Fury over Danish cartoons: Do Mobs Rule?

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 14, 2006

Fury over Danish cartoons - A cell phone is held aloft as protesters angry over caricatures of Muhammad burn Danish and U.S. flags in Amman, Jordan. Digital communication has become a lifeline for protest organizers. (Photo by Ali Jarekji -- Reuters - published on the The Washington Post). [via textually.org]

The Washington Post article details how text messages and email were used to further anti-Danish demonstrations and mobs.  Quote:

"From London to Kabul, Afghanistan, to Jakarta, Indonesia, the digital revolution has given unprecedented access to information -- accurate or not -- to anyone with enough money to buy a secondhand cell phone. Where faxes and coffeehouse leaflets were once the lifelines of protest organizers, a new generation of technology has taken hold, doing for the speed and scope of global communication what airplanes did for travel.  Real-world conflicts such as the cartoons controversy almost instantly echo in cyberspace. Radical Islamic Web sites feature photos of beheadings and calls to violence....

E-mails, blogs and text messages have been used to press a boycott of Danish goods in Arab countries and a "Buy Danish" campaign in the United States. Text messages were used to organize anti-Danish protests in Brussels, while Canada's largest Muslim umbrella group sent e-mails to 300,000 members urging them to avoid such demonstrations. Text messages and blogs were also used to organize protests during violent unrest in Paris last fall.

"These messages are now part of the conflict," said Manu Sareen, a member of the Copenhagen City Council. "The problem is that you can't always rely on them. Nobody burned the Koran, but it doesn't matter because the rumor was out there."

MobileActive condemns all use of violence in expressing one's view.  As we outline in the Toronto Declaration of the first meeting of activists using mobiles in their work: 

"Mobile technology offers the opportunity for reflecting an inclusive, democratic and compassionate voice to the end of social justice. Put in the hands of the people and social movements, mobile phones and SMS have the potential to produce positive results for the common good." 

We urge organizers, social change organizations, and activists to use mobile phones and sms technology in ways that does not harm others.  We believe that we can build a better world with mutual respect and dignity without engaging in violence.  We also believe that a world is possible where all people can live freely and with dignity and justice.  This is what we strive towards at all times in our work and in our actions.



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