Free Speech

Through the web groups can expand their organizations and get in touch with the outside world. Activists have a much greater audience with sites such as “Digiactive” and Global Voices”. I went onto the sites that were mentioned in “Arab Bloggers Meet to Discuss Free speech, Reject ‘Journalist Label” and noticed that there were stories important things that I had no idea about. For example, I was able to read a story on Marcell Shehwaro, a young girl who dispatches on Syria and describes her like in Aleppo, the heart of Syria’s conflict. I was able to learn that the conditions of the people in Aleppo are much worse than I had imagined. Stories like these impact people more than the news, it has a way of connecting the reader to the person in the situation. I found it amazing that bloggers are coming together to share a common written language, as it develops solidarity. There is a difference between activists and bloggers that I had not realized, bloggers do not get the same type of security as activists. “Bloggers on the other hand don’t want to be victims or prisoners any longer than they have to be and emphasize that it shouldn’t matter what they say, only that they be allowed to say it” (Dheere 2008). Although many bloggers and journalists have things in common, bloggers do not want to be called journalists. Bloggers feel like they take a more active role in the news than reporting it. I agree, journalists seem to report news, whereas bloggers report deeper emotions and acts. Many times this blogger state of mind gets people in deep trouble, for example in Morocco Mohammad Erraji was arrested and sentenced to two years in jail for “criticizing the king’s policy of free gifts to citizens” (Dheere 2008). With the lack of security and support many bloggers, in my opinion, do not boundaries or as high of boundaries regarding the information they report. This is great as the world needs to know what is happening, but it is negative because it leads to further conflict. “The more they write, challenge, and get around the official clampdown on using blogs and other social media tools, the more sites like DigiActive can document and distribute their acts of speaking truth to power” (Dheere 2008).

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Trash Government

Originally aiming for peaceful demonstrations, the #YouStink protests turned into violent ones, resulting in riot police responding with water cannons and tear gas. The photos from the protest are hard to look at, making it hard to believe this issue would start riots – unless it is from years of anger built up against the government. Which is what happened in Lebanon: the people were not happy about the corruption in their government and how little they care about public accountability. This is reflected by them not collecting trash for  a month because they never came up with a long-term plan for after the temporary landfill has filled up.

The Lebanese government needed the pressure from its people to start making change. At the time of the movement, Lebanon had been without a president for a year. Like what Paul Amar discussed about uprisings in the Arab world, its a battle between different kinds of sovereignty, and the people usually want democracy – we saw this in the movements in Egypt, even though they did not succeed. Lebanon on the other hand, has a parliamentary government system that is divided amongst religious groups and they have an electoral system. However, in the comments of Alan Taylor’s article, the common question is “wow, Lebanon has a government?” Some people are just ignorant when they ask that, but seeing #YouStink does make you question what can the people do for the government to reform and turn into a better one.

#YouStink

The Lebanon’s #YouStink Anti-Government Protest got way out of hand, and the pictures are very disturbing. From a devil’s advocate point of view, I believe that the organization was not structured well and the group members were unaware that such intense protesting would cause so much violence. It is the organization’s job to promote peaceful protesting. “Organizers of the #YouStink campaign expressed frustration with the violent protesters, blaming “infiltrators” for the escalation of a peaceful demonstration” (Taylor 2015). Infiltrators could have escalated the protests, but it the organizations responsibility to take the blame for the uproar. Through social media organizations can express the importance of peaceful protesting. Many of us our angry with our government but there are boundaries that we all must be aware of. Due to the lack of communication and the disorganization of #YouStink “dozens of police and citizens were hurt in the clashes, and #YouStink organizers have now postponed further demonstrations planned for Monday” (Taylor 2015). I believe that the protestors are fighting for a good cause, the amount of trash and corruption in the country is unheard of but there are better ways of expressing anger. In some of the photos it does look like the government is unrightfully attacking the citizens of Lebanon by spraying water, using water cannons and beating civilians… this is a part of the corruption and why #YouStink continues to fight and protest. We are lucky to live in a country, that although is not perfect, is less corrupt and clean because of our government. Above I state that the organization might have no been structured well enough and that is why riots broke out, but I believe (not being devil’s advocate) people are rightfully angry and I am disgusted by Lebanon’s government, human should be living in such disgusting circumstances. I wonder if this anti-trash violence will spark change? I also wonder if the violence will continue until there is chance? Hopefully people come up with alternative ways of expressing anger.

Role Models vs. Leaders and the BLM

“The central contradiction of the civil-rights movement was that it was a quest for democracy led by organizations that frequently failed to function democratically.”

