Data points: portmanteaus 3/8/11

From the NYT Week in Review of January 30, in a piece by Scott Shane on change and technology: “Technology helps ignite change (as in Tunisia). Except when it bolsters oppression (as in Iran).”

Widney Brown, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty International, said the popular networking services, like most technologies, are politically neutral.

“There’s nothing deterministic about these tools — Gutenberg’s press, or fax machines or Facebook,” Ms. Brown said. “They can be used to promote human rights or to undermine human rights.”

This is the point of [Evgeny] Morozov, 26, a visiting scholar at Stanford. In “The Net Delusion,” he presents an answer to the “cyberutopians” who assume that the Internet inevitably fuels democracy. He coined the term “spinternet” to capture the spin applied to the Web by governments that are beginning to master it.

In China, Mr. Morozov said, thousands of commentators are trained and paid — hence their nickname, the 50-Cent Party — to post pro-government comments on the Web and steer online opinion away from criticism of the Communist Party. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez, after first denouncing hostile Twitter comments as “terrorism,” created his own Twitter feed — an entertaining mix of politics and self-promotion that now has 1.2 million followers.

In Russia, Mr. Morozov noted, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin has managed to co-opt several prominent new-media entrepreneurs, including Konstantin Rykov, whose many Web sites now skew strongly pro-Putin and whose anti-Georgia documentary about the Russia-Georgia war of 2008 went viral on the Web.

Mr. Morozov acknowledges that social networking “definitely helps protesters to mobilize.”

“But is it making protest more likely? I don’t think so.”

The big point is about technology and political change. But the little linguistic point is the portmanteau spinternet (spin + internet) ‘(political) spinning via the internet’.



One Response to “Data points: portmanteaus 3/8/11”

  1. mike Says:

    re: the political change, versions of this point were made recently by in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell (“Small Change” []) and by Adam Gopnik (“The Information” []). Can’t really add to the linguistic point. 🙂

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