Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, Public Affairs Publishers, 2011, 432 pages, $32.95.
Rarely do we have an opportunity to test the ideas, hypotheses and warnings of a provocative author against world events happening at the very moment of his book’s publication. With dictatorships overthrown in Tunisia and Egypt, a revolt in Libya, and several other Arab countries afire with reformist anger, this is a good time to ask: can the digital revolution deliver democracy? Evgeny Morozov answers the question decisively—not on its own. “Internet freedom” is an illusion, he says; repressive governments corrupt it to their own ends; as a tool of foreign policy it is delusory.
Why should a 400-page book by a twenty-six-year-old egghead from a former Soviet republic now living in California who doesn’t even have a driving licence excite us? Because Morozov speaks with the voice of experience, from his role in the failed “Jeans Revolution” in Belarus in 2006 to a study of the role of the internet, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in every national protest movement since. Seventy pages of references citing books, magazines, newspaper reports and websites buttress his research. All his amazing energies go into preaching against what he terms a “Cyber-utopia” in which, he avers, democracy will slip through the net. He contributes to Foreign Policy magazine where he runs its “Net Effect” blog; is a visiting scholar at Stanford University and a board member of the Information Program of George Soros’s Open Society Institute. He is a frenetic blogger and a regular contributor to newspapers, magazines and television discussions.
Evgeny Morozov was born in a small town in Belarus. Siligorsk (mountains of salt) is an important potassium-mining centre. His parents both worked for the mining company and he grew up knowing, as he says, more about potassium than he ever wanted to. But his upbringing in the Belorussian SSR, a tribute state which did not achieve independence until 1991, also taught him more than he wanted to know about repressive governments. Condoleezza Rice once described Belarus as the last outpost of tyranny in Europe. He escaped, first to Bulgaria on a George Soros Open Society grant and then to Berlin. By the time of the Moldovan protest in April 2009 where tens of thousands took to the streets and attacked government buildings, he was an enthusiastic believer in the power of the internet to topple authoritarian regimes. It was he who coined “The Twitter Revolution” for those events in Piata Marii Adunari Nationale, the main square in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital. The New York Times picked up the tag and it hurtled around the world.
But Moldova cooled his enthusiasm and began to change his opinion. Critics point to Morozov’s recent conversion as a weakness; he would be entitled to respond with Lord Keynes’s quip: “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?” It emerged that the Twitter community in Moldova totalled only a couple of hundred, and the bulk of #pman tweets (signifying the Piata square) were from the extensive diaspora, especially in neighbouring Romania. The protest had been organised by a young investigative journalist recently returned from Russia, Natalia Morar. She subsequently wrote that she and six friends hatched a plan for a non-violent protest to get worldwide attention: “We decided to organise a ‘flash mob’ by using Twitter, as well as networking sites and SMS text messages, expecting a couple of hundred friends, but were amazed that twenty thousand turned up.”
The debate about the role of Twitter in Moldova continues to this day but there is no disputing that it played no part in the response to the rigged elections in Belarus in December 2010. The government had blocked all independent media and social networking sites. But word of mouth turned out twenty thousand people in October Square, Minsk, when President Lukashenko was declared returned for his fourth term with a vote of 80 per cent. When they marched to Independence Square, police savagely attacked them and seven of the nine opposition presidential candidates were arrested.
Morozov has a puckish sense of humour that garnishes an easy writing style. Chapter headings in Net Delusion such as: “From Milk Shakes to Molotov Cocktails”, “Which Tweet Killed the Soviet Union?”, “Darning Mao’s Socks, one SMS at a Time”, “How to Lose Face on Facebook” and “A Doll with Censored Nipples” have the reader jumping back and forth, first with curiosity then with growing respect for the serious points made in each. In that last example, he reports that in July 2010 Facebook sent multiple warnings to an Australian jeweller for posting photos of her exquisite porcelain doll, which revealed the doll’s nipples. Facebook, he observes, is notoriously jealous in policing content, but then moves the story from trivial to important by relating the censorship of the account of a Moroccan activist Kacem El Ghazzali. His Facebook group, Youth for the Separation Between Religion and Education, was not calling for regime change, but one day the group was gone, along with the list of one thousand members. When El Ghazzali demanded an explanation, his profile was deleted too. Only a determined media campaign in the West got the banned group restored, but his was not. The fact that his Facebook friends had been invited to a picnic to protest against the law forbidding breaking the fast during Ramadan and were arrested before they could eat a bite might well have made the website nervous.
