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Could Twitter Have Stopped the Media's Rush To War In Iraq Ten Years Ago? 456

Posted by Soulskill
from the 140-characters-of-dissent dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "On the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Eric Boehlert writes that if Twitter had been around during the winter of 2002-2003, it could have provided a forum for critics to badger Beltway media insiders who abdicated their role as journalists and fell in line behind the Bush White House's march to war. 'Twitter could have helped puncture the Beltway media bubble by providing news consumers with direct access to confront journalists during the run-up to the war,' writes Boehlert. 'And the pass-around nature of Twitter could have rescued forgotten or buried news stories and commentaries that ran against the let's-go-to-war narrative that engulfed so much of the mainstream press.' For example, imagine how Twitter could have been used in real time on February 5, 2003, when Secretary of State Colin Powell made his infamous attack-Iraq presentation to the United Nations. At the time, Beltway pundits positively swooned over Powell's air-tight case for war. 'But Twitter could have swarmed journalists with instant analysis about the obvious shortcoming. That kind of accurate, instant analysis of Powell's presentation was posted on blogs but ignored by a mainstream media enthralled by the White House's march to war.' Ten years ago, Twitter could have also performed the task of making sure news stories that raised doubts about the war didn't fall through the cracks, as invariably happened back then. With swarms of users touting the reports, it would have been much more difficult for reporters and pundits to dismiss important events and findings. 'Ignoring Twitter, and specifically ignoring what people are saying about your work on Twitter, isn't really an option the way turning a blind eye to anti-war bloggers may have been ten years ago,' concludes Boehlert. 'In other words, Twitter could have been the megaphone — the media equalizer — that war critics lacked ten years ago."
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Could Twitter Have Stopped the Media's Rush To War In Iraq Ten Years Ago?

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  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:15PM (#43227121) Journal
    NO, NO, NO.
    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:24PM (#43227235)
      Agreed,
      The ones that got us into war, Bush, Cheney, the army, and the media, saw nothing but profits.
      If only we could charge them now for the deaths, the economic collapse, and the injured war vets.
      Economic rebound son!
      • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

        by alexander_686 (957440) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:46PM (#43227465)

        To be honest, some of the blame has to rest on Saddam Hussein – he was playing a double game. He wanted his people and neighbors that he did have weapons of mass destruction while doing the minimum to comply with the UN resolutions. I still remember the UN inspector Hans Blix talking about the cat and mouse game he was playing with Saddam – and that it would only take another 7 years to confirm that Iraq did not have any WMD.

        As to the Twitter question – I find new media does a good job on the high level headlines stuff but less well with in-depth stuff. Considering that Hussein had deliberately engaged in disinformation for years, how is Twitter going to get around that? Maybe if a high level government official defected – but heck – even that could be part of a misinformation campaign.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Enderandrew (866215)

          When inspectors would show up unannounced, Iraq wouldn't let them inspect. They were allowed to inspect certain areas on certain days if Iraq approved it ahead of time. The inspection process was a joke, but Hans Blix defended it because he didn't want to see war again.

          The irony is that if Hans was harsher and enforced real surprise inspections, perhaps we would have had real answers on WMD sooner and prevented war. By not really running proper inspections, Blix may have enabled the war to happen.

          • Re:No (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:52PM (#43228277)

            When inspectors would show up unannounced, Iraq wouldn't let them inspect. They were allowed to inspect certain areas on certain days if Iraq approved it ahead of time. The inspection process was a joke, but Hans Blix defended it because he didn't want to see war again.

            The irony is that if Hans was harsher and enforced real surprise inspections, perhaps we would have had real answers on WMD sooner and prevented war. By not really running proper inspections, Blix may have enabled the war to happen.

            Except that according to the presentations [cnn.com] to the UN, he DID run no-notice inspections.

            This is not to say that the operation of inspections is free from frictions, but at this juncture we are able to perform professional, no-notice inspections all over Iraq and to increase aerial surveillance.

            The real problem is that the UN team were repeatedly fed 'dead-cert' tips from the CIA and MI6, and when they followed up on them they found chicken farms or sheds that had clearly been empty for years. They didn't want to admit that their intelligence was of practically no use (also consider the dossier released by MI6 that claimed Saddam was trying to buy yellowcake from Niger where they hadn't even checked whether the minister signing the documents was in office on the signing date). So instead, there was an intensive briefing campaign that suggested Blix was incompetent, or that he was deliberately ruining the inspections because he was a hippy pacifist. It was another aspect of the 'the French/'Old Europe' are surrender-monkeys' propaganda bullcrap.

          • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

            by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @06:29PM (#43228717) Journal
            I don't think Blix had the power to prevent the war but he did give it a good try. He didn't have that power because it wasn't about WMD's, it was about getting rid of Saddam. The WMD's were a convenient excuse and most world leaders knew that at the time. The media failed in it's role as a government watchdog, it failed most significantly in the US, the ABC/SBS here in Oz shot massive holes through Powell's slide show, it was quite clear that the presentation was at best an exaggeration ("sexed up" as the BBC would say). At the end of the day Powell failed to convince the UN that WMD's were reason enough to go to war, Bush responded by spitting the dummy and going ahead anyway.

            I'm old enough to remember watching despots such as Mao and Pol Pot on the evening news. I don't believe the end justified the means but the Bush apologists do have a salient point, the world really is a better place without Saddam in it.
            • by tehcyder (746570)

              the world really is a better place without Saddam in it

              Then Bush and Blair should just have said that at the time instead of lying.

              There are a lot of unpleasant rulers and regimes in the world. If the UN wants to get rid of Robert Mugabe or the ruling house in Saudi Arabia, they should say so and get everyone to join in.

          • by sjames (1099)

            We did have answers. Blix said there were none. Turns out he was right. Of course, that didn't stand a chance against an administration that was fully prepared to fabricate scary reports if necessary to get the war going.

        • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @06:53PM (#43229099) Homepage Journal

          Twitter only makes things worse. It surrounds you with a large bubble of people with similar views. How is that any different than how ANY of the last 6 presidential administrations have been run anyway, other than to give you more people with the same views as yours to pretend that you're in your own little information world bubble?

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by cod3r_ (2031620)
        Don't forget obama who is keeping us there..
      • Re:No (Score:5, Informative)

        by Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:02PM (#43227673) Homepage

        A million or so people in the UK went on the streets to demonstrate against the war. Tony Blair was for it for reasons which still do not make sense. He forced his party to go along with it. The main opposition party was then led by someone who wanted Britain out of the EU and into Nafta (North American Free Trade). The facts were just a distraction, the UK went to war.
        The story in Spain was somewhat similar, the Spanish PM got the chance to visit Bush at his ranch in Texas. Lots of lovely pictures so he could show his grandchildren that he was someone important. Who cared about the facts? Spain went to war.

        Bush wanted to finish the job his father started and essentially asked the secret services to find a justification for war, just as Blair did. The US went to war.

        Germany was fighting an election where the government stated unequivocally that they would not go to war. The opposition refused to commit themselves. The government surprised everyone by just shading the election, probably on this issue. Germany did not go to war. The then foreign minister even told Powell at the UN: "with all due respect, I think you are wrong on this".

        Iran had every reason to hate the vile Saddam Hussein, but they knew exactly what Iraq had for weapons and they were horrified when their neighbours were invaded on such a faked pretext. A lot of the posturing Iran has gone in for since is an attempt to make it clear "you invade us and we will really hurt you". Iran has been screwed by the British and the US before.

        • Re:No (Score:4, Informative)

          by Burz (138833) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @07:49PM (#43229721) Journal

          Germany was fighting an election where the government stated unequivocally that they would not go to war. The opposition refused to commit themselves. The government surprised everyone by just shading the election, probably on this issue. Germany did not go to war. The then foreign minister even told Powell at the UN: "with all due respect, I think you are wrong on this".

          Several months before the war started, European media outlets had already reported that the satellite photos, yellow cake documents, and suspicions about aluminum tubes and bioweapons stockades were indeed fabricated (not to mention Blair's plagerizing of an old, inaccurate document).

          The American news media ignored each and every report. Their colleagues around the globe were treated like non-entities (and, closer to the action during the war, like hostiles).

          Our post-90s megacorporate media are in the business of taking the great mass of mundane news about murders, fires, weather, etc. and using it as credibility so they can mix in misinformation on the big issues. Today's network news reporters are first and foremost attuned to their stock options and the interests of Wall St. finance.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

        How did Bush, Cheney and the like profit?

        For better or worse, Bush and Cheney thought it was the right thing to do. It wasn't like they got rich doing so.

        People like to conveniently forget, but right after 9/11 (two days later if I recall) the UN Security Council unanimously passed another measure threatening Iraq for lack of compliance, but Bush publicly spoke about not rushing to blame Iraq, and letting facts come out over time. If Bush wanted to capitalize on popularity, he could have gone into Iraq imme

        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Shagg (99693) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:53PM (#43228287)

          How did Bush, Cheney and the like profit?

          Yeah, it's not like either of them is an ex-CEO of a private company that made billions off of government contracts as a direct result of the war.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The argument for going into Iraq 3 years later came down to 3 points (which Bush laid out in his national address 2 weeks before going into Iraq).

          Of course, his national addresses are online [archives.gov].

          1. 30 million people living in Iraq were in danger. Saddam had begun cutting off shipments of food to cities, shutting off water, etc. He had bombed Kurds and chased them out of their homes, forcing them to hide in caves.

