But part of the blame lies with Egypt’s liberals themselves. They could organize protests and demonstrations, and act with often reckless courage to challenge the old regime. But they could not go on to rally around a single candidate, and then engage in the slow, dull, grinding work of organizing a political party that could contest an election, district by district. Political parties exist in order to institutionalize political participation; those who were best at organizing, like the Muslim Brotherhood, have walked off with most of the marbles. Facebook, it seems, produces a sharp, blinding flash in the pan, but it does not generate enough heat over an extended period to warm the house…

He went on to say, however, that this type of middle class individual almost never finishes the revolution, unless he or she is successful in connecting with the rural masses. Students know how to demonstrate and riot, but they generally can’t organize their way out of a paper bag (my words, not his). Both Lenin and Mao were master organizers, and succeeded in making the connection to the countryside. This is something that has eluded many young liberal activists both in the period Huntington was describing, and at the present moment.

Facebook, which went public last week, has been credited with helping to build democracy internationally. It is true that it and other social media have democratized access to information, and have made collaboration easier. These media have also helped promote short-term mobilization of crowds and demonstrators. But networking is not organization-building. For that, we need a different and more durable platform.