Egypt: The revolution will not be Twitterized

A plainclothes policeman runs to attack a foreign journalist as others beat a protester during a demonstration in Cairo. (Photo: Reuters via the New York Post)

UPDATED BELOW:

Or, um, tweeted. But y’know trying to play off that Gil Scott-Heron classic…..

Anyway. Enough, already, with the social media self-congratulations.

It ain’t about Facebook, and it ain’t about Twitter. It’s not an app that makes someone jump into a phalanx of armed, shielded riot cops, or to deal with the thug in the picture above.

Indian filmmaker Parvez Sharma’s post on Mondoweiss makes the point well:

[T]his “revolution” is not about social networking and its success. The majority of the 80 million people of Egypt live in abject poverty. They do not even have cell-phones let alone smartphones like the iPhone or the Droid. They go to kiosks to make calls. A pretty substantial number of them have NEVER used the internet and do not have email accounts: the complicated mechanisms of self-promotion and information gathering and sharing on social networks is not a part of their lives—they have never had the money or the resources to get access to this other world which often lives in the relatively more affluent neighborhoods like Zamalek or Garden City or Mohandaseen—all within some walking distance of where the dissent started in Tahrir Square.

The majority of the protesters in Cairo, in Suez, in Alexandria, in Luxor, in Mahla, in Manoura and all over this ancient land which is the very heart of what it means to be Arab—are not “twittering” or “facebooking” or “emailing”  or even watching the landmark live coverage that Al-Jazeera is providing. They are out on the streets—and yes, without phone access—risking their lives and giving vent to three decades and perhaps more, of anger.

Note: At the moment that link seems not to be working. Mondoweiss is down. I actually linked from this cached page.

UPDATE:  Sharma is unable to post on Mondoweiss, still down as I type (12:30 ET), so he has offered this update on Brian Whitaker’s blog:

My friend Fouad was able to get on the landline again. His body and soul are still bruised and yet he has never been more hopeful. His severe anger at Hosni Mubarak’s speech full of lies and his ambivalence about the appointment of Omar Soliman, the head of intelligence as the new vice president.

It a fragmented conversation on a still functioning landline. And as bullets do rain all around him, here are his bullet points. The thoughts and experiences of an ordinary citizen, not a reporter.

  • Mohandaseen is burning—we are surrounded by looters, and the army is just watching
  • They are looting houses and we have no idea who these looters are
  • My parents asked army tank guys and they said we cannot intervene!
  • Everyone here is saying that Mubarak is being spiteful-he wants looters so that he can say: “Look, I gave you calm for 30 years.
    OK now you want to get rid of me? Well see the chaos my going can bring. Enjoy the unrest and the looting. Only I could have protected all of you!”
  • I was driving and 3 men with knives attacked me near Sudan street—I had to sort of run them over
  • Big rumor that Mubarak is releasing prisoners and arming them so that they can infiltrate neighbourhoods and loot them
    Maadi, Street number nine-huge vandalism happening—There is looting everywhere in Rihab city, in Mohandasin, in Shubra. In Heliopolis there are plainsclothes police
  • My parents are organizing all the baobabs in our street and making blockades to stop the looters
  • There are Balkageyah (thugs) everywhere—all rich neighborhoods are being attacked
  • I think he is fucked up yaani–He didnt resign—his speech instigated the violence—now looters and the poor think that when you know there is no hope you might as well get as much as you can as long as the chaos lasts–people were hopeful that he would go
  • Maybe in other governates — people are more organized and closer to each other as community members … so they will organize better, perhaps — In Cairo it is difficult to control the chaos and disorder—there are 19 million people in this city who often don’t talk to each other and are so separated by class and money — I am wondering how they can organize together?
  • The people in Cairo are fighting two things–they are fighting police forces but also now fighting looters
  • People prayed the Salat ul Genaza, the funeral prayer after the evening prayers in Tahrir—we carried a body through the crush of thousands—I was crying, so many of us were crying
Egypt: The revolution will not be Twitterized

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