In the 1970s the great songwriter and musician Gil Scott-Heron wrote the poem/song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. That may still be true only because we now know that The Revolution Will Be Tweeted. And if that’s the case, here are some guidelines – based on experiences at Tahrir Square and Aleppo and Kiev – on how to go about Tweeting your local revolution.
Rule 1. Don’t get killed.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But keep in mind that to repressive regimes information and knowledge are the sledgehammers that will destroy their corrupt foundations. Therefore, the purveyors of information and knowledge – you, the Tweeter of truth – will be their prime targets to silence – permanently. Many of the rules that follow are really just sub-rules for Rule 1.
Rule 2. Learn how to Tweet blindfolded.
The last thing you want to do is to be an obvious target by holding a smartphone at arm’s length while you Tweet in the middle of a riot. Ideally, you want to be able to Tweet holding your phone inside a pocket or inside your coat. This means that you should use a phone with a keyboard that you can type on even when you are not looking at your phone.
Rule 3. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Forget the 140 character limit on your Tweets. For each Tweet set yourself a character limit of 10 (at most) plus a picture – your Tweets will be much more powerful. Just make sure to hide your phone camera in a coat when you take your pictures and please, no phony propaganda pictures – they’ll only come back to delegitimize your cause later on.
Rule 4. Don’t forget your hashtags.
When there’s a hot spot in the world you want your tweeps and the broader Twitter public to be able to follow fast-breaking news by following all Tweets with the same hashtag. Usually, a brief geographic hashtag (e.g. #TahrirSquare) is sufficient. Don’t try to editorialize too much in your hashtags (e.g. #WeMustOverThrowTheCorruptFascistGovernmentOf_fill in the blank_That HasNoRegardForPeopleOrForJustice); hashtags such as this will almost ensure that no one outside your five followers will read your tweets.
Rule 5. No selfies.
Two reasons for this rule. First reason: Guess who’s following your tweets? It’s not just your fellow revolutionaries; in fact, the only people following your tweets just might be the repressive government that would like to see you dead. So, the last thing you want to do is include any identifying information in your tweets – like a picture of yourself – that would make it easy for the secret police to drag you out of your home and shoot you dead in some public square as an example for others to see. Second reason: Revolutions are serious business. Pictures of you and your buds smiling into the camera while making devil signs with your hands might make some people think your idea of a revolution is a joke.
Rule 6. Don’t tweet under your own name.
Actually, this should probably be rule #2. You’ve got to set up your Twitter account in such a way that it can never be traced back to you. Start by creating a phony gmail account; try to use a public computer – like one at the library – when you do this. (Make sure you first create a phony library card before you use the library’s computer.) Then proceed to create your phony Twitter account. Similar to drug dealers, Tweet using a pay-as-you-go phone and change your phone and phone number at least once a month. (Use cryptic codes for all contacts you enter into your phone.)
Rule 7. Always have a one-way ticket available to the United States just in case your revolution fails. After all, the revolution here already succeeded, right?