Editor’s Letter

The fall of Afghanistan played out on social media and changed the world

Clips from Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have provided a very different perspective on the Taliban fighters who stormed across the country, writes Dave Maclean

Thursday 19 August 2021 00:20
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<p>Foot soldiers of the new regime enjoy themselves while others expect a bumpier ride</p>

Foot soldiers of the new regime enjoy themselves while others expect a bumpier ride

The Gulf war was the first conflict that played out on 24-hour rolling news. It feels like the fall of Afghanistan is the first conflict that was shaped by how it played on social media.

Unlike flare-ups with China in distant seas, or domestic terror in the closed world of North Korea, there are smartphones aplenty in Afghanistan. Those devices have provided a window on the situation and transformed how it played out in the US and beyond.

Without all of the vivid user-generated content, the situation would have been dry bulletin for Reuters: “Unrest as Taliban advances – busy scenes at airport as people try to flee”. Another colourless update to add to the pile in the American mind from a seemingly endless military quagmire.

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