As a series of fresh revolutionaries — people who just months earlier had braved the wrath of tyrants, risking life and limb — cycled on and off the stage, I found myself smiling, excited, enthusiastic, occasionally eyes tearing, leaning forward at the edge of my seat. Remember. I was at a conference, not some thriller movie.
But this was better.
These people were real. They were smart, sophisticated, funny, savvy techno-digerati– even though they came from third world, down-trodden countries.
These people were coming, exultant, joyful, proud — they’d faced dictators and tanks and armies and faced them down and won liberty and democracy and freedom.
They made some things clear.
The internet helped, but as, Riadh GUERFALI a Tunisian lawyer said, ” It’s not the internet that accelerated history. it’s that part of the UNCONTROLLED INTERNET that accelerated history.”
Guerfali also pointed out that the Wikileaks cables showing that the US would be happy to see Tunisia’s dictator fall were helpful, knowing the USA’s stance. But it would have been nice if the US had let the Tunisian people know, he pointed out.
Siva VAIDHYANATHAN, University of VA Law School, Professor of Media Studies and author of The Googlization of Dissent, predicted that the days of the free, uncontrolled use of the internet are over, saying, “It Hasn’t taken long for government to figure out how to use facebook against protesters. Nobody is going to make the mistakes the governments of Tunisia and Egypt made. “
There’s definitely some truth to that. Governments WILL learn how to scope out and identify activists. But in a good way, the use of social media and Twitter and Facebook may be too pernicious in wreaking change in the users, even if the dictators go after the protesters.
Dr. Rasha Abdulla is Associate Professor and Chair of Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo. Dr. Abdulla’s main research interest is new media and the Internet, particularly as it relates to political activism. She believes that simply using facebook changes the way people think about expression, about how they relate with others — that they have control over these things in a way they didn’t think about before.
Over and over again, the revolutionaries made it clear that facebook and twitter helped, but were just factors. The work of revolution had been going on for a long time, eroding the “iron door” as Tunisia revolutionary Houeida Anouar, described things in Tunisia, before the young man who immolated himself caused the door to swing open enough to get a toehold. (the podcast of my interview with Houeida will be up Tuesday night.)
The Revolution WAS Tweeted. Houeida Anouar, Tunisian revolutionary and social media activist, at the Personal Democracy Forum– I’m pretty sure, Tweeting.
Take a good look at the picture of Houeida Anouar. She is in revolutionary posture. YES there were certainly people out in the streets, but they were also sharing news, uploading videos of other people in the streets protesting, building the memes — the calls to protest, the calls to join the revolution. Anouar also dold me that the revolution did not start in the capitol. It started far away, where people were ripe for revolution. Only when the rest of the nation was ready did they bring the protests to the capitol. There may be something to learn from that.
Zeynep Tufeckci, University of MD, Baltimore Campus, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Sociology/Anthropology, pointed out that ” The key to successful non-violent action is that you have to be seen, have to be visible.”
Egyptian blogger, democracy activist and revolutionary said, “The fact that it’s a dictatorship does not mean that the people are complacent.”
I thought to myself how complacent the people are here in the US. Add cable TV, Fox News, forever compromising and apologizing and rationalizing liberal media and we get … soporofic happy pill people in the land of the lotus eaters.
But I digress. Seeing, talking with, picking the brains of these people fresh from Revolution, unlike our dusty 235 year old founders was an incredibly exhillarating experience. Thank god they are coming to the US. We desperately need them. Perhaps if they talk enough about their work, their courage, their comradeship — some of it might rub off on we Americans. We sorely need our own Tahrir square.
Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and site architect of OpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), President of Futurehealth, Inc, more…)www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2011/mar/22/middle-east-protest-interactive-timeline