Welcome, stranger

8 12 2013


I don’t know whether you’d die laughing or of embarrassment, but you’re trending on Twitter. ‘Trendy Den’. Not sure if you ever watched Eastenders, but one of the main characters years ago was ‘Dirty Den’. So, ‘Trendy Den’ it is.

Everyone is having a bevvy in your honour & reflecting on how much of yourself you gave. I only have flat champagne. A swell time was had by all last night. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I thought it was a good idea to open another bottle of champagne at 4.30 am(ish). I look like the wreck of the Hesperus, as Dad used to say when I would surface from my bedroom after a night out, last night’s mascara still on. I like to think of you having a quiet chuckle about me using old phrases like that.

Of course I cried like the over-sized toddler I am when I found out. I don’t know what I thought would happen, but I sat here & sobbed, head in hands. That you were so loved we could stop you dying, not through prayer, but the force of the Twatters. Bollocks, the tears again. Taking glasses off. I can’t see the screen.

Twitter has been a bit awful of late. Our level engagement with each other, without care for the person at the end of our derision, anger & jokes. It’s never going to be sunshine & unicorns, you know that; but we’ve lost a bit of common fucking decency. I sent something the other day, that people who deride Twitter or scorn the idea of online friendships had never had the joy of a @deniswright tweet. There are few truly kind people; you’re no angel, mate, I know that but I never saw you delve into cheap nastiness for the sake of appearing smarter or smarmier than someone else. Perhaps that’s because you are better than us. Were.

I will miss your dry, wry wit. The tales from your childhood, so full of colour they carried me to Calliope. The posts about the disease, and its march. The stark detail. That staggering mind, taking me effortlessly back to parts of India, walking through Jain temples. I loved the architecture. You taught me abut the religion. My heart is swollen with with the exquisite pain of regret. There will never be another tweet, another DM waiting for me when I wake. Your handle slowly disappeared from my timeline, the brutal nature of the end of an online friendship. I didn’t email you often enough. I never heard your voice. You always said you would call before it was too late. I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to tell you how much I loved you. That I’ve been spending more time at home. That I have a beautiful new baby niece. That I got stuffed around again by that bloke & feel like a bloody idiot, but I met someone who intrigues the hell out of me this week. That I was published in The Age – on foreign policy! There seemed to be so much time. Things would get bad & you came back. I thought there would always be time. I was wrong.

I know you’ll hate me for being so maudlin, so I’ll sign off with the joy you brought into my life. To be told that you are valued, that you write well, that you are compassionate and good, & be able to return that love & respect without the fear of being ignored. In the darkness, at my most self-indulgent, you delivered wisdom and kindness & the occasional rebuke. There’s an old Irving Berlin song lyric I love:

Be careful, it’s my heart
It’s not my watch you’re holding, it’s my heart

My heart is swollen with the sweet pleasure knowing you brought. I will always remember you & the depth of our friendship. I’m publishing an email which I think says it better than I am now.

Go gentle, dear heart.

Love & smiles, always.


14 May 2013

Hello my dear friend,
Sorry for the delay in writing back, this is just a quick note, I’m afraid, a few factoids without much narrative.
Firstly, a bit of a reality check with Dad. His skin is so bad (paper thin anyway & worse with prednisone) that he is now on more drugs to try & thicken it. Bit of a balancing act as they can’t stimulate cell growth too much.
His major problem is skin specialist says it will be difficult for him to get rid of skin cancers now, Dad’s skin won’t heal properly. Sigh.
Happier news: my sister & her partner are having a baby after trying for quite a while.
Prepare to suspend disbelief: I’ve met someone who seems to like me … Anyway, we went for a wander around Surry Hills & ended up kissing … The kind of kissing which makes you feel giddy just thinking about it.
Not sure what will happen. I like him a lot. We just sort of clicked really easily (that said I was so nervous yesterday).
Anyway, the Giro is on & I must away.
Love & smiles
Kimberley xxx
Sent from my iPhone
On 02/05/2013, at 11:52 PM, Denis Wright wrote:
Dear Kimberley,The birthday hoohah is over, more or less. It did feel somehow satisfying to make it to 66. I’m having a little period of grace I’m hoping will last a few more days at least while my daughters visit, for the last time So now I feel I can ask you without throwing in my selfish medical crap the thing that’s been going round and round in my mind. How is your Dad?And, is all OK with you?

I think of you so often, though we don’t say much on Twitter. Neither of us tends to make chitchat there just for the sake of it. You know that.