          Nope, this claim doesn't appear in the transcript. [archives.gov]Or in any of the other statements or speeches that I can find from this time period. He does make the references to 'freeing the Iraqi people' using various phrasings, but not nearly as much as he talks about WMD.

          2. The cease fire from 1991 was based on Iraq's compliance. The UN Security council then passed 75 resolutions over the next 10 years citing that Iraq was refusing to comply and waving their fist. Bush contended that Iraq had refused to abide by the terms of the cease-fire, so the initial authorization for military conflict in 1991 stood. Some say this is cheap logic, but at the same time, if you never once follow through on an ultimatum, then the UN Security Council becomes a paper tiger (if they aren't already).

          Nobody on the Security Council except the US and UK believed that individual members were allowed to take any action they wanted in response to any breaches of UN Security Council resolutions. And the ma

        • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

          by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @06:47PM (#43229015)

          1. 30 million people living in Iraq were in danger.

          Millions of people are in danger in lots of other places, we only bother to make stern condemnations, if we bother to take note at all. Why is Iraq special? Clearly "millions of people in danger" is not why we do anything. Where are we on that with Rwanda? No, we don't really care about millions of people in other countries, it just how we pretty up an invasion to sell what we want to do for other reasons. It's like invoking "think of the children"...

          2. Bush contended that Iraq had refused to abide by the terms of the cease-fire, so the initial authorization for military conflict in 1991 stood.

          Likewise, that's not a reason to go to war. That's an excuse one can use if one already wants to go to war. It is not compelling us to war.

          3. He said the CIA had presented evidence that Iraq had been pursuing WMD. This is the biggest point of contention.

          This is also the most complicated. Without getting into the philosophy of it too much, there really isn't any moral argument that we should prevent them from having WMD. The whole thing actually mirrors the 2nd amendment controversy within the US except at the nation state level and the US is not the world government.

          Deciding that other countries may not have, nor may even research weapons technology of their own that we have massive stockpiles of is pretty indefensible.

          While the US is entirely within its moral right to ensure its own security I don't thnk that extends to depriving everyone else of those same rights to 'enhance our enjoyment of our own right' stands up as reasonable.

          I didn't like Saddam, I don't like Kim Jong-anything, and I KNOW that them having WMDs represents an increase in risk that WMDs will be used.

          But that's a risk that seems one has to take. Like the right to bear arms means that people will have guns, some of them will be bad people, and that the risk that sometimes innocent people will be hurt by them is increased. So be it.

          The world is not a safe place, and oppressing other people to make it "a little bit safer for me" is not an acceptable solution.

          The US is not 'benevolent dictator for life' and elevating it to that position, and bestowing upon it powers that give it a perpetual power imbalance with it's peers will not be stable in the long run. It already exploits that position and I don't see why we want to perpetuate that.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Funny)

      by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:24PM (#43227241) Homepage Journal

      Correct, the answer is No.

      Tomorrow's story headline: Could Slashdot have stopped the Iraq War?

      • by yurtinus (1590157)
        Yes - our heated arguments over the appropriate usage of the question mark would have ground the war machine advance to a halt!
    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by megamerican (1073936) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:29PM (#43227291)

      There were plenty of people pointing out the laughable lies in Powell's speech at the time, who were just dis missed as "conspiracy theorists." There were millions of people around the world protesting. Anyone in the corporate media who was against this war were fired or silenced.

      Twitter would just be flooded with lies and disinformation that discerning truth would be nigh impossible.

      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:08PM (#43227739)
        Indeed. Bush et al won the war to go to war with soundbites, because no one was paying attention for more than a few words. To suggest that a soundbite machine would have beaten them at the game is absurd.
      • No shit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:12PM (#43227775) Homepage Journal

        I spent extraordinary amount of time on various sites..... not just /., /. is not a forum that can pin a discussion and keep at it for months. There were plenty of those at the time, I was absolutely overwhelmed by people who were pro-war, pro-invasion, pro-military action, completely out of their mind yelling that Saddam was the devil himself and he caused 9/11 and probably fucked their grandmother (and her cat) while gradpa wasn't watching.

        Actually I think some were so weird, they nearly referred to the Southpark (the movie, uncut etc.), because it had Saddam and the Devil in it at the same time, that was pretty freaking weird.

        Basically there was story after story after story and after story completely swamping, overwhelming every freaking site and forum about how absolutely necessary it is to attack Iraq.

        I couldn't believe what was happening, it was like a fucking nightmare. The sort that reminds you of the original Elm street movie, where you are walking the stairs and are just getting sucked into the carpet, can't move, the house is collapsing around you. That's what was happening.

        You absolutely could add Twitter and every bit of technology you wanted to this mix and it would only AMPLIFY the crazy.

