It Is Written

by wjw on February 14, 2011

Well, I’ll be damned!  According to the New York Times, the Egyptian revolt actually was the creation of a few highly-networked, tech-savvy insiders.

. . . part of a remarkable two-year collaboration that has given birth to a new force in the Arab world — a pan-Arab youth movement dedicated to spreading democracy in a region without it. Young Egyptian and Tunisian activists brainstormed on the use of technology to evade surveillance, commiserated about torture and traded practical tips on how to stand up to rubber bullets and organize barricades.

They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent resistance channeled from an American scholar through a Serbian youth brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley . . .

. . . “We shared our experience with strikes and blogging,” Mr. Maher recalled.

For their part, Mr. Maher and his colleagues began reading about nonviolent struggles. They were especially drawn to a Serbian youth movement called Otpor, which had helped topple the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by drawing on the ideas of an American political thinker, Gene Sharp. [[Gene Sharp is the political theorist and author of From Dictatorship to Democracy, which— in case you’re planning on overthrowing any dictatorships— is downloadable for free here.]] The hallmark of Mr. Sharp’s work is well-tailored to Mr. Mubark’s Egypt: He argues that nonviolence is a singularly effective way to undermine police states that might cite violent resistance to justify repression in the name of stability.

The April 6 Youth Movement modeled its logo — a vaguely Soviet looking red and white clenched fist—after Otpor’s, and some of its members traveled to Serbia to meet with Otpor activists.

Another influence, several said, was a group of Egyptian expatriates in their 30s who set up an organization in Qatar called the Academy of Change, which promotes ideas drawn in part on Mr. Sharp’s work. One of the group’s organizers, Hisham Morsy, was arrested during the Cairo protests and remained in detention . . .

Then, about a year ago, the growing Egyptian youth movement acquired a strategic ally, Wael Ghonim, a 31-year-old Google marketing executive. Like many others, he was introduced into the informal network of young organizers by the movement that came together around Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat who returned to Egypt a year ago to try to jump-start its moribund political opposition.

Mr. Ghonim had little experience in politics but an intense dislike for the abusive Egyptian police, the mainstay of the government’s power. He offered his business savvy to the cause. “I worked in marketing, and I knew that if you build a brand you can get people to trust the brand,” he said . . .

This time, they brought lemons, onions and vinegar to sniff for relief from the tear gas, and soda or milk to pour into their eyes. Some had fashioned cardboard or plastic bottles into makeshift armor worn under their clothes to protect against riot police bullets. They brought spray paint to cover the windshields of police cars, and they were ready to stuff the exhaust pipes and jam the wheels to render them useless. By the early afternoon, a few thousand protesters faced off against well over a thousand heavily armed riot police officers on the four-lane Kasr al-Nile Bridge in perhaps the most pivotal battle of the revolution.

“We pulled out all the tricks of the game — the Pepsi, the onion, the vinegar,” said Mr. Maher, who wore cardboard and plastic bottles under his sweater, a bike helmet on his head and a barrel-top shield on his arm. “The strategy was the people who were injured would go to the back and other people would replace them,” he said. “We just kept rotating.” After more than five hours of battle, they had finally won — and burned down the empty headquarters of the ruling party on their way to occupy Tahrir Square.

Well, dang.  I really did write the book on this one.

In the meantime, the Egyptian generals have sat down to meet with opposition members, including Google-dude Ghonim.  Which, since they’re following my script, might yet be cause for smugness on my part.  (Dude!  Reality is tapping my brain again!  Aaagh!)

And elsewhere in the Islamic world, we have demonstrations/confrontations in Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, and— crucially— Iran.  Plus more unrest in Tunisia, and a swarm of 6000 Tunisian refugees on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

Go in peace, everybody.  Go in peace.

TCWriter February 15, 2011 at 7:47 am

Time to ditch the whole “writer” career in favor of something more in favor with the babes: WJW: Revolution Consulting & Dictator Control.

facebook February 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm

i love it

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