Good media, bad politics? New media and the Syrian conflict
James Harkin is a journalist and author who regularly travels to Syria to report for a variety of publications including The Guardian, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The London Review of Books, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, and The Nation. He also writes books about ideas, social change and new media. He was a journalist fellow at the Institute in Michaelmas term 2013. He has written a fascinating essay based on his experiences of reporting from Syria entitled ‘Good media, bad politics? New media and the Syrian conflict’. This is how he describes his research:‘The relationship between new media and uprisings is mired in hyperbole and cynicism; too often boosters think of new media either as a panacea for freedom-loving movements in Europe and the Middle East, while critics too easily dismiss it as a trap. Based on my own experiences in reporting the conflict, this essay uses the Syrian conflict as a practical example to think about the benefits and disadvantages of using media to foment radical social change – and argues that a focus on the shiny new tools of new media as a way to communicate with the outside world can distract social movements from the hard work of trying to build their movement at home.