Much love, [the only person – with the occasional rare exception – I send public kisses to on Twitter, because I want people to know you’ve always, always been the special one to me! Just saying.]

Denis. xoxox

12 for ’12: How I Use Twitter

30 12 2011

Blame @mfarnsworth entirely.

After a series of Direct Messages (or DMs, as the kids say) on 28 December, Malcs posted a primer on how he uses Twitter. I hate to disappoint you by not revealing the content of said coup planning, I mean, direct messages, but having been encouraged by the estimable Mr Farnsworth into sharing my Twitter weirdness, here it is:

1/. In the beginning …

… there were politics and elections. I joined Twitter while working as a NSW political staffer on 4 April 2009. I was probably bored during Question Time & thought, ‘I know. I’ll give that Twitter thing a go’. It could very easily have been the trapeze I decided to take up that afternoon, but I started (a locked) Twitter account under my own name.

I soon discovered that to get the most out of Twitter, you have to put yourself out there. I unlocked my account, which didn’t go down very well with some of my former political masters – not because I was giving away state secrets, but because of the old political adage: ‘if you don’t want it in the Sunday papers, don’t do it’. I was warned that my openness about my mental illness (particularly, talking about my anxiety disorder medication in what I thought was a fairly innocuous way) was setting me up as an easy mark for the then-Opposition. To this day, I think it had more to do with the potential embarrassment for a story on staffers – and again, ‘staffers are never the story’.

2/. Why Twitter?

Twitter’s allure as a news and expert opinion aggregator is a no-brainer. In 2009, I used Twitter as a way of accessing information that helped me enormously while I was studying international relations.  By 2010, in real-time, I was getting booth-by-booth results in the UK General Election, followed by the US Congressional races and sharing with incredulity the most awful attack ads I could find with @chas_usa. This year, I followed the Presidential election and violence in Cote d’Ivoire closely and engaged on a deeper level with people in Africa. Sometimes the foreign policy wonks / correspondents respond to my questions or tweets; most of the time I just seize upon the links and information they provide.

3/. Human Contact

There are #wonkdrinks, which in Sydney has lost momentum, and tweet-ups if someone is in town. I’ve met people who share my passions. I’ve made friendships I hope will last a lifetime – but a word to the wise: Twitter is not your friend. Never again will I participate in real life rescue missions for people I have never laid eyes on. Sounds callous? Try calling ambulances because people say they’ve overdosed, only to have the ambos told to go away. Then more messages and phone calls along the same lines. Result: cops at my door in the early hours of the morning whose jaws dropped on the floor when I said I had only ‘met’ this person through Twitter; followed by a complaint days later that I had made vexatious calls. Fortunately, there were several people who had been contacted and if I had to prove what happened, I could. Also: I’m more cautious about meeting people (only in a group setting first) and handing out my number via DM.

4/. Following

If someone follows me, I check out their tweets. If they’re real, and not trying to sell me real estate, cars or their social media expertise, I return the follow. It’s polite, and why I think my follower to following ratio is fairly even. That said, I will probably cut the number of accounts I follow in the new year – as I said, I rarely use a global filter. I either want to get news from you or engage with you. If we’re not getting that out of Twitter, what’s the point? I try to keep my list ‘clean’ as I rarely apply a global filter (exception: #auspol). Which leads me to my next topic …

5/. To block, or not to block?

I look at my new followers carefully, and I don’t just block spambots. Don’t try to sell me stuff. You’re blocked. If you tweet quotes, and that’s all – blocked. If you engage in vitriolic behaviour toward people I know on Twitter (especially people I have met) and respect, I will call you out on it, probably with added swearing, in public if you’re being an utter twat and then get out the old blockity block. See more under ‘Criticism and Abuse’ and ‘The Great Unhinging’.

6/. Conversation

While I still use Twitter as a news and opinion source, the great, unbridled joy I’ve found is when you bond with people over random things, like a mutual appreciation for the built environment lovers’ wonder that is Grand Designs (especially when it comes to #ohKevin). That and seeing Malcolm Farnsworth, and lately, @mishaschubert, #tweetlikemalcolmtucker.

As in real life, if I’m having a conversation with someone, I address them first – not in the middle of a sentence. If it’s a conversation I’d prefer to have alone, I use DM.