I found that nineteen-year-old Kacem has moved on into more risky waters since Morozov wrote. He now has a blog, “Bahmut”, which means a large fish that is difficult to look at. In one entry he posted: “Political Islam is the most dangerous ideology that threaten [sic] all mankind. It’s a game of lying, hypocrisy and distortion of the facts that promote the mono-truth and each person who disagrees with this ‘truth’ will face killing and all kinds of ill-treatment.”
The Net Delusion is about geopolitics as much as the digital revolution. The West, Morozov says, has been slow to discover that the fight for democracy wasn’t won back in 1989. Western leaders tend to exaggerate their own role in precipitating the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many of the Western strategies of the Cold War, such as smuggling in photocopiers and fax machines, broadcasts by Radio Free Europe and Voice of America are presumed to have been extremely effective and given more credit than they deserve. But the USSR was not overthrown by its people, it collapsed economically.
The suggestion that large doses of information and communications technology are lethal to the most repressive regimes has tremendous implications for the future of democracy promotion. It endows the internet with almost magical qualities, the means to help the West finally defeat its authoritarian adversaries. Turn on Google, the argument runs, follow politically savvy friends on Facebook and Tweet your way to freedom! But unlike stock market bubbles, democracy bubbles, once burst, could lead to carnage. Authoritarian governments have invested too much effort into suppressing any form of free expression and free assembly. The cyber-utopians did not predict how masterfully dictators would learn to use the internet for surveillance. They pay bloggers to spread propaganda and trawl social networking sites for anyone organising opposition. The internet, Morozov concludes, empowers the strong and disempowers the weak; it cannot be placed at the heart of democracy promotion.
There is no better example of this fallacy than in the protests by Iranian youth in June 2009 after national elections. The Western media headlined it as the internet ushering in democracy. Andrew Sullivan of Atlantic magazine blogged: “The Revolution will be Twittered.” Clay Shirky, Professor of New Media at New York University and a leading drum-beater for the cause declared: “This is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media.” Twitter seemed omnipotent, but as the Green Movement faded, the irrational exuberance marking the Western interpretation of what was happening in Iran was revealed as a wild fantasy. What had been in play was what Morozov calls the “Google Doctrine”—the belief that given enough gadgets, connectivity and foreign funding, dictatorships are doomed. In any case, there were only 19,235 Twitter accounts in Iran then, he says.
Indeed there had been a serious political crisis; Iranian society was being buffeted by the conflicting forces of populism, conservatism and modernity, but many Iranians found the elections to have been fair. The three elements of a successful revolution—an almost universally discontented population, a strong political class and the complicity of the military—simply weren’t there. The unexpected consequences of this Western enthusiasm were disastrous for many Iranians. A high-level cyber-crime team hunted down protesters using internet photos and videos, arresting those at home and threatening those abroad. It flooded the country with text messages warning of dire consequences for protest and worse for incitement. It even produced a fake video-clip purporting to depict a group burning a portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini. During a Friday prayer sermon, Ayatollah Alam Ahdi preached: “In a war, anti-Shari’a moves are permissible; the same applies to a cyberwar.”
The persecutions had been aided by the naive enthusiasm of a young American marketing graduate named Austin Heap. He and his collaborators created a software program called Haystack which they claimed “allows full uncensored access to the internet even in areas of heavy internet filtering such as Iran. It’s completely secure for the user so the government can’t snoop on them.” Although these bold claims were never substantiated, and the source code was not released (a breach of Kerckhoff’s Principle, the nineteenth-century axiom that stated a cryptosystem should be secure even if everything about it except the key is public), Heap won the Guardian Innovator of the Year award and was lauded in a BBC series, The Virtual Revolution. Through his political connections he was even able to secure a US Treasury licence to export his censorship-circumvention software to Iran. Simon Phipps of Computer World magazine, who helped to expose Haystack, says it was crude, primitive and didn’t work, providing the Iranian government with precisely the snare it was intended to disarm.