        And the crazy were talking about how Saddam attacked USA on 9/11! I mean they could add how Saddam attacked USA on 9/12 and burned the white house in 1812. It was un-fucking-believable. They were absolutely sure that Saddam had every weapon in his disposal, it doesn't matter if I was pointing out before the invasion that if Saddam HAD anything, USA would have NOT attacked him!

        Already in the first days of the invasion I was writing that if I were him, I would have used every single bit of every type of WMD against every American (and some of his internal enemies) immediately, in the first minutes or hours of that attack.

        No, the crazy became only more and more vocal and actually cheering and jubilant as the war progressed.

        I think that the live TV coverage that everybody was involved in actually helped USA pro-invasion propaganda. Also I remember how surreal it was to watch a real war on TV, not in real life. In real life it's different, you are there and you only see a little bit of what surrounds YOU. But when you see it on TV from many crews and many angles, it's so strange, like a surreal movie, that's not really happening. Similar to the weird feeling I remember having when watching the actual attack on 9/11 in real time (I was in a TV channel station, it was on the same floor as my contract at the time and they were getting a live feed) and the twin towers collapsing. It was a weird moment to watch, unbelievable almost, the entire war was like that, only stretched into weeks of that live coverage.

        You could turn on the TV and watch live war at any moment in time. No Twitter, no anything could stop that.

        The people's common sense was completely turned off. Anybody suggesting that the war was the wrong thing to do was almost attacked (or attacked for real). The answer to the question mark in the story headline is no.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Social media HAS changed public activism.

      It has shown exactly where people's priorities lie. We are more informed and more apathetic than ever before.

    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:42PM (#43227445) Homepage Journal
      That's the correct answer to any headline that ends in a question mark.

      My impression at the time was that Bush and company was hellbent on railroading the country into war, and they knew how to get what they wanted, mostly by running roughshod over the concept of checks and balances. They didn't even really try very hard to convince people, it was just "he might have chemical weapons!" and "ooh, look at this render of a mobile chemical lab that he could have maybe built". It's a shame Breaking Bad had not aired yet at the time, people would have had a lot of fun with the RV comparisons. There was also the fact that we were still neck deep in Afghanistan at the time. The war with Afghanistan at least made sense, the country had been taken over by guys who were very happily sheltering the guys who had just perpetrated the biggest acts of terrorism in modern US history. They were also being huge jerks to their own people (destroying the countries heritage, oppressing women and minorities (ok, that is part of the heretic they kept), and running the place like their own private piggybank) and nobody else in the world liked them. We even had UN buy in and some (mostly token, with a couple of exceptions) NATO support. Saddam had been keeping a reasonably low profile for a long time too, it seemed really unprovoked for Bush to suddenly single him out and call for his head.
      • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:04PM (#43227699)

        That's the correct answer to any headline that ends in a question mark.

        My impression at the time was that Bush and company was hellbent on railroading the country into war, and they knew how to get what they wanted, mostly by running roughshod over the concept of checks and balances. They didn't even really try very hard to convince people, it was just "he might have chemical weapons!" and "ooh, look at this render of a mobile chemical lab that he could have maybe built". It's a shame Breaking Bad had not aired yet at the time, people would have had a lot of fun with the RV comparisons. There was also the fact that we were still neck deep in Afghanistan at the time. The war with Afghanistan at least made sense, the country had been taken over by guys who were very happily sheltering the guys who had just perpetrated the biggest acts of terrorism in modern US history. They were also being huge jerks to their own people (destroying the countries heritage, oppressing women and minorities (ok, that is part of the heretic they kept), and running the place like their own private piggybank) and nobody else in the world liked them. We even had UN buy in and some (mostly token, with a couple of exceptions) NATO support. Saddam had been keeping a reasonably low profile for a long time too, it seemed really unprovoked for Bush to suddenly single him out and call for his head.

        The truly sad thing here is that for some time before 9/11, even before Bush took office, Saddam Hussein had been steadily pushing at his limitations, repeatedly violating the "no-fly" zones and doing other provocative things. I consider it very likely that given enough time, Saddam would have done something sufficiently egregious that the entire world would have said "enough", formed a "Coalition of the willing" that wasn't a mere joke and ended up more or less where we are today except that the USA would have had a decent excuse for invasion and not have lost one more reason to be considered one of the Good Guys.

        9/11 wasn't even the remotest excuse. Saddam hated al-quaeda as much or more as we did, but almost from the day Bush moved into the White House, they'd been muttering about going back into Iraq. 9/11 was merely the trigger that set off the stampede. It was a long, long time before you could buck the White House without being accused of hating America and being on the side of the Terrorists.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        They didn't run roughshod over checks and balances. He had more or less full congressional authorization. Congress in the 1990s had made regime change official US policy and in 2003 authorized the war.

