The transformation of the Middle East uprisings into viable revolutions has led many commentators to dub these the Facebook/Twitter/Google Revolution of the Youth. Certainly the social networks and the tools of digital media have opened unexplored avenues to political protest and action, but the principles of nonviolent social change remain the same: you need to win over the populace to force the hand of the power elite.
There is no monopoly on the most effective way to do this and methods and techniques are always being tweaked. While some dispute the central role the social media technologies have in the protests in usurping more traditional forms of organizing, it has certainly become clear that the best organizers and activists are those who can navigate the social networking world with speed, savvy, and principle. There is a reason the bloggers and journalists are being targeted in Egypt; not only is their cause worthwhile on principle, but they put together an attractive, convincing message.
A recent Facebook video I found, “A New Egypt,” captures the passionate seriousness, creativity, and commitment that is found in Tahrir Square and the streets of Egypt. It is emotional and informative. It grabs you with its music, its images, its sound. It does not mince words, letting the heartbreaking reality and risk of what many Egyptian protesters face sink in, but not without the promise that a New Egypt is possible.
The video editing reflects the filmmaker’s audience – this is for you, today. It gives context and legitimacy to the pro-democracy movement (which, all things considered, has been incredibly nonviolent on the anti-Mubarak protesters part). It exposes the regime for what it is without humiliating its opponent. It gives voice to those who’ve gone unheard for too long and hope to sustain the struggle. Most importantly, in 8m 36s, it tells the attractive story of the Egyptian uprising…and goes viral, strengthening the Egyptian movement and international solidarity.
For those of us who might fall more on the Luddite-side of things, responding with skepticism to the apparent endless onslaught of new technological consumer goods and mediums, perhaps we too can find ways to craft a message encouraging appropriate relationship to technology. Human creativity will certainly find ways to deal with any problem, just as we witnessed how Egypt kept the protests strong despite having the Internet and telecommunications networks shut down.
As long as we understand the reasons why the social network and digitial media are important – and know the foundation those mediums rest upon – we still retain the abilities and skills to organize, convince, and convey a political message no matter what resources remain available to us. Because in a revolution, at the end of the day, your iPhone or Facebook account will not protect you from the harassment, harm, torture, disappearance or death that a struggle for justice against tyranny demands.
It is that willingness to suffer, the courage of the Egyptians – and all those in the Middle East and elsewhere who voice their opposition to injustice – that overthrows dictators.Twitter gets the assist.