7/. Twitter superstar, that is what you are …

I will take quality over quantity any day. There are no kings and queens of Twitter. Apply a pub test. I follow and tweet people I’d like to have a beer with (or water, coffee, whatever). If you’re so far up your own arse that you retweet praise from your boss or a #FollowFriday recommendation, get over yourself. Say thank you, to that person – don’t broadcast it or include everyone else in the #FF.

Another pet peeve? Tweeps who do not credit a source when tweeting news, someone else’s opinion or factoids. It’s not hard. If you have nothing to add, RT so your followers know where you got the information. If you’re amending the tweet for space reasons, use MT. If you’re rewriting the tweet but using the same source (I do this quite a lot when linking to articles) use ‘via’. Chances are you didn’t break the news, write the story or publish the opinion, so give credit where it’s due (including the publication if the writer doesn’t have a personal account). It will also cover your arse if the report is wrong.

Oh, for the record, I’m not Malcolm Turnbull’s sister. I #tweetlikemalcolmtucker. If you’ve never seen Peter Capaldi’s performance in ‘The Thick of It’ or ‘In the Loop’, I am fangirling a fictional character and taking the piss out of my profanity-fuelled, political media adviser past.

8/. Abuse & criticism

I’ve dished it out big time, but I don’t think (feel free to correct the record) I’ve ever trolled someone for no reason. I have a very quick temper which nearly cost me a very good friendship with @prestontowers (this is after we’d met) until he reached out to me and I realised what a stupid bitch I’d been. That’s the mark of a friendship, one forged online and strengthened in person.

I know I shit a lot of people to tears. I tweet a lot, I’m opinionated, obstinate and not half as amusing as I think I am; however, I believe you can disagree with people on Twitter without resorting to thinking people are stupid. I’m political, but I hold a lot of contrary opinions to people who I really enjoy interacting with, and increasingly, bonding with people I would never have thought possible (like @markatextor – intro’d to me by @Drag0nista). There are also times when people I don’t know will say something about a tweet I sent the day before and I react badly. I have to learn to walk away from the keyboard more often. If I believe so strongly in something that I’ll hold my ground, look for flaws in logic or ask whether you’ve pulled that one out of your arse because I believe in critical thinking. Change my mind, convince me, recommend something to read / watch / learn more about. It’s different to criticism or calling someone an idiot, sell-out or whatever else because they don’t share your view, especially if it’s slavishly party political. I’ve taken to calling Twitter ‘Twittargh’ – & last week tweeted that I’d like to see more of the ‘Twit’ and less of the ‘aargh’.

9/. The great unhinging

I have completely lost the plot on Twitter a few times. It’s never pretty. It’s generally when I’m unwell, or drunk – sometimes a combination. It’s a pretty feeble excuse for some of my behaviour; I would like to be seen on Twitter as in real life, not a special case because I am treated for borderline personality and anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, and hurtfully for the people around me (in real life and on Twitter), there are times when my behaviour is incredibly challenging and difficult to watch. If you know me well enough to DM me, tell me to get off twitter for my own good and that of others. If you don’t, tell me in public but try and understand that I may switch from bolshy and nasty to fearful and anxious very quickly. I don’t like asking for help as a walking, talking person (or online) – it’s another aspect of the crazy. If I do, I will try via DM. It’s not always a bad thing. It’s realising, actually admitting weakness; a huge thing for me. It does not mean that I’m going to hurt myself. If I see other people hurting, I try to support them in private – via DM.

I’ve only felt truly threatened on Twitter once. A politician didn’t take kindly to me cracking a joke about his footballing knowledge. Several days later, he (or a staffer), tweeted: ‘does your boss know what you tweet about?’. It was retweeted by a prominent journalist, prefaced as a political stoush. It wasn’t. It was about football! A journalist I’d never interacted with poured some more scorn on, said I swore a lot. Yes, I do. Mostly followed by #tweetlikemalcolmtucker. Then another journalist called me on my private number because they wanted to run a story on it. By this time I was hysterical, in fear of losing my job over what I saw as an innocuous joke – I wasn’t abusive. I begged them not to do write anything. To their credit, they didn’t pursue the story.

10/. Pseudonymity

I was in a position where setting up a pseudonymous account would probably have been a smarter option, but I didn’t think about it. People have very good reasons for not revealing their names – it may affect their employment, their families, impinge on their freedom to write what they like. For others, I don’t get it. If your sole aim is to abuse other people for their opinions, or who they are, have the guts to put your name to it.