Even more significant was the impact on geopolitical dynamics of an extraordinary intervention by a junior US State Department official, Jared Cohen, who sent an e-mail to Twitter. He said the Obama administration believed that Twitter was playing a crucial role in Iran as a means for protesters to communicate, and implored it to delay its planned maintenance work which would have shut down all its feeds the next day. Twitter complied. Morozov argues that this created a dangerous precedent—it sent an unambiguous message to governments around the world that the USA was turning the internet into an instrument for its politics and diplomacy. A hardline Iranian newspaper, Javan, accused the State Department of trying to foment a revolution. China’s People’s Daily editorialised that the Iranian unrest was due to online warfare launched by America, via YouTube video and Twitter micro-blogging. A Russian internet portal put out: “The demonstrations in Iran followed the Moldovan scenario; the US got burnt.” Jared Cohen, the man whom the New York Times described approvingly last year as mixing social-networking culture and foreign-policy arcana, now works for Google.
Morozov doesn’t believe the USA has learnt anything. Take Hillary Clinton, whom one State Department officer described as “The Godmother of Twenty-First Century Statecraft”. In January 2010 Mrs Clinton went to the Newseum in Washington, America’s fine museum of journalism, to deliver a seminal speech about internet freedom, thus acknowledging the internet’s prominent role in foreign affairs. “We need to put these tools in the hands of people around the world who will use them to advance democracy and human rights,” she said. The author describes it as a “geeks + wonks” feast, with many licking their lips at the money to be made. Aly Abuzaakouk, director of Libyan Human Development Forum in Washington, told Mrs Clinton its website had been attacked and hacked many times. He asked how she could help those voices that did not have the technology or money to protect themselves. She couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say. A few months later, George W. Bush, who had shown little or no interest in the internet while in office, convened a meeting in Texas to push the “freedom agenda” into new digital territories. One project represented at the conference, www.CyberDissidents.org, has a mission “to make the Middle East’s pro-democracy internet activists famous and beloved in the West”. I invite you to look at the site and judge for yourself whether its enthusiasm is putting its heroes in harm’s way.
In London in 1989, Ronald Reagan spoke of radio as we think of the internet today when he proclaimed: “Breezes of electronic beams blow through the Iron Curtain as if it was lace.” “Information is the oxygen of the modern age,” he went on, “it seeps through walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.” Roger Cohen, a foreign affairs columnist for the International Herald Tribune, echoed Reagan’s famous quote: “the proper cry for the twenty-first century is ‘Tear down this firewall’.” Morozov laconically includes this in his listing of nostalgia’s lethal metaphors. The problem, he says, is that technologists have been designing tools to break technological rather than political firewalls—and they control the public conversation. There certainly are censorship-circumvention tools that trick governments by allowing a dissident to connect to a third-party computer and use its internet connection to access the forbidden content. But increasingly, DDoS (Distributed-Denial-of-Service) attacks are being used to overwhelm such websites. In 2009, a popular blogger in the republic of Georgia with the code name of Cyxymu came under DDoS attack on his Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Livejournal accounts so intensive that it shut down both Twitter and Facebook for millions of users. Russia was suspected. On his own blog, Morozov described Cyxymu as the first “digital refugee”.
Morozov does not deny that once mastered, the internet could be a powerful tool in the arsenal of a policy-maker. But the internet is a tool without a handle. The internet does matter, he says, but we simply don’t know how it matters, and the costs of getting it wrong are tremendous. Coining another metaphor, he observes that most digital visionaries see the web as a Swiss army knife ready for any job at hand. Their technological fetishism combines with a strong penchant for populism.
Let us now examine recent events in North Africa—events and outcomes popularly and simplistically credited to these tools of the digital revolution—through the lens of Morozov’s analysis.
It all began (or seemed to) when a street seller named Mohamed Bouziz set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, 300 kilometres south of Tunis on December 17 last year. Crowds alerted by social media sites (so it was reported) poured onto the streets, were clubbed and gassed by vicious police, and the scenes were captured and broadcast on YouTube, arousing the fury of the whole country. After eighteen days of heroic street protests, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country and democracy was on its way with the promise of elections in July. The internet had toppled a dictator. Not exactly. Tunisia had been seething with discontent for a long time. Corruption, the brutality of the police and the profligacy of the president and especially his wife rankled with people who could not find work yet had to cope with rising taxes and food prices. Bouziz was twenty-six years old, a graduate who could support his extended family of eight only by selling vegetables without a permit.