        Democrats did not want a foreign policy election. Had they thwarted Bush Democrats "undermining the US war on terror" would have been the election. They probably would have won, but in 2002 the American people were solidly behind Bush.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      Indeed, no.

      The various western intelligence agencies made a bunch of allegations about WMD, the UN weapons inspectors tried to follow up on that intel to have hard factual evidence. As it turend out the western intelligence was somewhere between completely wrong and fabricated, which end of the spectrum is secondary, since it was not a secret that the weapons inspectors didn't find anything. It was in the news. At the time. Everyone knew. That was why the french, the turks the germans the canadians etc

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      Completely agreed.

      In reality, an anti-war protest in London in Feb 2003 saw a crowd of approximately 1 million people gather in Hyde Park, preceded and succeeded by several other London protests at around 500,000 people. And we still went to war.

      That's real social pressure of a sort that is far more real and tangible (and persuasive to politicians) than chatter on an internet microblogging site. There was nothing but hostility to the war here, and we still went. If Tony Blair was willing to face down crowds

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:15PM (#43227129)
    I knew all this stuff at the time. From public radio and the web. The pro-war people I talked to didn't give a damn. Remember, the nation had 9/11 fever. It was unamerican not to give the president full support no matter how stupid his actions seemed. Twitter would have been full of that too.
    • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Genda (560240) <mariet@ g o t . n et> on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:36PM (#43227371) Journal

      For the love-o-jebus, The nations staged the largest protest in American History... Millions across the nation in every major city and many small towns publically assembled to scream and shout, "We see you, We know what you're doing, and this war is the thinnest of shams." I was in San Francisco, there was a veritable sea of pissed off humanity as far as the eye could see. The life support systems for rectums in D.C. weren't interested, and the wholly owed and operate media was too busy fellating Dick (how appropriate) Cheney and Rummy.

      Twitter could have tweeted its brains out, I can't imagine it would have made a popcorn fart in a hurricane of difference.

      • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:11PM (#43227767)

        The anti-war protests may have been some of the largest in history, but they were still dwarfed by all those who approved of it. On average, the US supported the war. Furthermore, the people in power - politicians, journalists and other newsmakers branded everyone who disagreed with the impending war as traitors. Remember the phrase "It's not unpatriotic to disagree"? Yeah, it was coined by protesters who were tired of being essentially threatened with firing squads every time they spoke up.

    • Forget questioning the war, this was back when a newscaster *not wearing a flag pin* on his lapel could get fired for it.

    • by bfandreas (603438)

      I knew all this stuff at the time. From public radio and the web. The pro-war people I talked to didn't give a damn. Remember, the nation had 9/11 fever. It was unamerican not to give the president full support no matter how stupid his actions seemed. Twitter would have been full of that too.

      It was a crazy time. Even renaming "french fries" into "freedom fries" was considered to be reasonable.

      Very few asked about the game plan after Iraq was conquered. There was the distinct notion that the Allied forces would be welcomed with cheers.
      This was the final insult to everbody who risked life and limb in that war. Not only was the whole war based on falsehoods and fabrication. It was not planned. At all.
      There were no plans for after the war. There were no plans how to achieve the overall goal of

  • Wow, you know what (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:16PM (#43227137)

    Twitter, what can't it do? Surely somewhere in Twitter there is a time traveler that can go back and let 2003-era America know that they are about to make a huge mistake!

    I mean, twitter is fucking awesome, right? It freed all those people in Africa, what's to stop it from just making a picture fucking perfect world out of this whole god forsaken planet?

    Tell us, Hugh Pickens, what is next for our social media superhero?

  • Things little Twitter facilitate information and opinion exchange. Things people do naturally, and have always done essentially through talking. But Twitter (and the surrounding technology world) make it happen faster with wider reach. It allows the brain of humanity to become a little bit more "aware".
  • Revisionist (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0racle (667029) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:19PM (#43227159)
    The Iraq war was not an unpopular idea at the time. It became unpopular in hindsight.
    • Re:Revisionist (Score:4, Insightful)

      by newcastlejon (1483695) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:21PM (#43227193)

      The Iraq war was not an unpopular idea at the time. It became unpopular in hindsight.

      There are a few million people who would disagree [wikipedia.org] with you.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        well yeah... but I suppose you're forgetting how popular is defined.

        twitter wouldn't have done diddly dat for it. few million tweets wouldn't have done it.

        BUT - if the people who knew the smoking gun was bullshit had made media appearances, on twitter or on tv - anyone who had the credibility anyways - then there might have been a difference. BUT TWITTER HAS SQUATDILIDOLI TO DO WITH THAT POSSIBILITY! there were thousands of blogs about opposing the war.

      • Re:Revisionist (Score:5, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:56PM (#43227573) Journal
        Yeah but more millions would agree with him. That's what popularity means, most people favor it. And they did, Bush did a good job selling war as something necessary. People believed he must have had a good reason. Eventually they found out he didn't, which is why they felt he lied.
    • by Nimey (114278)

      Anyone remember what the approval rating of going to war was just before? ISTR it was just above 50% but it's been a long time.