11/. It’s not you, it’s me

The issue that never fails to make me set my hair on fire about Twitter is when I receive the, ‘you tweet about XX too much’ tweet. This is invariably when I tweet about sport. I realise this leaves a lot of people cold; so when I’m about to tweet a Swans away game or a ball-by-ball account of a Test match, or cycling, I give a warning, two, sometimes three, letting people know that there’s going to be one topic happening for the next few hours about something they really hate, or don’t want clogging their timeline, I send it out, which offers people the opportunity to unfollow (and, I hope, come back) or put a filter on the hashtag. I think this is polite and mirrors what I would do with my friends: share an interest (obsession) with people I would speak to these things about. The one thing I do not, and will never do, is send other people whiney messages about what they choose to tweet because I don’t relate to it – such as their children, their culinary talents or technology. I follow people based on the totality of what they choose to tweet. It’s a reflection of who you are – or the facets of your personality you choose to put out there. Others have suggested that I create separate accounts for my different interests. That would involve me splitting myself in eleventy ways.

12/. One more thing …

Perhaps the greatest gift Twitter has presented me is the courage to write. I started a blog, and this year, was published for the first time on @ABCthedrum … maybe not such a big deal, but I’m still proud of it, mostly because of the reaction I got from friends who didn’t know I write. Thanks, Twitter. It’s been (un)real. Here’s to 2012.

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

23 10 2011

Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.

Hubert Humphrey

This is a cropped image taken (stolen) from the Herald-Sun’s #occupymelbourne gallery. I was flicking through, & this poster caught my attention. I flicked back & forth & still ended up at the same image.

Why? Because it speaks to me so loudly of everything that I find disturbing about the occupy movement as it exists in Australia. No economics or factoids in this post. Purely visceral.

Firstly, an apology to #occupysydney participants for not fully understanding why the camp was established outside the Reserve Bank of Australia. I was hammering away, railing inside my head & on Twitter as to why camp hadn’t been set up in Bridge Street (drunken aside: #occupybs would be a cool hashtag) given it’s home to the ASX? I asked a question on Twitter tonight (depending on how quickly I write this, maybe last night) and, thanks to @hailants, I learned something. Securency. I thought polymer notes were just a cool invention. I asked politely, genuinely, & I got a polite, genuine, informative answer about something I knew nothing about. That’s pure gold to me.

OK, so back to the poster. This is so fucking far from pure gold to me it’s not funny. Starving African child juxtaposed with obese Western kids eating junk food. Seems like everything capitalism, everything wrong, everything #occupy represents. Not to me.

I am in no way accepting of how totally fucked it is that gross poverty, is delivered in white 4WDs to the Global South by, yes capitalism, but also inept, corrupt governments & non-state actors. The answer (according to me) to a fraction of that starving African child’s problems is not the carte-blanche, lazy finger-pointing at evil capitalism. It is pathetic infrastructure. It is more expensive to transport food to famine-declared areas from a food bowl IN Africa than it is to ship food aid from Europe. As this Massachusetts Institute of Technology project contends, it is only through global actors such as the World Bank that intra- and inter-country roads in Africa can be built and maintained (the example it uses is the Mombassa – Nairobi road project in Kenya). People in sub-Saharan Africa starve not because there is no food, but because transportation costs are so high, making them aid dependent, and if the greedy Global North cannot be arsed, they die. Dambisa Moyo’s seminal work, Dead Aid may not be popular, but her central thesis, that cutting aid will force these capitalist solutions to take hold, is worth study. I do not agree with cutting foreign aid; but I would play with the idea and put forward the following solution – that the member states which signed up to lift aid to 0.77 per cent of GDP under the UN Millennium Goals – make that abysmal fraction higher, and invest in an infrastructure fund that will assist in building transportation routes and enable, empower the most impoverished to trade with their neighbours. It’s a capitalist solution to a problem that exists, that is so obvious, that for the life of me, I cannot understand.

Next: is this problem assisted by a poster in Melbourne? No. Bring forth the person in, Melbourne, or my Sin City of Sydney, this city of 4.5 million, who is not aware, that somewhere in the world, people are starving. Seriously, I will travel to them, I will jam my foot in their front door  & show them this poster if I am wrong. People know famine exists; they may not understand why, beyond natural causes such as drought; but we know it happens. Forgive me, Occupiers, but where are your solutions, where are your ideas, to fixing this unnecessary, base evil, ill? Capitalism Isn’t Working? It’s not an idea; it’s a statement of questionable fact. There is no attempt to make a constructive argument; it’s not even a talking point memo. Where, in the general assemblies or working groups, are the solutions? I know what the problem is. I’m disgusted by it. I’ve been to Dharavi, one of the world’s largest slums. I’ve seen poverty in South London, where I worked in social housing; in Gaza; in Russia; in Redfern – none of which this poster represents – barring one teeny, tiny thing. The fat kids. The ultimate representation, the tool to demonstrate, about the greedy Global North. Shyeh, right on.

