The Latymer School History Magazine - page 19

A rebel wavs a Libyan fall
while standing atop a tank
gun
information outside the
involved countries and could
have led to ‘a boomerang
effect that brought
international pressure to
bear on autocratic regimes.’
Activists in the region
maintain that social media
perpetuated the protests
that began in Tunisia,
toppled three more dictators
in Egypt, Libya and Yemen,
and continue to shake the
region. A study by Zeynep
Tufekci of the University of
North Carolina and
Christopher Wilson of the
United Nations Development
Program supported this
claim. ‘Social media in
general, and Facebook in
particular, provided new
sources of information the
regime could not easily
control and were crucial in
shaping how citizens made
individual decisions about
participating in protests, the
logistics of protest, and the
likelihood of success,’ they
wrote in the Journal of
Communication.
The nature of its success lay
in the recognition that ‘older
media’ sources, such as the
television and radio, tend to
be one-sided. Still, state
television remains the most
popular, as privately run
domestic media channels
tend to be self-serving and
erratic in their coverage. Yet
activists have claimed that
they can influence some of
these sources from the
‘outside-in’ by video-
documenting the protests,
creating credible blogs and
tweeting stories to inform
both international and
domestic journalists. I saw
these tactics in action in
August 2012, at a sit-in in
Mahalla, the birthplace of
Egypt’s labour movement.
While this protest was
sparsely reported on by the
mainstream media, I noticed
how activists were using
video cameras, blogs, and
Facebook/Twitter
connections to attempt to
force coverage from the
outside-in, in the hope of
introducing new voices to
the mainstream media.
Even though more Egyptians
than ever have begun to
access the Internet, activists
have realised that they can
spread the message to
working class communities
without Internet connection.
Media activist collective
Mosireen, for example, uses
low-cost video cameras and
projectors to train
community members to
document military abuses
and project these videos on
walls within their own
communities, in a project
called ‘Askar Kazeboon’ (‘The
Military Are Liars’). Realising
that they can make a
difference as an organ of
various progressive and
leftist campaigns, Mosireen
has used the tactics of media
production and distribution
to discredit false
propaganda, fight against
military trials and
promote living
wages and rights
to housing. While
the organisation
is issue-driven
rather than
parliamentary or
presidential, it
demonstrates the
power of social
media to effect
short-term
change.
'We were the kings of social
media, and now our enemies
are catching up with us.' With
these words, Ahmed Maher,
a revolutionary hero of 2011
and co-founder of the 6th
April Youth Movement,
explained to me that today’s
battle for political power has
two-fronts. While liberal and
leftist parties need to gain
more power in the street to
catch up with a 50+ year
military regime and 80 year
Muslim Brotherhood, they
also need to develop new
tools to continue to influence
the political environment.
Blogger and activist Hossam
Hamalawy of the
Revolutionary Socialists, for
example, emphasised that an
effective website could serve
as a real-time organiser for
labour leaders across the
country, and make possible
more powerful strikes and
future uprisings. What for
Lenin was a newspaper,
could be a website for
Hamalawy.
I have never before seen a
nation where Marxism,
Islamism and military
authoritarianism are all on so
many people's lips. It seems
that any path is possible, and
all are being debated in the
public sphere, which is
increasingly being defined
by new digital technologies.
As one friend, a cab-driver
from inner-city Cairo
neighbourhood Imbebba,
told me, 'We will watch,
listen, and if we do not like
what we see - we will rise
again using Twitter and
Facebook.' Democratic
movements had existed in
Arabia long before the
advent of mobile phones
and the Internet, but with the
help of these technologies,
people with an desire for
change have managed to
build extensive revolutionary
networks, create social
capital and organise political
action.
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