    • Re:Revisionist (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fallingcow (213461) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:23PM (#43227225) Homepage

      Bingo. Twitter would have been full of war cheerleaders shouting down the handful of dissenters, just like every other popular online forum at the time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      The Iraq war was an unpopular idea at the time. Some of the largest protests ever occured in opposition to the Iraq war. That the media at the time doesn't make this clear is testament to the power of the American propaganda system.

    • Depends on how you want to split it and people were very split and very scared at the time. Back then you could ask the average person on the street if they favored going into Iraq and the frequent response would be something along the lines of: I want to support the troops. It wasn't overwhelming support, it was fear for our children and anger and sorrow for our dead.

      It was also a very heady time. I remember walking into a bar prior to the run up and a KBR employee was handing out flutes of Dom and wearing

  • by Looker_Device (2857489) * on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:21PM (#43227185)

    There were a lot of warning signs that the Western press' support for the Arab Spring may have been a bad idea too, but Twitter certainly didn't stop that.

    • by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:36PM (#43227367) Homepage Journal

      Your criticizing 2(Egypt, Tunisia) successful peaceful changes of power to fledgling democracies on the grounds that there was another that wasn't peaceful and another that wasn't successful or peaceful?

      Or are you angry at the results of democracy in Egypt?

      Something more specific that I'm missing?

      It's hard to compare that to Iraq where every major claim the Bush administration(and the media) were making turned out to be quite literally the opposite of reality.

      You may not remember these claims that were common by war cheerleaders:
      Claim: "It will pay for itself." Reality: The war cost 6 trillion dollars
      Claim: "It will take less than a week." Reality: 9 years
      Claim: "Actively pursuing chemical weapons." Reality: not even a hint of evidence to that effect
      Claim: "Collaborating with al qaeda." Reality: Hussein was actively suppressing islamist movements in Iraq.
      Claim: "Greeted as liberators." Reality: A few staged photo shoots to that effect.

      I mean, I can't think of a single true thing that was said by a pro-war speaker before the war, with the exception of one thing that stuck with me that bush said the night of the Invasion, slightly paraphrasing from imperfect memory: "This won't be like the wars Americans are used to. American soldiers will die." Fucking dead on for once.

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:21PM (#43227191)
    Twitter _might_ have spread that particular news enough to make a difference, but remember twitter isn't exactly discriminating when it "chooses" which messages to amplify. When the US sequestration happened were people focusing on Boehner's effective dismissal of the US Constitution? Or even just discussing the sequestration itself? Or were they busy tweeting about "Jedi mind melds"?
  • by Nimey (114278) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:22PM (#43227195) Homepage Journal

    The Bush Administration had decided even before getting their "evidence" that Iraq delenda est.

    • I keep saying this, but it was officially recorded in the Republican platform in 2000 that invading Iraq was something they wanted. If anything 9-11 delayed their plans. Only people who weren't paying attention didn't know it was going to happen.

      Then again, it was harder to pay attention when the party platforms weren't just something you could grab off the Internet.

    • You are correct, sir. There was also no shortage of public opposition because the Bush administration was clearly full of shit. However, post 9/11, everyone in Washington was too afraid of the sky falling to say anything. There was also substantial neo-con support for the war. Even without Twitter, there was substantial activity on forums, chat boards, IM, email, etc both for and against the war. It changed nothing. To stop anything in DC, you need massive unanimous public support as was the case with

  • Dear USA, please don't rely on the magic powers of the WWW to fix your broken nation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:25PM (#43227249)

    It's a blog post 140 characters at a time. Why 140 characters? Because Twitter is a relic dating back to a time when phones couldn't send messages any longer than that (thank you SMS, you reinvented the modern haiku). It's as unimportant now as it was when it was founded. The rise of Twitter mirrors the spread of the dread scourge of centralization that has taken hold as Software as a Service started to flourish: perhaps this newspost is what it will take for you to stop and re-examine how concentrated the providers of the Internet services you use every day have become.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:29PM (#43227287)

    At the time, Beltway pundits positively swooned over Powell's air-tight case for war. 'But Twitter could have swarmed journalists with instant analysis about the obvious shortcoming. That kind of accurate, instant analysis of Powell's presentation was posted on blogs but ignored by a mainstream media enthralled by the White House's march to war.'

    Actually, many of the claims were debunked by the UN and others prior to Powell's speech (some in the same UN session, some earlier, some both), and had been covered extensively in the news pages of the major media. The "mainstream media" didn't ignore it, though the pro-war commentary in the major media did; the major media just separated the coverage of the "air-tight" case from the coverage of all the holes that had been drilled in it before it was even presented, which was conscious misrepresentation, not accidental ignorance that faster delivery could have addressed.

