We read what we want, we watch what we want, we use internet. Here’s a joke for you “Why do the Middle Eastern youth protest and demonstrate in the streets, don’t they have Facebook?” That is a real joke being circulated amongst the disenfranchised Middle Eastern and North African youth and it emphasises the exact point of this post. The Internet is supporting real political change in the Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and more.
It is an undeniable fact that the hard-core resistance movements that have existed for decades in these countries provide the backbone for the recent actions. Without this old-guard none of the protests and demonstrations would of taken place, and this must never be forgotten.
It is not Internet alone that has made it all possible. The difference today, from the protests before, is that the Internet provides a glue that holds greater amounts of people together. With a huge ground swell of young people, averages say that 60% of the region has a population of under 30, combined with modern communications technology (social networking, satellite television, computers, mobile phones and the Internet) produces a recipe for change and permanent change.
These young people want political freedom and liberty to work and build successful lives for themselves. The Internet not only drives their ambitions by showing them how free people live, but can make the changes happen in themselves. Freedom of information never meant so much, the leaders of the countries mentioned above always concoct the same old stories of how outsiders (the old imperial powers of Europe and America) are rocking the boat in order to gain control for themselves. Through social web networks it’s clear to see that these political movements are utterly and completely homegrown, and in fact has Europe and the US scared as it shakes up old alliances.
Another very important role the Internet has played is to broadcast acts of outrageous state violence in trying to shut-down the protests. Before information could be shared so freely, easily and speedily, protests could be stamped out with the most horrendous violence. Stories would circulate of state repression but so too would stories of protesters acting uncontrollably. As has been seen by mobile phone footage of pro-Mubarak supporters using cars to run-down anti-Mubarak supporters, and Libyian security forces openly firing upon protesters, innocent people really are being killed for simply wanting freedom. This makes the world sympathetic to the opposition cause, something the established regimes do not want to happen.
Another case in point is that of Khaled Said. Mr. Said was pulled out of an Internet cafe and beaten to death by Egyptian policeman for looking at opposition websites. A Facebook group was set up to remember Khaled’s death, it gained support of 600,000 people and was one of the key humanist stories that stirred up the emotions of Egyptians to give them the strength to protest.
With attempts by the authorities to shut down telecommunications the repression becomes all too clear. The beauty of the Internet is that it makes vast sums of money and is untilised by all aspects of business from small home businesses to the largest of banks, they all use the Internet to trade. When the authorities shut down the net it causes huge economical implications for the whole country, the leaders of these regimes like getting rich by they hurt themselves by blocking communication. It is kind of like a catch 22 situation for the regimes.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of these protests. My feeling is a positive one, some say that it is going to lead to religious radicalism, but I think that the youth simply want to work and enjoy spending the rewards from that work.
The game is over.