The Facebook Revolution

In school we learned plenty of history – world, U.S., local. We studied lots of facts and on occasion even drilled deeper to analyze the basis and consequences of political and social movements that changed the way people lived their lives. And conscientious history teachers always made sure we were aware of current events. But mostly change comes slowly and it is only with hindsight that you are able to fully appreciate its magnitude. There are exceptions of course. The moments when events are of such magnitude that you know right away that the course of history has been nudged and will never be the same again.

Egyptian protestors acknowledging the role of Facebook

The events unfolding in Egypt are one such moment. In a country so rich in ancient history, its people are writing a new chapter in their history every day these past several weeks. After centuries of foreign domination and many under dictatorial regimes, people of all walks of life – students, workers, young and old, women and men, middle class and poor have joined together to say, “Enough”.

 “They all had one message… Mr. Mubarak must surrender his power.   “Go, already,” read one sign that was held aloft. “My arm’s starting to hurt.” (1)

Egyptian citizens have chosen to speak with one voice and to do so peacefully, until attacked by government sponsored thugs. They have shown the world the power of modern communications – the internet and its commutations progeny has played a central role in the movement for democracy.  Because the demonstrations began peacefully, journalists from around the world have been able to be on the scene to witness it firsthand and report the events to the world as they happen.   NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel deserves a Pulitzer Prize for his insightful daily reporting.

As of this writing the army has restored calm, the mass demonstrations in Cairo’s Liberation Square and throughout Alexandria and Suez continue to grow and hopefully Mubarek’s inevitable resignation will come soon. Thankfully President Obama has been applying pressure and repeatedly assuring the people of Egypt that we support their struggle for democracy. One can only imagine how George Bush would have managed to meddle and screw this up. Sarah Palin, when contacted in her alternate universe had this to say about how the president is handling the current situation:

“It’s a difficult situation, this is that 3am White House phone call and it seems for many of us trying to get that information from our leader in the White House it seems that that call went right to um the answering machine…” (2)

1) Hasan Tukhtamishev, writing in 49 News, the official school newspaper of PS/IS 49, located in Middle Village, NYC http://www.49kidnews.com/

2) From interview with David Brody on the Christian Broadcasting Network http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2011/02/05/exclusive-sarah-palin-interview-with-the-brody-file.aspx

Published in: on February 6, 2011 at 11:16 am  Comments (4)  
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  1. The revolt in Egypt that you along with the media call the Facebook Revolution, was a made by a very broad coalition of different groups in the country. It not only includes the students and the radicals of the April 6th Movement who effectively used Facebook and Twitter until the government totally shut down the Internet, but also Doctors, Lawyers and other professionals, small shop keeps, and most importantly, thousands of workers who had been conducting intermittant strikes despite repression even before the uprising.

    When the revolt grew to such consistant and large proportions that it threatened to undermine “order”, the army removed Mubarek against his wishes in order to defuse the steam that might be diected against their control. Obama and Clinton were so worried about order and stability that they were urging caution and a SLOW 6 month transition to give their ally Mubarek a chance to step down. But that “stability” was for the benefit of those who control Egypt and not for the benefit of democracy.
    The military forces control (own) the industrial corporations and the wealth of the country and they will use force when necessary to maintain that control. But they will also try to divide the coalition, use threats, infiltration, and repress strikes and other militant actions. When they can control the vote, the military leaders will, like Obama, make “strong statement” about democracy and there will be “elections” that will be no more honest than those in which Mubarek got 98% of the vote.