Yep, the fat kids eating junk food. What greater depiction of corporate greed could you imagine? Oh, I can. Teeny, tiny mind of mine suggests that the kiddies sat at the Golden Arches of the capitalist piggery of the Global North, are the the poorest percentile, those totally dependent on welfare; the kids who grow up in households where generational unemployment is a fact of life … these kiddies, the fat capitalist pigs gorging on the fries – they are the 99 per cent. Not you, not even me, with my multitude of fucktardness visited, uninvited, on my childhood. Fact: poor families sacrifice, or cannot afford, fresh fruit and vegetables. They eat fried food. They have less playing space. They are the children whose life expectancy is slashed; who will develop NCDs (non-communicable diseases) such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They will die earlier, their lives straining public health systems in between. They will, on average, not go to university. They won’t make these posters & camp in Martin Place or City Square, because they have never fucking been to Martin Place. They are in our rural and regional centres. They are on the fringes of our cities & at there epicentres. They do not regularly attend school. They are supplied with breakfast & taught how to read by the best of the 99 per cent – our under-valued teachers. These are the children Occupiers need to speak to; not Twitter twats like me. These children are growing up poorer than any of us – not in terms of disposable income, the measurable, cold, economic indicators I have written about before but under-educated, not even disengaged. They are the scorn of our ‘current affairs’ programming. Fringe-dwellers, regardless of race. The underclass. The illiterate and innumerate. The kids who set London on fire while we, the lucky 99 per cent of the Land of Oz sat here and watched. Rail against quantitative easing, #occupysydney … give me a small break while I imagine an austerity package, two or three, visited upon us. The truly frightening thing is that these children are not the stereotypical fat, unruly progeny of Macquarie Fields, or Fitzroy Crossing, or Frankston: they are the middle classes of  the BRICs, especially China and India. There are 78 million Indians with Type 2 diabetes. To work these most basic health issues through, we – who are not the 99 per cent – must get off Martin Place and reach Mumbai. Indians don’t see themselves as victims of capitalism. Indians thrive on trade; not just now, but through the ages. They live in a post-colonialist, still caste-ridden and religiously-divided country. They are more powerful than this lazy portrait, the Indians, South Americans, South Africans, Russians than our piss-poor democracy can imagine.

OK, I am drunk, and tired and I have ranted and railed more than enough for the early hours. Please leave a comment or tweet me about what this poster says to you. I am a cranky old woman, sure; but I genuinely want to know, in more than a cut and paste about how we are controlled by the banks, the media, the corporations and politicians, just what this poster represents. I want more of you,from you, as the individuals who claim to make up the 99 per cent. Agree, disagree; just don’t ignore. Oh, and don’t bash the people you have so long admired for kicking against the pricks of the right, and laughed at the idiocy of the Convoy of No Confidence. If you believe that Wayne Swan is going to chuck a Tony Abbott and stand in front of an ‘occupy buildings, abolish gaols’ banner, you are sorely mistaken. Barack Obama is endorsing #ows in his cool, pragmatic style. He wants to save his presidency by appealing to his base. End of Politics 101. Time for bed. Like this, loathe me, just think about it. Please.

See the mountain

18 01 2011

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him.”

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr

Acceptance Speech on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize,

Oslo, December 10, 1964

The third Monday in January is a public holiday in the United States: Martin Luther King, Jr Day. Delivering his speech before the great and the good assembled in Oslo, The Rev. Dr King became, at 35 years old, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Feted before royalty and heads of state, he then became its shortest lived, assassinated on 4 April, 1968, aged 39.

