Revolutions through social networking websites
Governments panic at the sound of facebook, especially if that government is despotic and corrupt like Mubarak's or Assad's. Governments want to believe that they are popular, liked, and more importantly, they desperately want public opinion favouring them.
Mass people, governments hope, should not have any alternative source of power which could take away their control over the people.
Mubarak thought he could bulldoze his compatriots to surrender to his will. He thought he could control Egypt from his headquarters in Heliopless. He was deaf, dumb and blind. He did not see that Tahrir Square had already assumed power in Egypt--since that's where all the emotions, thoughts and feelings of the people converged.
Mubarak was cut off from the people. Tahrir Square represented those same people abandoned by him. Who was behind this brilliant revolution?
Facebook, twitter, myspace, blogs and other sites fuelled the engine of a new age revolution. Mobile phones, providing internet access with facebook and twitter applications, made it possible to organise anti-government rallies by social activists. They reached out to thousands who were connected to each other as 'friends.'
The underlying theme is the 'right to political activism' against threats to free speech. The right to express ones' self, especially against injustice, seek out ways that eventually defeats the forces which are against those basic rights. Bengalis did it in 1971 through an armed struggle. Arabs did it in 2011 through facebook. That is the essential transition from one generation to another.
Arab societies are still living under dictatorships, although the age of secret police is over, they are not yet free from tyranny. Ghaddafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali and Assad survived by the use of force. Secret police (makhabarat) was the public face of their cruelty. Arab youth could not speak against dictatorships without being subjected to brutality. There was always a convenient story to justify force against the public.
Dictators resorted to using causes such as protecting national security, fighting Israeli occupation of Palestine and threats of foreign (western) intervention as justifications for their criminal deeds.
A young man was tortured to death in Alexandria on allegations of spying for Israel, none of which was ever proved. Libya was the graveyard for youths who were often blamed for helping western backed anarchy. Assad continues to shell towns accusing Syrians of terrorism in own country.
Such tailor-made stories are not good enough anymore to convince the people, them being more aware nowadays of international politics and domestic issues due to internet-based news sites. Sitting in a café in Cairo Mousa Enver can browse through a dozen newspapers and an equal number of news blogs. All of which will update him about the most recent events from around the world.
Mousa has a twitter account where he tweets news on his favourite subjects. His 'followers' get one-stop global news and views through his tweets. Mousa's friends upload those stories on facebook pages where they have thousands of friends who in turn are members of groups where thousands more are members, many of them reading and commenting on those stories.
This is the new platform where news and views can circulate amongst thousands of youths in a matter of minutes. It gets more rewarding for them as readers can make 'comments', 'like' and 'share' the info with others, all of which makes them feel closer to the events.
Public opinion generates and breeds through the participation of common people, providing dictators with sleepless nights and a frantic search for revenge.
All the dictators who fell in 2011, from Tunis to Sana, blamed the Islamic bogey man al-Qaeda. They wanted to appeal to the western democracies that they were the faithful (and the last) defenders of western values in the Islamic heartland. They wanted Arabs to believe that Tahrir Square was occupied by armed jihadists, drugged by the talibans. Failing on such nonsense, they resorted to the method they are most comfortable with.
Tanks and soldiers rolled out to crush the revolts. All these years people were told that Arab governments needed guns to protect the country from Israeli or western aggression. The site of Arab forces firing on unarmed citizens unfolded the real picture. These arms and ammunitions were not meant for Israelis. They were meant for Arabs. Revolutionary youths therefore needed a much faster, more lethal and an intelligent weapon to win.
Internet technology was engaged with common people and helped them to build an opinion against their dictators. Voices against injustice were carried by a medium based on internet technology. Free speech combined with courage and assisted by the technology produced that much needed weapon of choice for revolutionariesfacebook, twitter, blogs and a bag full of courage outsmarted the mukhabarat.
BouAziza's tragic end in flames was recorded and posted on facebook. Anger and hatred at the regime were being expressed on facebook posts and being shared around the network gathering thousands for a final showdown. The secret police of Ben Ali could not track the organisers who changed their locations in anticipation of a crackdown.
Egyptians learned the game very quickly. They used facebook and twitter to organise protestors into one collective movement that galvanised at Tahrir Square. Mubarak, Ben Ali, Ghaddafi, Ali Abdallah Saleh (and hopefully Assad) must owe their hugely deserving disgraceful end in part to facebook. Arab Spring did not end with the fall of a few dictators. It may be the new hope for youths currently living under tyranny.