It is almost impossible to determine whether or not the Black Lives Matter movement, or any movement for that matter, would function better with or without leadership. On the one hand, we see how misguided and unproductive, social activism can be without a rock steady plan or a leadership to take it in a forward direction. Instead what comes to be is an amalgam of angry individuals with points of view and emotions each unique to every individual. In this kind of climate there is often nothing but rage but with no clear objective, all the potentially powerful energy sort of just dissipates and nothing is really accomplished. Then if you assign leaders to the movement, it becomes far too easy to overlook the outliers of the cause. A leader can never fully represent the entirety of everyone they speak for. And if a leader speaks only to the majority, then again the minority is neglected and the vicious cycle repeats itself. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement needs not leaders, but role models. BLM isn’t desperate for leadership to direct it where to go or what to feel. The individuals that identify with the BLM know what they feel. They can see the injustice. They know they want better for themselves and the people they love. Instead, BLM requires role models like Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks and Muhammed Ali who, as central to civil rights movements as they were, they led by example not by instruction. BLM needs to become a movements that showcases the potential and the beauty, the power, the unity, the support of black individuals. And to do that it must be achieved by looking to minority role models and understanding that that is how we want to live our lives. Because for Black Lives Matter to succeed and make real change in the world, it can’t be an organization demanding respect. It has to be a way of life commanding it.

How Egypt and the U.S. Can Help One Another

As I mentioned in class on Thursday, the fact is that social media and digital technology as a whole carries an altogether different weight in certain regions of the world. In the United States and certain parts of Europe where we can enjoy more liberties than say Egypt and other countries in the Middle East, social media and digital technology has achieved a level of trivialness to it. A large portion of media exists primarily a entertainment for the masses. In countries like Egypt, these same technologies are more of a tool to fight back against authoritarian military rule. Where we post videos of us and our friends standing still while Rae Sremmurd’s Black Beatles or paste the Jordan crying meme over anything we can, the digital generation of other countries post horrifying evidence to injustice. The digital generation of other countries create movements, an unofficial network, a system of resistance where it can only exist. The digital world is a safe haven in countries like Egypt. Don’t get me wrong, all across more privilege countries social media and the digital plane are being utilized to galvanize the masses. Especially recently, places like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr have been used to organize movements like the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and the Occupy movement. There are two things you can say about this:

The first would be that these movements are all fairly new considering when countries like the United States were first introduced to social media. This fact can be both concerning and comforting. It is concerning because it speaks to a sort of devolution of society. It seems as if more and more problems arise everyday. Every time you look at your phone a new social injustice threatens to further divide our society. But one can argue that all of these social injustices have always existed only now with the blazing fast interconnected network that is social media and the digital age, every single indiscretion is at the mercy of being highlighted and magnified and rallied against. And that’s why the fact that so many movements are popping up in the digital realm is comforting. Because people are finally beginning to understand how to use social media and other digital outlets as ways to unite and inform and fight for what is right and just. Because the internet is no longer just a place to find memes or porn or other nonsensical stuff. Because online you can find support from people you’ve never even met. All of these reasons are why things like Black Lives Matter are important and comforting.

Which brings me back to the youth of the digital age in places like Egypt. Since their inception Twitter and other social media platforms have been tools utilized by the citizenry of Egypt to fight back against the military rule. Because of this these societies have been learning how to use their digital advantage for much longer than other more privileged places. Like I said, in Egypt the capabilities of Twitter matter much more than in some parts of the United States. The power of digital technologies is not only more valuable but it has been explored more by the youth and the oppressed. It is because of this fact, the fact that the youth of Egypt have been fighting their fight for years and years in the digital realm, that the studies and research on the impacts of digital technologies on the new generation should focus in places like Egypt. Not only that, but that countries like the United States should both pay close attention, and work vehemently with digital warriors of these regions to fully explore the revolutionary power of new technology.

Understanding Egypt’s Current State

From someone who had just started learning about activism in Egypt, it is a little bit hard to believe that the 2011 revolution’s success only lasted that long. Herrera’s article helped me understand this a little bit. It went into depth about how the ‘wired generation’, or simply the youth, was able to mobilise the revolution through the internet. The article also pointed out the limitations of the wired generation – in relation to going backwards after the revolution – short attention span and lack of long term planning skills.

Herrera raised an important question: “Does our generation possess the skill sets, vision, resources and organisational know-how necessary to build and sustain the type of democratic and just society it values?”

From Egypt’s current state, its clear that the youth is able to voice their ideologies alright, but they were unable to take the leadership role themselves, and now they are unable to overthrow the regime because it has become more repressive than ever. Its government had issued highly restrictive assembly laws that banned public protests back in 2013. In the following year, Egypt’s current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gave the military even more power than they already had by placing all ‘public and vital facilities’ under military jurisdiction – this means that since protesting is illegal, civilians will be trialled in military court for doing so, which is what has been happening in Egypt for the past few years.

Before the 2011 revolution, it was police brutality, but now its the military. As shown in so many cases, they can arrest and hold people up to years without ever giving them a trail, they can torture people into confessing or they can trial them without following due process. Military court also does not have a different set of rules for juveniles, making it dangerous for anyone and everyone.

Going back to Herrera’s question about the new generation’s ability: I think it has been repressed before it could mature, and is being led into wrong directions.