I have been thinking about The Rev. Dr King for some time. Along with several other Twitter friends, I wanted to organise drinks for people with a passion for US politics eary in the new year, and thought this past weekend would be the perfect opportunity to do so. That was until the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, the deaths of six people and wounding of 19 attending her first ‘Congress in the Community’ meeting of 2011. The frenzied tweeting; the race to be first with the news – any news (including reports that Congresswoman Giffords had died, or was sitting up in bed); the hasty conclusions, claims and counter-claims about the mental health, political affiliation, musical tastes and reading habits of the young man arrested after the shootings; the impact of political rhetoric; gun laws; healthcare; homegrown terrorism – everything about America in 2011, compacted into one tragedy. I thought about it. USPol wonkdrinks would have to wait. Chiefly, because I was astounded by the way so many people I follow on Twitter saw this crime – and it is a crime: through the bifocal lens of our political system, ignoring the multipolarity of the US system, where a Jewish woman who had been a member of the Republican Party could be elected to the United States Congress as a Democrat representing a district in urban Arizona; where her seat, or her head, could be targeted in a map of surveyors’ marks or gunsight cross-hairs; a system which identified her as a “Blue Dog”, or fiscal conservative, who voted for President Obama’s healthcare reforms; a woman who was pro-choice and pro-gun. There is a left and right in US politics, but its electoral system encourages a middle ground where individual representatives put their individual interests ahead of the collective and attach demands of bridges to nowhere for their vote on a bill, blatant pork-barrelling known as ‘earmarks’. Few seem willing to acknowledge or understand the level of resentment towards ‘Washington’ and the perception that it writes cheques it cannot afford to cash that inspired the amorphous entity we know as the ‘Tea Party’; while its adherents might also be social conservatives, they are not the cookie-cutter base of the GoP. In short, the tie that binds is fear, not of God, but of government. It is a movement that has been hijacked by politicians and purveyors of the 10 word answer, hacks and haters more notable for backing failures in the 2010 Senate mid-term elections than successful candidates in the House.

The Rev. Dr King has been playing on my mind for weeks. His leadership of another amorphous entity, the civil rights movement; its expansion from the bigotry in Montgomery, Alabama, through to the March on Washington and his final push against the Vietnam War and poverty, whoever and wherever it marked. I was mindful in the early hours of this morning of other quotes from a preacher of the doctrine of non-violent civil disobedience, that, ‘a riot, is at bottom, the language of the unheard’; that ‘a man who won’t die for something is unfit to live’. He remains forefront in my mind as I read more claims and counter-claims regarding the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia and whether it was fomented by social media.

I say a resounding ‘no’. There is a breathtaking, post-colonial arrogance at the suggestion that Tunisians took to the streets to protest, and eventually ouster the despot Ben Ali, because social media made it so; that the truth of a leaked American diplomatic cable alerted the Global North to what Tunisians have known for years – that Ben Ali and his family and hangers on were corrupt; that educated young men have no prospect of employment, and were willing – nay, acted, on their despair – willing to die by their own hand in the belief, as the Rev. Dr King states, that, ‘freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed’. Acts of self-immolation have spread from Tunisia to Algeria, and now, Egypt. I see monks burning themselves in Vietnam, a war which cost America Johnson’s Great Society, according to King. The dictators of the Maghreb Union and Arab League may yet follow Ben Ali into the arms of the House of ibn Saud – but it will be in real life, at the cost of lives, not thanks to a Twibbon. We may know more – and information may spread faster – thanks to social media, but does it play that different a role to the French pamphleteers of 1789 – particularly in Tunisia, where al-Jazeera was not welcome and the internet and press censored and strangled?

Networks exist, but I cannot ascribe the fleeing of self-styled kings to ‘social networks’ as we know them. They are the palpable cry of people against networks of influence which free political actors from formal constraints of governance – the rules of representation, accountability and transparency; networks that coalesce around influential individuals, and infiltrate every element of the political process, helping those in power to keep it by manipulating the national polity and cultivating a culture of cronyism, solidifying a power base – such as Ben Ali’s – for 23 years – and making the machinery of government inefficient and susceptible to corruption. Such networks flourish in states where power is not diffused, making it difficult for opposition voices to be heard legitimately. When a society is wracked by what Kennes terms the ‘banalization of corruption and theft’, the nomenclature of the state ceases to bear meaning other than as a rallying cry for opposition. If the perception arises that just about anyone can do just about anything, longstanding norms and behaviours are turned on their head – suddenly and shockingly to us, as we read 140 character updates. If the norm-reversal extends across North Africa, then we must do more than hope that these ancien regimes will recede into the darkness. We must see the mountain, as Martin Luther King, Jr did in the final days of his life. We must say no to injustice, everywhere, wherever it exists. We can use social media as a tool, as Gabby Giffords did, inviting her community to be a part of her work in Congress; but in doing so, we must open ourselves to multiple voices, not simply amplify the ones we want to hear. Dismissing the dissenting opinion without applying critical thinking invites closed networks to flourish.