated the power of film in conveying injustice and motivating people to rectify the situation. Prior to my visit, the story from the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was played out on Twitter. Each character would tweet his lines at the appropriate times (the movie takes place over the course of one day) and other characters would reply.

Some people claim that social media (Twitter, Facebook) allow for more democracy and communication, but do they? Twitter failed to change anything in Burma, Iran, or Xinjiang. Where has social media made an impact on real societal quests for freedom?

What if the historical events of a genocide – Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, etc. were played out on Twitter and Facebook – would anyone notice or care? Would anyone do anything concrete? What if we played out a current crisis, would it increase awareness of the problem?

For example, for world war II, some exchanges might look like:

Each relevant historical figure (Hitler, Churchill, Shindler) would have a twitter account and say things that were true. For example:

Hitler – “All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.”

Chamberlain “My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.

Hitler – @Chamberlain “Any alliance whose purpose is not the intention to wage war is senseless and useless.”

Churchill – RT @Chamberlain “Any alliance whose purpose is not the intention to wage war is senseless and useless.”

Shindler – @Hitler “Power is when you have every justification to kill someone, and then you don’t”

Churchill – @Hitler @Musollini @JPEmperor “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight on the beaches, … we shall never surrender”

Roosevelt – “A date which will live in infamy

Hitler – “The holocaust is the solution to the Jews final question

Truman – @JPEmperor “The atom bomb was no “great decision.” It was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness.”


This could go on for a while. There was a very interesting debate about the good and bad power of social media such as Twitter. The two debaters were Clay Shirky and Morozon. Clay claims that twitter helps free people, while Morozon claims these tools allow oppressive governments to easily monitor dissidents. See the debate at the here.

What about doing this for a current conflict by parsing headlines? We could do the Congo or Sudan.

Anyone interested to test this crazy idea?

Published on September 25, 2010