If you like to read the transcript click the real news link:
Since early 2012, international financial institutions have been negotiating loans for what they say will help rebuild Egypt’s ailing economy. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, [also called the EBRD], is awaiting approval from its shareholders to provide $1.5bn in annual loans to Egypt. This will be the first time since its establishment that the EBRD has lent to the Middle East. On February 2012, the EBRD published its technical assessment of the country, recommending the continuation of more than 20 years of privatization policies.
Cross-posted at BeyondtheChoir.org.
Last October Malcolm Gladwell kicked a hornet nest of social media enthusiasts, arguing that social media helped facilitate weak social ties, which are good for some things but not others. Protracted social struggle against the privileged and powerful tends to come with heavy costs, sometimes including prison, physical pain, and even death. Strong social ties are absolutely necessary for sustaining the level of commitment such struggles require, and social media doesn’t do much for cultivating such ties, Gladwell argued.
Gladwell came off as almost entirely dismissive of the value of social media, and that upset people. If he was trying to provoke a dialogue, he clearly succeeded.
Over all, I agree with Gladwell’s emphasis and I argued at the time that people who love social media may be inclined to overstate its real-change value:
From outside of Egypt, it is difficult to see which group identities, social infrastructure, and organizations are playing what roles in encouraging and emboldening such a strong collective mobilization. But it’s really easy to read tweets. It’s easy to latch onto the mechanisms that are within our experience. As the saying goes, if the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. Today, if you spend all of your time online, you might be inclined to overvalue its worth. You might be more likely to read an article that discusses how to improve your Twitter presence than an article that explores how to talk to your family about a difficult political issue. Social media is low-hanging fruit. Any savvy young person can learn to text message, tweet, and update their status — and that’s all fine. But we need organizers who can pull the people around them into higher-risk action.
An article by Noam Cohen in Sunday’s NY Times adds dimension to this debate on the social change value of social media:
THE mass media, including interactive social-networking tools, make you passive, can sap your initiative, leave you content to watch the spectacle of life from your couch or smartphone.
Apparently even during a revolution.
Cohen is reporting on a new thesis titled “Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest”, by Yale political science graduate student Navid Hassanpour.
Hassanpour suggests close to the opposite of what many have taken for granted about the role of social media in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak; that the disruption of the regular functioning of social media may have contributed to revolutionary organizing more than its utility. Then-President Mubarak’s decision to shutdown Internet and cellphone service may have shifted cognitive and social processes in favor of revolutionary change. From the NY Times article:
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Just as Tantawi expelled the protesters from Tahrir Square in Egypt after the fall of Mubarak, refused to punish those who had harmed the protesters (and has in fact begun a crackdown on the protesters themselves), and left the neoliberal policies of the former government mostly intact, so we will soon see Libya settle down after its childish outburst against the status quo. After all, revolution is bad for business.
Those darned Arabs and their revolutions… Gee, they need to grow up, don’t they? They could take a few pointers from our Democrats.
The fighting hasn’t even ceased in Tripoli, but the oil companies are right outside the gates, waiting to be let back into the country to suckle at the teat of largest fossil fuel cash cow (ugly image, I know) in Africa:
As Reuters reported Monday night, the Italian oil company Eni SpA has already sent staff into the country to evaluate the oil facilities. The Dutch company Shell, the French company SA, and Qatar’s national oil company are also eager to get in.
The people haven’t even had the chance to enjoy the illusion that their actual, in-every-sense-of-the-word revolution was worth it, that all the blood and loss and devastation was for something, that now they get to rule themselves, and already there are oil speculators in their country. Wow, markets are efficient, aren’t they?
It’s not just the oil companies, either. The so-called National Transitional Council has not only had no real hand in the push on Tripoli, it was even willing to try to compel the rebels to halt their advance if Gaddafi would accept an offer of safe passage out of Libya. This at the eleventh hour when victory in Tripoli was all but past.
The self-appointed Transitional Council, the Guardian reports, includes “several people who only recently defected from Gaddafi’s government.” Such as, for instance, Mustafa Abd El Jalil, the chair of the NTC, who was also Gaddafi’s former Minister of Justice. He defied Gaddafi and defected, sure, but let’s face it – wouldn’t you?
A new Egyptian government investigation into the nearly-three-week revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in February paints a sinister portrait of a desperate police state relying on snipers, thugs and other forces that led to the deaths of at least 846 people.
The lead judge on the fact-finding commission said Tuesday that Mubarak was at least indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of protesters at the hands of police officers and Interior Ministry agents. The study was released days after the 82-year-old former leader was held for questioning in the killings and concerning wider corruption during his nearly 30 years in power.
“What is confirmed is that Mubarak’s permission” was needed for such a response, said Judge Omar Marwan. “The shooting lasted for several days, and he did not interfere to stop it or hold accountable those who fired live rounds.”
He added: “This confirmed his involvement in responsibility.”
Look at that: Accountability! Investigations! Looking back! Can we get some of that here in the U.S. too?
Matt Stoller has been on fire drawing the connections between our common moment here in the US and in the Middle East. His latest is The Liquidation of Society versus the Global Labor Revival.
As Daniel Ellsberg once said, “Courage is contagious.” And what happened in Wisconsin came from the inspiration of seeing millions of powerless people join together and overthrow a regime in Egypt. It didn’t come from union leaders, who have been perpetually unprepared for the onslaught against them. Just look at the webpage of the AFL-CIO of Wisconsin. It looks like it was designed by Geocities in 1997. Yet, #wiunion has been trending on and off for a week on Twitter and has inspired actions all over the country (check out the Cheesehead protest in NYC).
Perversely, people may be so beaten down that they only want to side with institutions that are visibly and aggressively advocating for them. This might lead them to recognize that middle class interests are aligned with those of labor, which was the widespread view in the first generation after World War II. However, that also means that the de facto business unionism of the 1970s onward isn’t appealing. People might only like unions when they see strikes, otherwise all they hear about is backroom negotiations. Perhaps effectively striking is actually the way to force people to ask questions about what kind of country they want to live in. I haven’t seen this much labor coverage since, well, ever in my lifetime. There seems to be multiple feedback loops at work: political, global, and economic.
Matt’s right – this truly is a moment where we need to choose between the ethics of MLK or Andrew Mellon.