The Revolution Shall be Tweeted

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The prophets of social media are getting excited.  Not only can such forms of media as Twitter and Facebook often prove to be banal time wasters, they can also generate revolutionary excitement.  Communities connected by messages instantaneously gather to promote their demands on political change.  Tribes of cyber connected groups gather to post messages and terrify officials.

The case with Egypt is being touted as a classic example of this movement.  Various facebook groups numbering in the tens of thousands have mushroomed. Their demands are various: an end to the emergency powers that have held the country hostage for over three decades; a desire for reforms targeting corruption.  Protests are being arranged and coordinated through the various formats and the government is worried.

The protesters have derived momentum from the events in Tunisia, which have seen the former leader President Zine el-Albidine Ben Ali ousted.  He is now wanted on an international arrest warrant.  A contagion of popular sentiment is seemingly sweeping the regimes of North Africa, threatening to undermine governments with the swiftness of a tweeted text.  The dynamics of each case will, however, be different.

The Obama administration has found itself in a characteristically awkward position.  Keen to give support to the intangible voice of revolution on the one hand, but clear that outright support would be tantamount to direct interference, it finds itself neatly perched on the diplomatic fence.  Egypt remains an annual recipient of over a billion dollars of US military aid, something the protesters have been keen to point out.  The last thing the publicity machine behind Obama wants to see are Egyptian security forces using American weapons on protesters.

It would easy to mistake the effectiveness of such a movement.  Exaggeration, as Kahlil Galbran reminds us, is a truth that has lost its temper.  And it is with much temper that we are viewing the current revolution by social media in Egypt.  Even the government has succumbed to a sense of terror about the media.  Twitter has been banned for a few days now.  Facebook has been reported to be inaccessible at various stages (PC Mag, Jan 27).  But for all of this, where is the talk these days about the Iranian revolution that never took place, despite being frothed and bubbled along by Facebook followers and aficionados?  President Armadinejad remains in power, his opponents seemingly silent.

The Egyptian rubric of potential revolution is also complicated.  Destabilise the veteran President Hosni Mubarak in the name of popular revolution, and one risks creating a vacuum of resentment that might be filled by the fundamentalists of the Islamic Brotherhood.  Many Egyptians are speaking about a nascent popular revolt, but such inspired movements can be vague in form.  Discussions of the ‘people’ are always abstract and prone to mystification.

In the end, technology cannot, of its own accord, engender revolution.  People, for ill or good, are what drive it.  Perhaps it will be less the incidents of Facebook and Twitter and more the meetings organized through mosques and religious gatherings where the greatest impact will be had.  Mosques, unless Facebook, can’t be shut down or entirely blocked.  Armed ideas expressed in public settings are far more dangerous than tweets typed in rapid form from a gathering of political dissidents.  The medium can never be the message when it comes to overthrowing regimes.  The message must come from within.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 03, 2015
Lynn Holland
For the Love of Water: El Salvador’s Mining Ban
Geoff Dutton
Time for Some Anger Management
Jack Rasmus
The New Colonialism: Greece and Ukraine
Norman Pollack
American Jews and the Iran Accord: The Politics of Fear
John Grant
Sorting Through the Bullshit in America
David Macaray
The Unbearable Lightness of Treaties
Chad Nelson
Lessig Uses a Scalpel Where a Machete is Needed
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System