Emphasis on Social Networks Does a Disservice to Egyptian Protesters

In a recent post titled You Can’t Tell Egypt’s Players Without a Scorecard we excerpted an essential piece on Egypt by Paul Amar, Associate Professor of Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, at Jadaliyya. He explains that, Egypt (as, we observe, in Iran with Ayatollah Khameini) isn’t ruled by a single supreme leader, but by a tangle of governmental and security departments with competing agendas.

Meanwhile, many are celebrating the spontaneity of the protests and how they seemed to arise from the Egyptian masses energized by the electrical current of social media. But that does a deep disservice to the social consciences, years of hard work, and heritage of many in Egypt. Or as Amar explains, “. . . behind the scenes of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Facebook-driven protest waves, there are huge structural and economic forces and institutional realignments at work.”

To wit:

With the burgeoning youth population now becoming well organized, these social and internet-coordinated movements. . . . can be grouped into three trends. One [group is] organized by and around international norms and organizations, and so may tend toward a secular, globalizing set of perspectives and discourses. A second group is organized through the very active and assertive legal culture and independent judicial institutions in Egypt. . . . A third . . . represents the intersection of internationalist NGOs, judicial-rights groups and the new leftist, feminist, rural and worker social movements.

Also:

. . . there has been a return of very powerful and vastly organized labor movements, principally among youth. 2009 and 2010 were marked by mass national strikes, nation-wide sit-ins, and visible labor protests often in the same locations that spawned this 2011 uprising. . . . Then just on 30 January 2011 clusters of unions from most major industrial towns gathered to form an Independent Trade Union Federation.

Finally:

. . . the critical, and often overlooked role that Egypt has played in United Nations and humanitarian organizations. . . . Muhammad ElBaradei. . . . bravely led the IAEA and was credited with confirming that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Iran was not developing a nuclear weapons program. . . . For much of the week, standing at his side at the protests has been Egyptian actor Khaled Abou Naga who has appeared in several Egyptian and US films and who serves as Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

Ultimately:

This may be much more a UN-humanitarian led revolution than a Muslim Brotherhood uprising. This is a very twenty-first century regime change – utterly local and international simultaneously.