…a title that’s about as catchy as Jay and Silent Bob Do The World…and with about the same level of connection with the real world…Facebook and Twitter did NOT overthrow the President of Egypt, nor were they much more than enablers for communication (until the Egyptian government turned the internet lights out anyway). A population taking to the streets to demand the removal/resignation of a leader is not that common but it’s also not THAT unusual…Anyone who thinks that the ‘power’ of social networks created an unstoppable critical mass is living in LaLaLand (L3) – that the demonstrations continued after the net was switched off is a good combat indicator here.
If the conditions are right and there are some suitably skilled organisers/agitators available, then mass demonstrations are pretty easy to orchestrate…there are plenty of examples of this across history even prior to the invention of the interweb…to focus too much on social networking software is to distract oneself from the more important topics of the networks themselves AND who is manipulating them.
That a Google executive was involved in this right from the start is indicative of some form of leadership, planning and organisation and NOT of the spontaneous mass uprising that many in the media would have us believe this transfer of leadership relied on. I can’t not say transfer of power because it is simply too early to determine where the real power will lie…I also wonder how many remember how Hosni Mubarak came to power and that his strong consistent hand has probably saved Eqypt from the Moslem Brotherhood of Really Bad People Out For Some Headlines and World Peace (or some such group)…noting that and the lack of any sort of succession plan, I wonder how Google defends its ‘Do No Harm’ motto if Egypt continues to unravel (think it’s run it’s course)?
Much as I’d like see see the recent event in Tunisia and Egypt as a triumph for the information militia, I just can’t see any proof that it was…the upside of the information militia for the most part remains collaborative discussion on the like of Small Wars Journal whose discussion board and blog continue to make my brain run marathons; the downside is the like of Michael Yon who continues to just not get it.
Yes, I am miffed (but not that surprised) that he can blatantly claim that he has only ever blocked/banned 14 people from his Facebook page when the number is well above that; and doubly miffed that my name doesn’t appear on the list of those blocked – I learned today that one should only consider oneself banned if one also ‘unlikes’ Mike on FB as well – preschool hairsplitting at its best. I’m not losing sleep over Mike’s antics – following his FB page is like watching a good soap: you keep watching just to see what inanity happens next – but it annoys me that his antics drag others in the information militia down with him…what force would ever want an embed (from anywhere) are reading Mike’s slurs on GEN McCrystal and BGEN Menard last year? Or after considering the damage he has done to the coalition by constantly attacking key members of coalition forces – who needs the Taliban when Mike’s on your side?\
The Yon saga has been laid out in three interesting threads here:
I think the guy just needs some perspective in his diet and needs to get over being a 19 year old E-5 and look to what he is really good at (besides pissing people off and mudslinging) and get back to telling the human side of conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan, and also offer an alternative perspective to events like Thailand’s recent Red Shirt troubles – when he was there: reporting from afar on Egypt does really cut the mustard…
On the topic of internet shutdowns, Wired has an interesting but pretty light article (PDF: US Has Secret Tools to Force Internet on Dictators _ WIRED) on the US’ apparent ability to turn it back on if it so desired – this concept is not really cutting edge. Yes, the delivery mechanisms will have a certain geeky appeal but the concept has its roots in the Voice of America broadcasts over the Iron Curtain and the Allied broadcasts into occupied Europe (you remember, Europe, the last time that everyone else had to come save you) during WW2. In Tom Clancy’s The Bear and The Dragon, Beijing after the US unleashed free (in every sense of the word) braodcasts into Chinese TV and radio systems, spurring a (you guessed it) population uprising.
And there we are back where we started…the good old spontaneous uprising…when it all gets post-mortemed, I am fairly confident that the dead Germans will have played a strong hand in all of it…that is, that the popular interpretation of Clauswitz’ trinity will bear out: there will have been a leadership group, an action arm and, coming a very slow third (like always), ‘the people’, the poor old bloody people…Small Wars Journal has on its blog, a very robust discussion entitled A Populace-Centric Foreign Policy which talks about the role of ‘the people’ and how best to engage them…it was quite satisfying for a while (won’t last) to see some other contributors following my practice of parenthesising ‘the people’ as an indication that the word represent influence and power that doesn’t really exist…
PS…when I post links to online discussions, it is with the faint hope that one or two readers might be bold enough to contribute their own thoughts to those discussions…Small Wars especially has not pretty impressive street cred in its active community (yeah, I know, they list Mike Yon as a author but no one’s perfect)…I recently read through some of the 65-odd pages of the ‘Introduce Yourself‘ thread and was humbled to see in whose presence I virtually walk…