The West, which had supported Tunisia as a bulwark against Islamic terrorism, had been deceived—the regime was much weaker than it appeared. The International Institute for Justice and Development explained in its report on the Tunisian events that the collapse was only partly attributable to popular protest. Factionalism had been splitting the establishment, especially the security forces; the protests accelerated the division. By the second week policemen and military officers had joined the march, many public officials stood down, 7000 lawyers went on strike and teachers joined in. Tunisia’s Ambassador to UNESCO announced he could no longer vouch for what was going on in his country. Army Chief General Rachid Ammar refused to carry out the government’s order to fire on the people and called up reinforcements from the south to defeat forces still loyal to the President. Much of the work of organising the protests was carried out by the Tunisian Federation of Labour Unions. Facebook users collected amateur video of police violence, but it was an old technology, Al Jazeera television, not the internet, that spread news of the protests and their repression to the country. One tweet making the rounds said it all: “I don’t understand how the people of Tunisia overthrew their government without me signing an e-petition or changing my Twitter avatar.”
The Western media celebrated the whole show as the “Jasmine Revolution”, dusted off their cameras and went home. Few recognised the inappropriateness of the label; president Ben Ali had used it to dignify his overthrow of Habib Bourguiba twenty-four years earlier. Tunisians prefer to call it the “Sidi Bouzid Revolt”. The street demonstrations continued until the prime minister was driven out, but four top cabinet ministers remained in power; the stock market collapsed, tourist traffic shrivelled. Much had been accomplished but little had been settled. As the Institute for Justice observed, what Tunisia showed is that a dictatorship’s control over the security forces is critical to its ability to withstand popular protest.
Egypt proved it. When the hundreds of protesters who first braved police batons and teargas in Cairo’s Tahrir Square grew exponentially to hundreds of thousands, the Western media were keen to join the side of the angels and ready to attribute it all to the social media. The television pictures were dramatic but the story was superficial. In Australia, the ABC’s coverage was an example of the difficulty for outsiders of getting beyond good-guy-bad-guy stereotypes. Middle East correspondent Ben Knight reported brilliantly from the Square; Mark Corcoran, at some personal risk, followed a young woman throughout the demonstrations to personalise the event for Foreign Correspondent. But when the “heavy hitters”—foreign editor Peter Cave and Phillip Williams—flew in, they failed to get beyond the superficialities to provide an analysis of the dynamics, the politics or the organisation involved.
The revolts in Cairo and Alexandria had been building for years, and so had the preparations. The residents of Kafr El-Mosheilha, Mubarak’s hometown in the Nile Delta, summed up Egypt’s contempt for him: “Mubarak dealt with life like a pilot—always up in the air and distant from the people below.” When he returned there for his mother’s funeral, they told him to find another burial site. The revolutionaries—young, educated and disaffected—had loosely affiliated in the Coalition of Angry Youth Uprising, incorporating the April 6 Youth Movement, the Young People for Justice and Freedom and the Muslim Brotherhood’s youth wing. They were decentralised, not anti-Western and had no clear objective or timetable. But their planning had included organising a trip to the USA by a group of Egyptian activists to learn video journalism. Twenty-eight-year-old Bassem Samir, director of the Egyptian Democratic Academy, and his colleagues then trained them: how to choose good photo locations for protests, how to transfer memory cards regularly to helpers to avoid confiscation by police, even to send camera teams in waves instead of all at once so they could not be picked off. When the day came, it would be well documented.
Industrial unrest had been increasing. The April 6 Youth Movement took its name from student support for a strike by industrial workers in the town of Mahalia al-Kubra that was crushed in 2008. April 6 Youth developed a manual on protest methods, based on Iran’s Green Movement; one of its members worked on electronic means of evading government filtering. Then, in June 2010, a young businessman with no political affiliations, Khaled Said, filmed two policemen dividing up the spoils from a drug raid. Soon after, plainclothes policemen beat him to death. When the government tried to claim Said had swallowed and choked on a packet of drugs, he became a symbol for the corruption and oppression of the Mubarak government. “We are all Khaled Said” became a Facebook group that helped to focus the anger. When the tragedy of Mohamed Bouziz in Tunisia inspired several acts of self-immolation in Alexandria, the situation in Cairo needed only a match.
