The Latymer School History Magazine - page 17

Over the past four years,
Arabian states have been
trying to resolve the political
dysfunction they have fallen
into since becoming
independent, with limited
success. For millennia, the
forces of anarchy and
despotism have been at
odds with each other,
especially at the refusal of
tyrants to devolve power to
the constituent parts of
Arabia’s mosaic structure. In
an age of hyperactive
technological development,
protesters have now been
able to use ‘social media’ as
a way of spreading ideas and
channeling unrest into
organised protest. Before the
recent revolutions, social
media in the Middle East was
described as ‘marginal,
alternative, unproductive and
elitist’ because of the low
penetration rates of the
internet. However, the events
across Arabia in 2011 have
brought social media to the
forefront, with many
crediting Facebook, Twitter
and various weblogs with
facilitating the revolutions
that have taken place. Some
critics have described the
use of social media as a
double-edged sword, in
some cases permitting the
old regime to spy and
subvert, but it is difficult to
ignore its role in allowing
campaigners to coordinate
their actions and effectively
communicate their ideas. It is
not surprising that many
corrupt government officials
did their utmost to block the
internet; the rise of social
media has played a critical
role in mobilisation,
empowerment, shaping
opinions and influencing
change, making it a lethal
weapon against the
kleptocratic regimes they
represent. The importance of
social media has been widely
debated, with some camps
labelling its users as ‘the
main instigators’ and others
relegating sites to ‘mere
tools’. Nevertheless, both
sides unanimously agree that
it played a vital role in
accelerating the pace of the
Arab Spring.
The newly released second
edition of the Arab Social
Media Report by the ‘Dubai
School of Government’ give
empirical heft to the
conventional wisdom that
Facebook and Twitter
abetted if not enabled the
historic region-wide
uprisings of early 2011. The
report revealed that 8 in 10
Egyptian and Tunisian
revolutionaries (surveyed in
March 2011) used Facebook
and Twitter to organise
protests or spread awareness
about them, and that all but
one of the Facebook
organised protests ended up
coming to life on the streets.
These studies, amongst
countless others, reveal that
by using social networking
sites, activists managed to
organise and publicise the
protests that gave rise to the
Arab Spring, which has seen
seemingly eternal
governments in Egypt,
Tunisia, Libya and Yemen fall,
regimes in Syria and Bahrain
clash with the opposition
and leaders in Jordan, Saudi
Arabia and UAE promote
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