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How to start a revolution? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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This is my favorite subject, not because I am inclined towards revolutions, but because the new revolutions have had a real impact on the media, transcending the border between the old media – newspapers and television reports – and the new media represented by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

I touched upon the revolutions themselves in one of my previous articles, arguing that they were late responses against long rejected conditions, and in the end justice would prevail. It is not logical for Gaddafi’s regime to continue with its repressive unilateral rule and odd policies, rather it is natural that he will fall. Similarly, this applies to the Syrian regime that continued to promise reform for years, but instead gave a free reign to its security apparatus to wreak havoc in the country and abuse the people. In the case of Egypt, where the President continually rigged the elections in order to pave the way to bequeath rule to his son, it was logical that the people would revolt against him. But how would they do so? History is full of tyrants and unilateral coups, but very few successful popular uprisings.

Here Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking websites accelerated the result, bringing together millions of youths who were eager to challenge the existing status quo.

Any tyrant in control of the major media outlets in his country would scorn Twitter, because a message there consists of a maximum of 140 characters, compared to the pages of propaganda of in the newspapers and hours of rhetoric on television everyday.

Before new media, in order deliver complaints, hopes, and messages to thousands of people, you would have needed an independent media outlet which requires enormous financial investment, something only governments and the rich could afford. Even if funding was ensured, you would still need a license, which is impossible to obtain without government approval. If a tolerant government existed, and an independent television channel was allowed, then people must sit at home or in a cafeteria at a specific time to watch a program, and their only interaction is to drink a cup of tea. If you opted to convey your message through the printed press, then you would have to pay and the news is always a day late. Again, it is a one-way interaction.

As for Facebook or Twitter, there is no need for a license, and you are not obliged to sit at home or pay, as long as your computer or mobile can access the internet. The majority of young people these days have access to the internet, and for this reason the average revolutionary is now in his twenties, rather than his forties. On Twitter there are nearly 200 million people who write, send correspondence, and read for free. Here everyone is an unpaid employee who can send and receive information in a huge marketplace where everyone can shop easily and for no cost. Twitter was born six years ago while Facebook is two years older, with a far greater population of 600 million people. Those people can write what they think and express themselves the way the want – using footage and videos. Here we see leaders, supporters, and battles where everything happens without a single drop of blood being shed. As for the situation on the ground, Facebook users stand behind the enormous losses, and the blood being spilled. The website prompted over 100,000 Egyptians to gather in Tahrir Square at a specific time, and it was not long before a full scale revolution broke out with the participation of different media outlets. Yet until now, Egypt is still in a state limbo, where different factions are engaged in arguments over social networking websites.

Indeed, Facebook can do more than inspire revolutions. For example, it provided a wheelchair for a disabled child, who was previously sitting in agony watching his friends playing with their bicycles. His mother posted his story on Facebook and users managed to collect a donation of US$ 2,500, from people with no relation to the mother or the son.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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