Quite unexpectedly, that match was struck by a youth outreach organiser, Asmaa Mahfouz. On January 18, she posted a blog on her Facebook page, a four-and-a-half-minute appeal for freedom, justice, honour and human dignity, and “maybe a revolution like Tunisia”. It was inspired by those who had set fire to themselves. She had tried to raise interest in a protest, she said, but when she went to Tahrir (Liberation) Square only “three guys turned up and three armoured cars of riot police”. At least it proved Morozov’s point that the web could also be a vehicle for suppression. But her video went on to call for everyone to go to the square on January 25; when it was posted on YouTube it went viral (to use the catchphrase), was re-broadcast on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya and became the catalyst for the revolution. Her brave appeal, spoken straight to camera, is an unnerving echo of those made by suicide bombers going out to die. (You can watch her moving statement here…)
What won the day in Cairo was not Twitter or Facebook, but good strategy. Morozov writes critically of “slacktivism”, a phenomenon in which online digital effort makes us feel useful and important, but has no social impact. The marginal cost of joining yet another Facebook group is low, requiring only a click. Often it is the end, rather than the beginning of engagement with a cause. For most global concerns, whether genocide in Darfur or climate change, there are diminishing returns to awareness-raising. Why this is so was explained as long ago as 1913 by the French scientist Max Ringelmann. He found that when he asked a group of men to pull on a rope, each pulled harder alone than when pulling together. This phenomenon of “social loafing”, the obverse of synergy, is particularly applicable to the social media, says Morozov. Applied to Cairo in January, the role of the internet was therefore not to motivate, but to produce a turnout; the energy on the streets would produce the motivation. What Mahfouz did was attack the diffusion of responsibility online by making it impossible for her Facebook friends to fade into the crowd.
The strategy, since explained in an article in the Wall Street Journal which has been republished admiringly around the world, was to stage twenty simultaneous rallies in different working-class parts of the city in order to dissipate the security forces. On January 25, using word-of-mouth only, small teams called on residents of the crowded lanes of the poor Bulaq al-Dakrour district to congregate at a secret Site 21. This was the tactic the German military academies referred to as Schwerpunkt (focal point). In the Second World War, General Heinz Guderian concentrated his panzers and tactical air force at this point of maximum effort to achieve a breakthrough against superior forces. In Cairo, people rushed to Site 21, swelling to such a crowd that when they marched to the square, the depleted police units were unable to stop them. “Matt”, a former US marine and now a security contractor and strategy blogger, commended the planning: “The protest was well planned and well executed, using decoy marches to fool the police … they had protested before and failed. They had years to study the Egyptian riot police and how they operated, and they learned.”
So obsessed were correspondents with the packed demonstrations in Tahrir Square, they failed to find explanations for two pivotal events. When the police suddenly disappeared from the streets after three days of protests, reporters speculated that Mubarak had pulled them out to allow gangs to attack and disrupt the crowd. And they puzzled over why the army sent tanks to occupy the city and surround the square, allowing soldiers to fraternise, but failed to move against the government. The answer to the first mystery has been provided by Jadaliyya, the independent e-zine (online magazine) of the Arab Studies Institute. On the night of January 28, it wrote, the Egyptian military let Mubarak’s ruling party headquarters burn down and ordered the police brigades attacking the protesters to return to barracks. When the evening call to prayer rang out, and the curfew order was ignored, it was clear the President had been reduced to a phantom authority.
