I’ve been mostly silent on the “social media revolution in Egypt” meme because, frankly, I didn’t want to join an already crowded chorus until enough information had emerged for the beginning of an actual analysis. Justly or not, the idea of the uprising in Egypt being a “Twitter revolution” or “Facebook revolt” has become one of the major narratives in the American media. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the way the same narrative caught on during Iran’s uprising in 2009. And, as Luke Allnutt argued well, there’s an element of the “Twitter revolution” story that’s appealing to Americans because, in some vaguely imperialistic yet satisfyingly altruistic way, it gives us a bit of the credit for the empowerment of the disenfranchised people of Egypt, Tunisia and wherever else.
But it’s becoming more and more clear that in Tunisia and especially in Egypt, social media really have played pivotal roles in driving the uprising. “We are All Khaled Said,” the Facebook group originally created to commemorate the brutal death of a young businessman at the hands of the Egyptian policy, was created last June by Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and activist blogger who has become a reluctant face of the movement since his release from prison and an emotional interview on Egyptian television this week. The group is widely credited with helping catalyze the initial protests last month. The “April 6 Youth Movement,” another Facebook-based, youth-led democracy movement, also helped turn people out to protest, while Twitter has been a constant source of Egypt news for people around the world. Continue reading “Social Media in Egypt: A Second Public Sphere”
A demonstration that began in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington today became a march to the White House, with 400-500 demonstrators processing down Connecticut Avenue chanting in English and Arabic, calling on Hosni Mubarak and the rest of the Egyptian leadership to yield to Egyptians’ demands for democracy. I cut together a few photos and a recording of the march into the video below:
Continue reading “March for Egyptian Democracy in Washington”
In the past few days, the Obama Administration has begun to feel as though it is on the wrong side of history in Egypt. It’s becoming impossible to imagine how President Mubarak can stay in power without a truly brutal crackdown, and by continuing to give credence to him as a ruler, instead of calling upon him to step aside, the U.S. is putting itself on the side of the oppressors. The State Department is surely engaging aggressively behind the scenes in ways that cannot be made public, and it’s encouraging to hear that the U.S. government will “review” its support for Mubarak’s regime. But all the same, public statements that don’t voice support for the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people serve to support the regime.
Likely the best case scenario we can hope for– both for the U.S. and for Egyptians– is for Mubarak to step aside, and the military to assume control of the country until free elections can be held and a democratic government can take power. If free elections were held, the Muslim Brotherhood would likely be part of any ruling coalition, and Egypt’s peace with Israel could be called into question. Clearly, this is potentially problematic for the U.S. government, but the problems presented by failing to voice support for a democratic movement in Egypt are just as, if not more significant. Continue reading “What Should Obama Say About Egypt?”