It’s basically impossible to ignore the obvious major drawback of crowdsourcing: the unreliability of the data it gathers. Taking HarassMap as an example, it’s not a far stretch to image fake or otherwise untrustworthy incidents being reported. This is not to say that in Egypt (and worldwide really) sexual harassment doesn’t exist, because it very much does, this is only to point out that the idea of crowdsourcing incidents like this is not completely reliable. What I personally love about this project isn’t the data at all, but rather the fact that it’s managed to do the impossible. HarassMap, against all odds, has managed to inject sexual harassment and the maltreatment of women in Egypt to the forefront of social discussion. This in itself is monumental. I was shocked and angry and completely dumbfounded when I read that victims often didn’t even report their abuses because cops, the very institutions that we would think of to go to in times of crises not only didn’t defend their rights and privacy, but they were the ones abusing them as well. I became terrified thinking about the prospect of living in a society where the rights of women are so far removed from social norm that even the law enforcement was harassing half the population with abandon. When you fall that low in terms of your place alongside other genders in society it becomes nearly impossible to reclaim yourself. When you matter so little that 99% of you can be sexually harassed and still nothing is done about that horrible injustice, it’s terrifying. Personally I would’ve given up faced with those odds. And that’s why I love HarassMap so much. That’s why I love so much what they were able to accomplish. Using their greatest strengths, their numbers, their connectedness via cellphones, victims and their supporters alike are able to shed a light on this very real issue. When they were turned away by the institutions that are supposed to protect them, they found the strength and the will in each other to address the issue. There’s just something so powerful and inspiring and respectable about how these women have fought back against their oppression that I admire completely.
The idea of a completely autonomous, free, unchecked blogger corps is an interesting double edged sword. On the one hand it is the fundamental right of human beings to not only be able to access the internet as a public good, but to be able to post, search for, and partake in whatever they desire on the web. It is a right for the individual (and after all what is the blogger if not a private citizen free of regulations and censorship that news publications might impose on journalists?) to speak their mind and to draw from their own personal experiences to perhaps connect with or inform other individuals on the internet. That being said, a blogger corps does not carry with it the credibility of the journalist and the news publication. Just as it is unchecked in regards to censorship, it is unchecked factually. The blogger is free to publish whatever they desire. Now often times the blogger is motivated to publish content because of very real circumstances, very real injustice, very real and raw emotion. But the fact remains the same, the blogger’s content is unchecked for everything, including the truth. That being said, I think it is extremely necessary to protect the existence and the rights of blogger and the individual existence of opinion on the net just as much as it is important to protect the right of the fourth estate. The two do to have to exist in unison. The two, although both dealing in the developments of society, actually cover vastly different areas of the human condition. The news outlet can remain as the factual news source while the blogosphere becomes the source for the actual emotion the experience of the oppressed. Both remain very real, both can work together in unison to appeal to both the logos and pathos of the individual in order to inform the public, but where they divide and become different is where the blogger must be protected. The publication of personal biases may be a double edged sword but it is nonetheless a basic human right.
“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.
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.
The youth’s greatest advantage over the oppressive systems that it finds itself in, is the understanding and ability to quickly embrace new technology. The youth often lives in a separate world and the youth of today find that world in the digital realm. the young people of today who are disgruntled and unsatisfied by their governments more likely than not can find refuge in the internet. They can also find a means to fight back. Because the media is relatively new, things like social media and there outlet are dominated primarily by young users. It is here that the youth can organize to topple old institutions and practices. The youth shapes the future. The youth alone can correct the injustices of older generations.
To reduce Khaled Said to nothing more than his imperfections is incredibly irresponsible in regards to fighting the injustice that very much exist today. The same can be said when people insist that Trayvon Martin was a thug. There is absolutely no crime that could warrant the murder of unarmed civilians by veteran police officers who are trained specifically to detain not kill. Especially not when much of the socio-economic factors that push individuals into tough lifestyles are created by the forces that so eagerly label them as “thugs” and “hoodlums”. To accuse individuals of wrong doings as some sort of justification for their murder is to brush away and hide the actual fact that women, minorities, and other groups face very real oppression.
