The Revolution is a Friend Request Away

The Pharaoh has fallen. And now, who dunnit?

One would naturally expect TechCrunch to be onboard with the “social media ate my homework and overthrew my dictator” crowd, but not Devin Coldewey. In his opinion, it was people with a list of real-world gripes and some very effective coverage by traditional media outlets like Al Jazeera that dunnit.

Points taken. A series of Farmville-ins in Tafir Square did not move Mubarak to scram. It was people-power to the point of bloodshed and death (and thankfully very little of it).

But you do have to wonder how the Internet in general helped keep the lid on the violence. With a billion witnesses engaged real-time over Twitter and, yes, Al Jazeera, it became very difficult for the military to crack-down without everyone knowing about it faster than you can say Tiananmen Square.

And let’s face it, Washington was equally aware of the interconnectedness factor. Not to be too cynical here, but Obama’s advisors were certainly feeling the heat too. They quickly figured out that every statement they made would become part of the conversation for millions of Americans, Egyptians and everyone else. And that meant, even if the American government wanted to back its old pal Hosni, everyone was going to find out. And time will tell through some future Wikileaks, no doubt, what kinds of despicably undemocratic things were suggested in cables between Washington and Middle Eastern capitals.

Meanwhile, as the World watched, it seems clear that the dithering within the Egyptian military seemed to be partly revolving around what would happen to all the Western military aid that might evaporate if the taxpayers paying for that aid witnessed a violent crackdown.

Fact is, old media made available through live feeds of raw footage on the Internet were extremely critical to keeping things peaceful. And so were Tweets. And hyperleaks. And thousands of friend requests from Egypt. You know, from real people reaching out to other real people.


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