Thursday, March 24, 2011

The weapons that are winning the wars in the middle east against their dictators who have ruled for decades is the cell phone, computer and networking sites. All things the dictators had to learn about not ever used in any war before. In Egypt, the former President Mubarak wasn’t ready for the uprising to turn so quickly on him. The dictator was in office for 30 years. Did he use a computer? Did he know that instant messages and photos can appear in an instant anywhere?
Mohamed Elbaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, was an outspoken critic against Mubarak. He wasn’t armed with anything but his voice and preached that the country needed change. President Obama always preached change in his speeches and won in America. Perhaps with a name like Obama, it gives the people courage too. The wealthy left in their private jets to Dubai. You know it is a serious situation when the wealthy leave.
Social media was the fuel that propelled the people of Egypt angry with repression, poverty, corruption and mostly with Mubarak who they believe has been robbing their country for years. It was a nasty place if you were a citizen, it was a tolerable place if you were a police officer, it was a utopia if you were with Mubarak. The youth of the country were the weapon holders. Two thirds of Egypt’s people are under 30 years old. They all got on Facebook and Twitter and said get grand-pa out of the country!!
Grand-pa I mean Mubarak saw on satellite television as we all did that in one day the majority crazy youth of that country took on the police and won. On the next day, out came the civil servants, the women and the unemployed and joined them. Perhaps he thought he could win this uprising because he was a strong friend of America’s last six Presidents. From Jimmy Carter to Obama.
In 2010 U.S. aid to Egypt totaled $1.6 billion dollars. $1.3 billion of those dollars were to go to the military there. The United States tweeted that they were not using their funds properly. The soldiers did not use violence against their own people and now the military largely funded by the U.S. is in charge there. No real plan still exists for a new leader.
The real winner is the Twitter and the Facebook revolution used first in the revolt in Tunisia and then the chaos in Egypt. Libya lies between the two regions and the social media virus has spread there too. Just across the Mediterranean Sea lies the beautiful areas of Italy and Greece all enjoying the prosperous life of democracies not Dictators. The internet was used to organize rallies and spread a message of dissent. The Egyptian revolution was clearly announced on Facebook even listing the date of January 25, 2011 as the day it would start. People quickly followed the tweets and picked themselves up from their jobs and families and all joined in the chaos in a place ironically called Liberation Square.
Later in the week, the government pulled the plug on the nation’s cellphone service. Mubarak finally figured out what the weapon was. Cutting off the people from communication, the internet blackout caused the people to be even angrier and violent and brought even more people into the streets raping, and looting.
The dictators now are being more careful.. They now know the infinite power of social networking, There is also a dark side of internet freedoms. These sites are all about sharing your information, sharing your location, all that can be very easily exploited by dictators or the secret police.
Evgeny Morozov, the author of The Dark Side of Internet Freedom says, “Using social networks can be very dangerous for political activists. We see the governments in China, Russia and Iran actively turning to the Internet to hunt for dissidents, to learn about their personal details, and to arrest them. Recently, the Iranian government hanged two Iranian activists for distributing footage of the 2009 protests there on the Internet.”
When the chaos takes over, technology takes a back seat and war is war with death and destruction. We have not seen the last of the Internet as a important role for change. For better or worse what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa historians will look back and realize there are new weapons on both sides that don’t hold bullets.

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