    So, its unlikely Twitter would have changed things in a different way than the blogs did: the people that were paying attention to the sources which debunked Powell would, perhaps, have seen the debunking in a different format, but the people that didn't see it still wouldn't have seen it.

    • The motto of CIA's National Clandestine Service is the Latin "Veritatem Cognoscere": Know the truth. It's no wonder that so many believe the function of intelligence services is to discover the "truth".

      Mark Lowenthal, former CIA Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, spent some time in his book "Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy", now the gold standard for undergraduate and graduate intelligence texts, explaining that intelligence is not about truth at all, but rather abo

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:30PM (#43227301) Journal

    So tell me, how has Twitter stopped the numerous stupid political decisions since 2006?

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:30PM (#43227303) Homepage Journal

    Journalism died at least 5 years before the Iraq war. "News" media outlets are corporate/political megaphones, they are NOT the "4th estate" that keeps the checks and balances we hoped.

    Look how the media was duped to demonize the United Nations during the entire Bush Presidency, even before the Iraq war. Long before we went to war, the UN's policies and internal politics were marginalized and they were made to look like a bunch of bumbling fools so when the Bush Admin got around to saying that Hans Blix didn't know what he was talking about, we idiotically believed it.

    And "news" has gotten worse as time goes on. If you watch *any* of the corporate run media outlets, you're horribly mis-informed. Twitter isn't going to change that.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:30PM (#43227305)

    it would probably be even worse. BS propaganda stories fly even FASTER since there isn't a mainstream media response to them. Do any of you get those bogus "conservative schools some maxism liberal" emails from friends? Most of them don't take more than a couple google searches to discredit timelines and quotes, but that doesn't stop them from spreading.

    People are NOT more informed in the age of social media just as the flood of cable news outlets didn't lead to more high quality news coverage.

  • by guanxi (216397) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:34PM (#43227347)

    IIRC, polls showed around 90% of American supported the war on the eve of invasion. I recall an environment where objecting was widely seen as unpatriotic and cowardly -- the jingoism started after 9/11 and I never saw anything like it in our country; it was shocking and frightening. Twitter may have fanned the flames even higher.

    Of course, I'm sure a poll today would show that only 10% remember being part of that 90%, and the rest will assure you that they would have protested loudly.

  • by AaronLS (1804210) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:35PM (#43227359)

    Or would it have had the opposite affect, with posts/reposts of the same copy and post mindlessness that engulfs every social site? I would like to think the speculations of "bringing out the truth" were the case, but I'm pessimistic.

  • Unlike the old SNL skit that asked "Would Napoleon have won Waterloo if he had a B-52 bomber?" the answer to this one is no. Twitter might affect a celebrity's behavior, but not a war machine.
  • And the assertions about "an absent media" don't match my recollections from that time (and I was paying very close attention to the run-up.) There certainly should have been more discussion of what happens after Saddam falls, but the current trope of a delinquent media is as much about current political posturing as it is about an evaluation of what was known -at that time-.

    Public Radio ran a piece today pointing out that apparently part of Saddam's focus was not on preventing/reacting to a US invasion,

    • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:48PM (#43227497)

      Horseshit, we KNEW he didn't have WMD because all of these issues were known at the time. It wasn't a revelation that Saddam's foreign policy involved faking having WMDs to scare off Iran. We had inspectors on the ground and everywhere they looked they found jack squat. About the only things we couldn't account for were chemical and biological weapons that had expired YEARS before the invasion.

      We also had publicly available empirical evidence that what was being fed to the public was fake information. The notion that there was any *real* doubt is HORSESHIT. Oh, there was plenty of artificially-produced doubt. The only people who didn't know this was a bullshit invasion were those who didn't follow foreign affairs closely.

      Joe Wilson, Italian intelligence, yellow cake, the Downing Street Memos, aluminum tubes, Hans Blick [sic], Judith Miller, etc. The history rewrite has always been the attempt to pretend that there was ambiguity.

      • And you visited these weapon sites in Iraq? You personally reviewed the evidence, including classified data and the associated assessments, not just from the US but also from the UK, France, etc? And your qualifications for evaluating WMD evidence are? Can you demonstrate your -contemporaneous- evaluation of this as "bullshit"?

        At the time, there were clearly documented disagreements about the credibility of competing pieces of evidence; I remember the debates. I remember saying at the time that I though

        • Great counterpoint! I didn't personally see any Iraqi WMD sites so I should shut the fuck up?

          I did however see Hans visiting bombed out storage facilities filled with some of the EMPTY chemical weapon shells that were "missing" that had been sitting there in bombed out facilites untouched since 1991.

