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Egypt's Revolution 2.0: The Facebook Factor

[Image by Carlos Lattuf] [Image by Carlos Lattuf]

The call for a Day of Rage on January 25, 2011 that ignited the Egyptian revolution originated from a Facebook page. Many have since asked: Is this a “Facebook Revolution?”  It is high time to put this question to rest and insist that political and social movements belong to people and not to communication tools and technologies. Facebook, like cell phones, the internet, and twitter, do not have agency, a moral universe, and are not predisposed to any particular ideological or political orientation. They are what people make of them. Facebook is no more responsible for Egypt’s revolution than Gutenberg’s printing press with movable type was responsible for the Protestant Reformation in the fifteenth century. But it is valid to say that neither the Reformation nor the pro-democracy rights’ movements sweeping Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and much of the region would have come about at this juncture without these new tools. Digital communications media have revolutionized learning, cognition, and sociability and facilitated the development of a new generational behavior and consciousness.  And the old guard simply do not get it. 

Around the globe, far beyond Egypt and Tunisia, we are witnessing a monumental generational rupture taking place around digital literacy, and the coming of age of Generation 2.0. They take for granted interaction, collaboration, and community building on-line. The digital “non-literate” or “semi-literate” tend to be either the very poor lacking means, access to, or time for digital media, or the older generation, the pre-digitals, who do not see the value in changing their communication habits. Many from the pre-digital generation are quick to deride innovations such as Facebook and Twitter as being tools that indulge the egoistic tendencies of the young or which are colossal time wasters. While these critiques hold some validity, they capture only one side, and a small side, of a complex and epic generational sea change that is underway and that is being facilitated—not driven in some inevitable process—by the availability of new communication technologies and social tools.


This article is now featured in Jadaliyya's edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.

10 comments for "Egypt's Revolution 2.0: The Facebook Factor"

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Briiiiiliant!!! This is lucid and of great help for my Journalism Studies degree. Thank you ever so much for existing - and writing...

Jose

Jose wrote on February 12, 2011 at 09:58 AM
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May I make a summary as I see it of the 10 most important strategies for a people power revolution?

1. Don’t have a visible spokesperson or committee to speak in public for the revolution. A beast with one head can be beheaded, by assassination, arrest or smear. A many-headed creature cannot be killed.

2. Keep your aims and demands simple and don’t have too many. The more stated demands you have, the easier it is for the regime to satisfy some of them and split off support. Justice must be the first demand.

3. Use ridicule, satire and contempt as your primary weapons. This has a two-fold effect – tyrants are extremely vulnerable to embarrassment, and are unsettled by disrespectful attitudes; and at the same time a sense of humour will make you much more attractive to the outside world.

4. Your principal strategy is to make the regime uncomfortable. Anything – from striptease protests to pirate videos to simply violating existing etiquette and forms of address – is valid here. Think big in your aims and think “small and many” in your actions.

5. All despotic regimes have a state TV station – that is the principal target. Cut the cables and power lines, jam it with radio signals if you can, blockade it to stop staff getting in.

6. All despotic regimes have nations that back them or trade weapons with them – the public in those countries will be guilty about participating in your oppression. You must also target them with letters to newspapers in those countries, telephone interviews, blog comments, and all other media.

7. Don’t attack or storm any regime positions – swarm around them. Never harm anyone. Isolate anyone in your movement who urges violence, don’t allow them to act in your name.

8. Don’t act in the darkness – dictators love the night. Try to coordinate all events in the full daylight so that the videocameras can record any repressive or violent action.

9. Find out which officers command the platoons and companies on the front lines, and try to find family members of those officers who will stand with them in the protest. Also sergeants and private soldiers if possible. This reinforces the idea that the army are the people, and discourages any violent response from the soldiers.

10. Believe no promises from the authorities. Ever. Even the most democratic of politicians lie to save their positions, and a despot will lie more grandly and more readily than any other.

Please translate to Arabic if you wish and pass it on...

Alan wrote on February 12, 2011 at 10:01 AM
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AM IN DEED HAPPY FOR EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION. THIS IS QUESTION I KEEP ASKING IS. MUST THERE BE A REVOLT BEFORE A REVOLUTION? MUST THE CITIZENS SUFFER IN PENURY BEFORE DECISON OF CHANGE IN GOVERNMENT IS MADE BY THE LEADERS? MUST THEIR BE OUTSTED BEFORE A REVOLUTION? AFRICAN MY DEAR AND BELOVED COUNTRY WHY? IS TIME FOR A NEW GENERATION TO REBUILD A MORDERN NATION. I BELIEVE IN CHANGE AND YES WE CAN.

Ehimhuan Nelson wrote on February 12, 2011 at 02:13 PM
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Power to the people man! They got fed up and DID something about it.

www.anon-toolz.edu.tc

PIngoKingo wrote on February 12, 2011 at 07:55 PM
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ko

lgnamita wrote on February 12, 2011 at 08:09 PM
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The change happening from the North is the signal of the change that will sweep the continent of Africa. When the youth will rise to the full power of their agency the beasts of injustice, dictatorship, and impunity will be faced secretly on the face, thanks to the New media, and most likely beheaded.

Thanks for the great article!

Gerald wrote on February 13, 2011 at 08:12 AM
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Thank you, Professor Herrera, for these helpful remarks. Thanks also to Alan for the thought-provoking summary. In response to E. Nelson, YES. People must be driven to revolt. They will not do it unless they are desperate.

M. Fitzpatrick wrote on February 13, 2011 at 09:04 AM
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To all the people of the 25 January revolution

Did anybody think of who will be the head of the People's Assembly later on, my view is the Dr. Yehia El Gamal as a matter of fact is qualified for any position he is entrusted with, what do you think?

masreya wrote on February 25, 2011 at 12:30 PM
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We have seen the revolution in Libya. what a situation been faced by african because of greed by our leader. A leader ought to be subject to his people but african leader are for their selfish purpose. Libya revolution has brough so much questions to the international bodies. death every where. we are going to. must we suffer before to gain freedom? fellow compatriot let say no to this violence and embrace diplomacy to move forward.

Ehimhuan Nelson wrote on August 25, 2011 at 12:14 PM
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جيدجدا

anonymous wrote on March 12, 2012 at 06:22 PM

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