The revolution in Tunisia was credited at least in part to Twitter, and now it appears that the spark that lit the revolt in Egypt was a page on Facebook originated by a Google employee organizing a demonstration starting on January 25th. To everyone’s surprise, the people not only showed up but the crowds kept growing for each of the past 18 days.
Of course, the linchpin in this transfer in political power was the forbearance of the Egyptian military. Egypt has existed under a military regime since 1952 so it was not clear that they would support the demonstrators or turn and fire on them as has happened so many times in autocratic nations without any other process for protest.
At this point no one knows the mind of Mubarak or what went on behind closed doors in the Presidential Palace, but the results speak louder than all of the conflicting speeches for the past two weeks. This truly was a non-violent civil rights revolt in the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and the United States was not in its usual role of manipulating behind the scenes. We have a long and unfortunate history in the Middle East of propping up dictators to secure oil rights ever since the British protectorates following WW I.
The CIA, the State Dept., and the Dept. of Defense were all following events on television although we presume that they also had some other resources available. But they were caught off guard just like everyone else and were reacting rather than being ahead of the game.
So what does this have to do with writing and citizen journalism? Well, the game has changed. The American television networks also were behind the game with Aljazeera way out in the lead all the way. I followed their daily English language broadcasts on my computer since they were not available on my cable TV provider. They were broadcast live from Cairo (and occasionally from Alexandria) without commercials and with professional reporters on the scene. I had a personal interest in events since I have a friend in Alexandria who is an American citizen. I still don’t know what happened to her. I did not follow events on Facebook or Twitter, and she doesn’t use a computer.
These events overshadowed the acquisition of the Huffington Post by AOL. I’m still trying to sort out the business potential of blogging, and one friend who blogs for the Huffington Post enlightened me and others in the Triangle Area Freelancers Google group on what he has accomplished contributing to that service.
Are the days of print media and broadcast television ultimately doomed? It is too soon so say whether it may become an incremental process such as happened from the changeover from radio to TV, when each medium found its own niche market. The rapid evolution of the WWW 2.0 and wireless networks in the past decade appears to be a complete game changer with many developing nations leapfrogging over the developed nations who aren’t as nimble and held back by entrenched economic interests.
Stay tuned for rapidly evolving market developments in media, markets, economies, and nation-building efforts.