With all the pointless talk
about whether or not Twitter/Facebook were somehow instrumental in the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, Shocklee
points us to an interesting predecessor: the mostly forgotten news of how some geeks in Moscow used Usenet during a 1991 coup attempt
to spread news around the world, even as the official media was totally cut off:
USSR, August 19 1991: While Mikhaïl Gorbatchev was on holiday in his datcha located in Crimea, Eight apparatchiks attempted to seize power over the state. Hostile to reforms, the “Gang of Eight” tried to prevent the Perestoika reforms and the loss of their satellite states. These eight orthodox Communists launched an attempted coup d’état by installing themselves as The State Committee of the State of Emergency. After Gobatchev returned he tried to restore order and save face, but it was clear that this episode would eventually lead to his downfall.
In this well documented event, there is an interesting historically episode which is often overlooked. During the two days of the coup the Russian media was shut down, and thus not covering Boris Yeltsin ranting on top of a tank for the crowd, nor the shock of the international community. All channels were blacked-out except for one; Usenet, which is the grandfather of chat-rooms and is capable or surviving without the Internet. For these precious 48 hours, a few dozen individuals contributed to this last means of communication with the outside world.
Obviously, it's not an identical situation to what's been going on today, but there is an interesting parallel, about how people gravitate to tools of communication in such events. And, no, I'm not serious about the "Usenet revolution" claims, but it is neat to see what was effectively an early version of the way that people in various countries have used today's online social networking tools to communicate with the outside world. At the very least, it's a fun historical read, that covers a story that many folks probably know nothing about.