The beautiful thing about the We Are all Khaled Said movement is that it is not the only movement. Khaled Said can stand for torture and abuse. Eric Garner can stand for unnecessary police brutality. Sandra bland can stand for the neglect, corruptness, and unfairness of the jail system. As many injustices as take place in this new age of technology, thats how many movements will pop up. WAAKS does not have to encompass every single problem but rather serve to galvanize the youth and justice seekers to take a harder look at their society and find the other problems. The WAAKS and other Egyptian youth movements may not work perfectly but they do work. Especially in a country where freedom of speech is not granted to all, that’s saying something.
In order for the youth, the generation of tomorrow, to defeat the socio-economic and political oppression of the regimes of old, they must embrace the technologies and possibility of the future. The youth must constantly look for ways to stay ahead of the curve. To reinvent itself. The youth must always adapt and continue to fight for a better world by leaving the world of yesterday. The only way to leave the world of yesterday is to live in today and tomorrow. And by fixing our todays, the yesterdays of the future become a source of pride not shame.
Perhaps the most terrifying revelation to be had after reading the two articles is the fact that not only are the uprisings in Arab countries emblematic of a much larger issue, but the catalysts and the reasons for which the uprisings occur the first place are actually present in dozens and dozens of countries around the world. The problem is growing so fast, with the power of the people being eroded so effectively, that authoritarian rule, economic misery, a growing gap between rich and poor, widespread corruption, and so much more are all commonplace in most governments. It is frightening to realize that every single one of those problems is present in the American government today. With a twitter troll president elect who has the power to destroy company stock by the whims of fingers that type heinous messages 140 characters at time, to the untold power of potentially appointing three supreme court justices, Donald Trump is eerily skirting the line between democracy and authoritarianism. His wealthy cabinet appointments and willingness to allow Wall Street to police itself are also lending doubts to the sentiment that one day soon the gap between the rich and poor will be finally closed. And most recently, allegations that his campaign team might have worked with Russian agencies to weaken the DNC during the election race, also depict corruption that reaches the highest levels of two of the most powerful countries in the world. Couple all of those things with the fact that an ever-growing mass of young people, angry at the climate that they find themselves in, are not afraid to stand up to the traditions of old, and the entire American social system mirrors almost perfectly the trials and tribulations that people in Arab countries face.
The major difference between the two is that in the United States of America, citizens have a right to question and to disagree and to fight for what is right. Often times in Middle Eastern and North African countries the people are subjected to the impulses and tempers of those who govern them. The people of eastern countries have it far worse than the citizens of the United States. But much like how law abiding citizens are being thrown in jail for speaking their minds, black men and women are slaughtered in the street for being nothing but a different race. The American way of life is under attack more than it ever has been and it is under attack by its own self. It is as close to the hardships that Arab countries face everyday, than it ever has been. It’s sad that it’s taken for us to get to this point to perhaps start to comprehend what’s happening all over the world but from experience and from trying to solve our own issues we can hopefully now start to pay attention to what’s going on outside our own borders. We can now work to fix our own society while at the same time help to rebuild and free other people from their own suppression using what we learn to free ourselves.
What I ultimately collected from the two readings by Joel Beinin and Joe Stork was the importance of learning about social movements and social movement theories. The message that the two articles give is robust and understanding the social circumstances of different countries is vivid. Something that normally catches my attention when it comes to these social operations is the wear and tear that the citizens of a nation have to go through in order to make progress. Before I began reading these pieces, I expected to expand my knowledge on social movements in the Middle East. Of course, these articles had fantastic details on different countries and their justice movements. What I enjoyed most was reading about how these Arabic figures used their intelligence in literature and philosophy to create movements and push them forward. Also, learning about the preparations of these intense revolutions and internal conflicts between different rights leaders made for a good reading experience. One thing I’m curious about (from Joel Beinin and Frederic Vairel’s reading) is how do citizens safely advertise their thoughts and opinions against the government/military? Thinking about such a question reminds me how lucky I am to have the ability to voice my opinion through social media. However, the true spotlight I believe, is in the impact that is created by the people involved in these movements. “The element of surprise and the end of political apathy of large sectors of the population have embodied and set in motion dynamics of political change, varying from one country to another.” The article conclusively explains that the hasty spread of violence is absolutely unacceptable and therefore, people should understand the dynamics of what people are going through across the world. There are multiple countries with citizens going through hardship and understanding their social conditions is important because they need help and one day, what is happening over there could eventually hit the U.S.