    It is delusional to be thankful that “President Obama has been applying pressure and repeatedly assuring the people of Egypt that we support their struggle for democracy.”, when he is continuing the long time policy that aims to keep U.S. and multinational corporate control of the world’s resources. Just as he not only continues but is expanding the insane and costly military operations in Afghanistan.
    Also, just as Obama has significantly refused to give open support to the struggle of the workers defending union rights and collective bargaining in Wisconsin, though he clearly knows that the Governor is part of a large Republican conspiracy to destroy the unions throughout the U.S. Obama’s response to the Republicans has been to crawl on his knees before the Chamber of Commerce. His budget increases military spending, cuts vital economic support for important social programs because after the insane, close to a trillion dollar tax cut for the very rich that Obama agreed to, we seem to have a shortfall. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but I suggest those good intentions are just talk. Ideologically Obama believes in Big Business and globalism (read imperialism). He believes in the ideologies of the people he selects to advise him – so WATCH OUT FOR HIM TO SEEK A “COMPROMISE” ON THE REPUBLICAN MOVE TO PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY WHICH OBAMA’S NEW ECONOMIC ADVISOR BELIEVES IN. The Social Security fund has a huge multimillion dollar surplus that Wall Street has been drooling to get its hands on.

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  2. I think the administration’s goal is stability (a goal not easily dismissed in a region that could trigger a global war). But until a month ago, that meant being nice to dictators and ignoring “the people.”

    Now that it is obvious that only a serious move toward democracy will make Egypt stable again, it has become expedient to support that move. Perhaps I’m not giving Obama enough points for recognizing that, but I think you’re setting the bar pretty low.

    I think we both agree that the US should also support “the people” even in places where dictators still have a secure hold, even if dictators are “friends of the US.”

    And I imagined a few years ago that Obama agreed too, and would gently, diplomatically, begin to change our policy of standing with dictators until the moment of their fall. Alas, no evidence of that in all those leaked cables. He’s been in office more than 2 years now.

    Like you, I am cheered at possibilities for the people of Egypt, but just I don’t feel that our technology or politicians deserve much of the credit.

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  3. I’m no Egyptologist, but with Mubarak having shut down internet access and with only 20% of the country having access in the first place, I think you are overstating the importance of social media in this revolution. I’m not surprised to see our media focus on it – we all love seeing a familiar face(book) in a foreign land.

    This is not an original thought, I know – the Nation was writing about it earlier this week, and Frank Rich, today.

    And while I agree that there’s no telling what George Bush might have done, I don’t think the Egyptians had noticed any difference from our change of administration.

    The tear gas and other weaponry they face are not only all made in USA, but are given free to their police and military as aid.

    Did Obama ever make any comments critical of Mubarak’s domestic policies? Had he ever pressured the Tunesian dictator to democratize? I’m not hearing any new demands upon Israel, or upon undemocratic states like Saudi Arabia.

    Wiki Leaks revealed some of the Obama administration’s secret dealings with the Yemeni adminstration, also targeted by democracy protests. The blindness to reality in Afghanistan continues, too.

    Obama seems to have left much of foreign policy to the conventional thinkers he has hired to run things. Whatever happened to the guy who opposed the invasion of Iraq? It is hard to reconcile the two Obamas.

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    • Couple of responses: re: social media…the active protest movement is broad but doesn’t represent 20% of the population. Did every protestor have a facebook site? Of course not but many of those who were organizing and participating in the mass demos were assisted by using modern means of communications – both web and cell phone based. All protest movements need ways to spread the word and it is inevitable that as our means of communicating gets more sophisticated those messages will spread more effectively. I would maintain too, that the internet provides many in remote parts of the world with a means to become more in touch with democratic principals and broader cultural opportunities as well. I watched an PBS special that argued that the Beatles help bring down Soviet rule. Listening to many of the former Soviets who grew up as clandestine Beatles fans you begin to realize how little a seed it takes.

      As for U.S. – Egyptian relations – the military deals struck with Sadat and later Mubarek in exchange for their treaty with and recognition of Israel can be argued but the Camp David accord definitely brought some stability to the region for an extended period. But that policy predates Obama and it is not reasonable to think it can be changed overnight. I am not apologizing for Obama’s shortcomings regarding his policies in Afganistan and elsewhere…but he made several strong statements on behalf of the Egyptian people and has applied significant pressure to Mubarek to resign despite the uncertainty that will result for Egypt-U.S. relations. So I give him positive points for that and to me this glass is half full.

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