Communication and Revolutions

“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.

~Becky

 

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2 thoughts on “Communication and Revolutions

  1. Becky,
    I, too, was left with that question hanging over my head upon leaving class last Tuesday. And as Dr. Hayden and some of the readings suggested, certainly the potential for communication mediums to uproot a central, governing body is there; but a ‘one size fits all approach’ is also not a predictable formula. In the case of the Egyptians, I believe the circumstances were ripe for social technology use as aid in the overthrow. However, had internet infrastructure been less stable in Egypt, like the circumstance of say, Lebanon, it’s probably safe to imply that Egyptians wouldn’t have relied so heavily on it’s mediums to catalyze social change.

    While we may not be able to think of other countries whose government has been overthrown soley by communication mediums, better analysis of their power could be found in countries where access to the internet and other technical networks is restricted. For example, over the summer, while studying Arabic in Lebanon, I met a Syrian friend who revealed to me how life changing his time studying at American University of Beirut had been for him. When I questioned him further about this, he explained about circumstances in Aleppo (his home city) and how the public is only allowed access to certain information on the internet, television and radio. Upon arriving to Beirut, he suddenly found himself engulfed in media sources (from Beirut) that harshly criticized his country’s governing tactics and it opened up a world of new schools of thought that his own government denied him.

    We may not be able to attribute omnipotent political power soley to communications; however, from this friendship I concluded that a certain ‘human awakening’ can be catalyzed through access to free information flow. This sudden awareness of relative context that happened to my friend and many others across the Middle East and developing nations, can be used as a tool for both constructive and destructive purposes.

  2. Becky,
    I, too, was left with that question hanging over my head upon leaving class last Tuesday. And as Dr. Hayden and some of the readings suggested, certainly the potential for communication mediums to uproot a central, governing body is there; but a ‘one size fits all approach’ is also not a predictable formula. In the case of the Egyptians, I believe the circumstances were ripe for social technology use as aid in the overthrow. However, had Internet infrastructure been less stable in Egypt, like the circumstance of say, Lebanon, it’s probably safe to imply that Egyptians wouldn’t have relied so heavily on it’s mediums to catalyze social change.

    While we may not be able to think of other countries whose government has been overthrown soley by communication mediums, better analysis of their power could be found in countries where access to the internet and other technical networks is restricted. For example, over the summer, while studying Arabic in Lebanon, I met a Syrian friend who revealed to me how life changing his time studying at American University of Beirut had been for him. When I questioned him further about this, he explained about circumstances in Aleppo (his home city) and how the public is only allowed access to certain information on the internet, television and radio. Upon arriving to Beirut, he suddenly found himself engulfed in media sources (from Beirut) that harshly criticized his country’s governing tactics and it opened up a world of new schools of thought that his own government denied him.

    We may not be able to attribute omnipotent political power soley to communications; however, from this friendship I concluded that a certain ‘human awakening’ can be catalyzed through access to free information flow. This sudden awareness of relative context that happened to my friend and many others across the Middle East and developing nations, can be used as a tool for both constructive and destructive purposes.

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