Before Iranian Mullahs, Arab despots, Chinese Communists, and Dictators of every stain and stripe were dominating press, print, and radio to prevent their oppressed peoples from hearing new ideas, free-thinking, and open discourse, there was the Vatican.
Paul III and Paul IV waged war on the growing Protestant heresies harassing their church, carrying away their congregants, and undermining their temporal authority.
As PBS: Secret Files of the Inquisition asserts, the Roman Catholic Church Authorities faced an insurmountable obstacle in their severe and violent attempts to prevent the spread of Lutheran heresy: the Printing Press. No matter how many books the Inquisition officials confiscated and destroyed, they could not stem the tide of new information flooding into the hands of willing readers. Because of the printing press, reading and book-dealing, long a noble and elite past-time only for those who could afforded the laboriously transcribed volumes, now fell within the reach of the common man. With printing came vernacular translations of the Bible, arguments affirming, debating, and challenging church doctrine, and pamphlets advocating different points of view.
Freedom of discussion welling up among the public could do nothing less but cause the theological autarchy of the Papacy to falter.
We are witnessing the same phenomenon, not among secular dictators and religious tyrants. Instead of the printing press providing free and easy access to previously privy and pricey information, technologies like the Internet and Iphones with applications like Facebook and Twitter are transmitting access and information long withheld from oppressed peoples intentionally kept in their dark by brutal dictators.
We have witnessed the swift uprising of populist revolt in the wake of the Electronic, Social Network Revolution, which has toppled long-entrenched leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, while threatening the bloody illegitimacy of strongmen in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
In spite of the potential controls that national leaders may exert on popular media, the ground-sell of outrage bringing down rulers long thought unassailable is remarkable and believable in light of history. If Renaissance men with the innovation of printing could shake temporal-religious authorities in Europe, one can only imagine the transformation that transmission technologies will wage in the Middle East.