“Can communication take down a government?” This was the question with which I left class last Thursday. This was the question that I continued to roll around in my mind throughout the weekend. The more I have thought about the question, the more I don’t think that communication alone can bring down a government, however, I do think that it can aid in accomplishing such a lofty goal. And yet, the argument can be made that the “Arab Spring”, particularly the Egyptian Revolution, occurred because of communication technology.
Now, I spent a little bit of time in Egypt about a year before the revolution occurred (January 2010-May 2010) and while I was there, there was a distinct feeling that something big was coming. I can remember walking down the streets and seeing/hearing of protests at least once a week. The impending elections were also a big point of tension when I was there and that was a good year before the revolution happened. People were just upset, angry and disappointed with the government. Thus, they decided to do something about it. In this particular case, protest and try to bring about a better life for themselves. The communication technologies that they used, twitter, facebook, etc., were only aids to helping them accomplish their intended goal. It made spreading the word of holding a protest in Tahrir Square much faster, but it didn’t change the fact that the sentiment in Egypt for change was already boiling and bubbling. And let’s not forget that even when the government hit the kill switch and took the Internet down in Egypt, people still continued to gather and protest.
But, just because Egypt only used the communication technology as an aid in their revolution doesn’t necessarily discount that it could in fact take down a government. The only problem I’m having with the other side of that argument is that I can’t think of any government overthrows that have resulted solely due to communication technology. There has always seen to be an underlying current or point of tension that sparks the initial flame.