As Jadaliyya and the global intelligence company Stratfor agree, the military’s strategy was to protect and enhance its political and economic power. Since the Camp David accords of 1979 it has not been allowed to fight anyone. Instead the generals have benefited from huge aid payments from the USA, which have been invested in shopping malls, gated communities and beach resorts. Armaments factories have been converted to consumer goods, making bottled water, olive oil, fire extinguishers, computers and household appliances. The Egyptian army owns poultry and dairy farms, hotels, clubs and hospitals. It controls production of strategic goods like cement. Stratfor estimates its share of the economy is 30 to 45 per cent. The military has been in competition with the “crony capitalists” of the Mubarak regime’s business elite; cabinet ministers owned significant interests in tourism, real estate, investment, steel, construction and companies like Unilever. In recent years the military has been closer to the people than either the government or business; during the bread riots of 2008 it distributed bread from its own bakeries. The army was never going to fire on the people and it was not going to let this opportunity pass. The imperative of military support for a revolution was underlined. The internet cannot defeat force of arms.
Libya, where a copycat attempt to overthrow a long-standing dictator is still in progress at the time of writing, also underlined the important role of the military. The eastern half of the country, which had traditionally been antipathetic to the government in Tripoli, quickly established its independence after the generals defected and helped drive out mercenary forces Muammar Gaddafi had flown in. Only a limited number of units appeared to remain loyal to the leadership in the capital. Fighter jets defected to Malta, overseas diplomats denounced the regime and the oil industry collapsed as managers and workers fled when marauding gangs attacked their work camps. The UN Security Council’s unanimous condemnation did little without a no-fly zone. Neither people power nor Twitter would decide the outcome.
These events have provided a lively touchstone for Morozov’s arguments in The Net Delusion. They do not discredit his view that the internet provides repressive governments with the troika of surveillance, propaganda and censorship. The regimes in Tunisia and Egypt fell despite their use of these tools, but social media did not bring them down. Not everyone agrees with Morozov; in the USA a lively debate that has yet to surface in Australia ripples back and forth in the influential magazines. In a major essay in the January-February issue of Foreign Affairs, Clay Shirky wrote that seven million text messages generated a crowd of a million people in Manila to end Joseph Estrada’s presidency. Similar texting quickly ousted Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in 2004. He disagrees with Morozov that authoritarian states can turn the internet tools against their people, arguing the Dictator’s Dilemma—denying dissidents the ability to co-ordinate in real time and broadcast documentation of an event creates a short-term risk of alerting the population at large to political conflict. But he seems to contradict himself in citing events in China. Anti-corruption protests broke out in Sichuan after the earthquake in May 2008 in which shoddily-built schools collapsed on their pupils. Initially the Chinese government allowed reporting of the earthquake as a tragedy. But when the corruption in the construction industry went from open secret to public truth and it became clear the protesters were demanding real reforms, reporters were banned, protesters arrested, and communications shut down. In contributions to blogs, Shirky has written: “no one claims social media makes people angry enough to act but it helps angry people co-ordinate their actions.” This seems a little closer to Morozov.
Rebecca MacKinnon, former Bureau Chief for CNN in Beijing and Tokyo and co-founder of Global Voices Online, is a leading figure in the debate on how to break through the Great Firewall of China. She believes that obstacles to free speech on the internet go far beyond filtering or blocking of websites. She cites: aggressive cyber-attacks that bring down the websites of activists, NGOs and small organisations; spyware that compromises users’ computers so they can be easily monitored or used for DDoS attacks; hacking of the social media accounts of influential internet users; deletion of sensitive information; de-activation of accounts and tracking of user behaviour by internet companies at government behest. These are things the West might help dissent defeat. The problems in China were exemplified in 2009 when “patriotic” hackers brought down the website cataloguing the damage done to children by the melamine-in-milk scandal. The site, www.jieshibaobao.com, was established to permit parents of victims to communicate and post pictures of their children’s ordeal. Even when moved to an overseas server it was followed and attacked. The last time I tried, for this article, it was still unavailable. MacKinnon says the US State Department policy is to combat these actions, but it will also be spending money on circumvention tools such as Freegate, Dynaweb and Ultrasurf, Tor and Psiphon to assist internet users communicate freely.
The Net Delusion is a powerful challenge to the complacency of the Western world. It goes well beyond the internet to the very heart of the philosophical problem it illustrates—the simplification of issues to satisfy apathetic populations. Was what happened in Tunisia and Egypt a Twitter revolution? A Facebook revolution? A YouTube revolution? An internet revolution? No more so than what happened in Poland in 1989 was a telephone revolution or that in France exactly two hundred years earlier was a printing-press revolution—just because then the word was spread by pamphlet.