    • by Sique (173459)
      So you are saying that the U.S. was seeing every shadow as a ghost until they could turn on the light? You would have considered garbage bags to be chemical weapons then just because they smell.
  • not all Bush's fault (Score:5, Informative)

    by night_flyer (453866) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:39PM (#43227399) Homepage

    though its fun and all to blame Bush for Iraq, all you have to do is look back a year or so before he got into office and see that Clinton, Albright, Kerry, Berger, Pelosi and more were pounding those drums as well...

    "As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), Statement on US Led Military Strike Against Iraq, December 16, 1998

    "In the next century, the community of nations may see more and more the very kind of threat Iraq poses now -- a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction ready to use them or provide them to terrorists, drug traffickers or organized criminals who travel the world among us unnoticed. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council and clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program." President Clinton, Address to Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff. February 17, 1998

    "The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world. The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people." President Clinton, Oval Office Address to the American People, December 16, 1998

      "Imagine the consequences if Saddam fails to comply and we fail to act. Saddam will be emboldened, believing the international community has lost its will. He will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And some day, some way, I am certain, he will use that arsenal again, as he has ten times since 1983." Sandy Berger, President Clinton's National Security Advisor, Town Hall Meeting on Iraq at Ohio State University, February 18, 1998

    "No one has done what Saddam Hussein has done, or is thinking of doing. He is producing weapons of mass destruction, and he is qualitatively and quantitatively different from other dictators." Madeleine Albright, President Clinton's Secretary of State, Town Hall Meeting on Iraq at Ohio State University, February 18, 1998

  • I recall large congregations of antiwar marchers in several countries, almost entirely ignored by mainstream media at the time.

    Why would Twitter have any more potent effect, if the mainstream media demonstrated their willingness to bend/ignore reality?

    Your vote is supposed to be the powerful message, and the political leaders bear greater responsibility in the tragedy. Yet America re-elected GWB after the war began, and nearly elected his cabal again recently. Politicians do what you let them. It is not the

  • by turgid (580780) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:41PM (#43227431) Journal

    Over a million people took to the streets of London to protest against the Iraq War. It still went ahead. Britain still got involved.

    I was one of the idiots that believed that there were WMD and that the politicians knew more than we did (national security and all that). But I was young and naive. I was also stupid enough to believe that we were going there as Liberators, not Occupiers, and then I was shocked to see the way we (the Coalition) treated the Iraqis.

    I am also disgusted at the mess we've left the country in. There is rampant sectarian violence, suicide bombings and Islamofascism. It makes the Northern Ireland Troubles look like a village fete.

  • Applying 10 years hindsight on how people should have been enlightened enough to use Twitter to stop the US going to war is wrong. Remember at the time most of the US was screaming for payback and Iraq was the obvious scapegoat for the 9/11 attacks.

    Chances are Twitter would have only solidified public opinion to go to war quicker as any anti-war sentiment at the time would have been slammed out of existence as being unpatriotic.

    Also its not like there were no social networking outlets available for public

  • And the media continues to spread disinformation to advance its own pet causes. The United States has continued nation building, and has even started NEW wars (and proxy wars) since twitter came of age. It wasn't twitter that had to go to the floor of the house and demand that the President of the USA declare he doesn't have the right to kill us in our sleep! I agree it's an interesting tool for the spreading of links and content, and with more information it seems that people /should/ be more informed,

  • by Beerdood (1451859)
    Ah, I kid I kid.. I just wanted to be the first person that said yes after 67 comments of NO. Slashdot is united in opinion for the first time ever! I doubt it would have made a difference

    You know what would have been nice though? If twitter had been around for a couple of years before that, and it had today's popularity back in 2003. I saw somewhere earlier in this thread that claimed 90% of America was in support of the war at the time. That seems a bit high, but regardless of what that number is,
  • by dcollins (135727) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:23PM (#43227915) Homepage

    Is there an example of any U.S. government propaganda coming out, and Twitter ju-jitsuing it so that the media focus then become entirely the opposite? At any time? Because this is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence, whereas I'm seeing zero evidence.

  • by crgrace (220738) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @06:34PM (#43228811)

    I marched in Orange County, CA just before the Iraq War started. There were at least 100,000 people on Jamboree Blvd. I was there. I saw them. Now, Orange County is one of the most conservative regions of California. It produced Richard Nixon, and usually has Republican representatives. So the fact so many citizens would leave work to march against a coming war was incredible to me.

    That night I watched the news. Nothing. Not a single thing. Probably the biggest civil political protest in Orange County history and it wasn't on the news (at least that I saw). It should have been ALL OVER the news.

    That's when I knew this "liberal media" was not true. It's really "corporatist media" and because the media in general decided for whatever reason to support the war they ignored the fact that an unprecedented number of regular citizens were against it. I learned a lot about how the world works that day. I really don't think Twitter would have made a difference.

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