Or so says Manuel Castells of the role of the internet and social media in the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year.
Enough of the fun and games with music and art and sharing – on to the real questions – is the internet overthrowing governments?
The role of the social media in the uprising in Egypt and Tunisia has been discussed endlessly and the way in which some arguments are being framed, it is almost like Facebook and Twitter got together over coffee and decided to overthrow the government for laughs. I think it is important to clarify that social media didn’t cause the Arab uprising but it did enable it.
A quote that sums up the situation nicely comes from Sam Guston in this Wired article:
‘If three decades of violent repression and despotic rule were kindling for the Egyptian revolution, social media was both a spark and an accelerant for the movement.’
The discontent many young people in Egypt and Tunisia had felt for years finally had an outlet, they were able to share their feelings and organise together.
It is simplistic to say that social media caused the Arab uprising. Years of violence and repression caused the uprising. There are a whole lot of countries with large social media communities that have not had an attempt to overthrow their leader. An example you may be aware of, Australia. Well, not yet anyway, but the way the Carbon Tax debate is going, I wouldn’t be too surprised. As Castells states the internet was a necessary but not sufficient condition for the uprising and the roots of the rebellion were in ‘exploitation, oppression and humiliation.’ It was these factors that caused the uprising but it was the internet and social media which allowed dictatorships which had been stable for decades to be overthrown with overwhelming pace.
Hirschkind, Charles (2011) ʻFrom the Blogosphere to the Street: The Role of Social Media in the Egyptian Uprisingʼ, Jadaliyya <http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/599/from-the- blogosphere-to-the-street_the-role-of-social-media-in-the-egyptian-uprising>