Internet Makes Revolution A Hell Of A Lot More Fun

29 January 2011 Sunday Morning in California, nightfall in Egypt

At NetHawk headquarters, we’ve been glued to every screen we can find news on Egypt to see exactly when the autocratic Mubarek regime will fall.  Today is marked by the Egyptian air force jets buzzing crowds in an effort to intimidate the people on the ground, and U.S. labeled canisters of tear gas on the ground.  Oddly, other than CNN, the television channels have been void of anything meaningful, but with Sunday morning talkies coming on, what we hear is a mixed bag of double talk, spin and unbalancing from our local heroes.  While from abroad we are hearing the inevitable that Mubarek is a “dead man walking” on Fareed Zakaria’s show.  Yet from Obama not much and from Clinton backtracking and a claim that Mubarek is a “family friend” while, at the same time claiming, “we have always pushed for free democratic elections.”

Louis XVI waited a bit too long …

From Twitter we find the oddest, but not the least bit surprising, tweet of all quoting Wolf Blitzer asking how Al Qaeda is connected to this, as if there was any connection. Israel has called for a blackout and ordered their officials not to comment.  They have sent emergency planes -on their holy day- to airlift out their officials and apparently Mubarek’s family has fled for the UK.  It is clear that everyone who is interested in how this will evolve is groping for salient information.

Over at Gigacom Matthew Ingram makes an interesting point on the proximal cause for the uprising in Egypt, “It’s Not Twitter or Facebook, It’s the Power of the Network.”  He provides more evidence of how out-of-touch many in the U.S. media are, quoting John Stewart’s cynical take that Twitter and Facebook had nothing to do with it but that the people were fed up with the situation.  Naturally, without dissent from the masses, the networks would have never been able to cause the amazing uprising in the streets.  As my good friend, and co-worker, James, who is close to the situation and spends time in Egypt told me a few days ago, “there is so much apathy there, the people will never revolt.”

I had forwarded James a tweet from NYTimes’ Nick Kristof a few days ago to which he scoffed at only to come by my desk Friday to say, “Well you know, maybe Kristof has something there.”  Well hell yes, he had something, as N.Africa continues to smolder while those in the media grope for a way to communicate.

Yet, if the social networks, or “The Network,” as in, “The Internet,” were not important, why in the hell did Mubarek waste no time in shutting them down?  And why in holy hell did Egypt along with a bunch of other autocratic regimes, from Egypt to Iran to to China to Burma invest a bundle into technologies that made it simple to do so?   As we explained yesterdayy, “One U.S. Corporation’s Role in Egypt’s Brutal Crackdown” from Timothy Karr over at www.savetheinternet.com, Boeing owned, Narus Technologies is being described as the company that supplied the Deep Packet Inspection software and hardware for “mass surveillance systems for governments and large corporate clients.”

Are so many in the U.S. media so delusional as to actually believe that the Internet is not the most powerful communications vehicle in the world?

Al Jazeera may be the only network running 24/7 clips at:  http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/ though attempts have been made to remove them from the scene. The UK and France have capitulated by cutting off mobile services though there are some services still getting through. But democracy lovers around the world are tuning in and those on the ground all over Egypt, North Africa and the Middle East are using proxies, faxes and ham radios to get their message out.  While U.S. networks are taunting listeners with stories of “hooligans” and “thugs” trashing and threatening the people, those on the ground claim it was the secret police that opened the jails and encouraged the criminals to vandalize and loot the country’s valued treasures.  If any country were truly interested in promoting democracy, they would open a satellite feed for the people to use to communicate and maybe prevent more bloodshed.

According to one Egyptian interviewed, if Mubarek leaves abruptly, which is what we believe will happen, Parliament will take over and talk of a “power vaccuum” are largely more unbalancing.  The bicameral legislature has the power to impeach the President and also may issue a vote of no confidence to remove the president.  Mohammed El Baredei has reappeared on the scene and looks like at least an interim choice to fill any void.  It is not clear how the West feels about any of this, but it is not clear if it makes much difference.

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