Egypt’s “Facebook Revolution”: Looking Under the Lamp Post?

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The “Facebook Revolution” narrative of the Egyptian rebellion is everywhere.
A few examples: Jared Cohen calls digital media an “accelerant” (>>); Don Tapscott (>>) writes that the protests are “Enabled by social media”; Fox News says that Facebook has “Turned Our Entire World Upside Down: Right before our eyes we see Facebook’s effects” (>>); Micah Sifry writes at CNN that “Without the relatively free arena of online social networking sites and tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, young Egyptians like Ghonim could not have built the resilient and creative force that finally toppled Hosni Mubarak.” (>>)
Most compellingly, here is high profile Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim:

I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him… I’m talking on behalf of Egypt. This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook. This revolution started in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians started collaborating content. We would post a video on Facebook that would be shared by 60,000 people on their walls within a few hours. I always said that if you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet. If you want to have a free society just give them the Internet.” (>>)

and also: “This is the revolution of the youth of the internet, and now the revolution of all Egyptians.”
Narratives matter. We use them to make sense of the world, and we use that understanding to make decisions. Narrative is “the simple order that consists in being able to say: ‘When that had happened, then this happened.’ We like the illusions of this sequence, its acceptable appearance of causality: it has the look of necessity.” (Frank Kermode, “The Sense of an Ending”, p127.)
So is the Egyptian rebellion a “Facebook Revolution”? There are reasons to think the narrative is exaggerated…

The easiest people to talk to

Most obviously, it is much easier to talk to English speaking participants than non-English speakers. English speakers are far more likely to be part of the one-fifth or so of the country that has access to the Internet. (World Bank Development Indicators). And it is easy to contact people over the Internet, so we hear from people who are on the Internet. It is easy to follow Twitter feeds, so we hear Egyptian tweets.

The easiest story to tell

It isn’t just the sources, though. The Facebook Revolution narrative is an interesting story to tell to a contemporary Western audience. For us, a story built around the familiar yet novel world of Facebook and social media is an easy way into the Egyptian rebellion. How many of us know much about the specifics of Egypt’s history, its recent past, or the economic sources of discontent? It is a much quicker and lighter story to say “look at the Facebook page.” We can even go and look at it ourselves (>>). Talking about strikes is more likely to lose an audience.
So every time prominent activist Wael Ghonim is mentioned, he is described as a “Google executive Wael Ghonim” even though he has explicitly said that “Google has nothing to do with this” (>>). Do we hear the employer of any of the other leaders? April 6 Movement founders Asmaa Mahfouz, Ahmed Maher and Ahmed Salah are commonly described as “activists”. It is possible to track down Maher’s occupation as a “civil engineer”, but with no employer. The discrepancy is glaring, and so Google gets to be associated with the uprising, adding to the digital tone of the story.

Underreported players

As people look back for the roots of the rebellion, the April 6 Movement and the We Are Khaled Said Facebook page have received much of the attention. But there are other strands that fed into the protests. The April 6 Movement was created to commemorate an industrial strike, after all, at a textile factory. There have been more than 3,000 separate labour protests in Egypt since 2004 according to a report by the AFL-CIO. The Kefaya movement is considered by some experts to be a central organizer of the January 25 protests, along with Mohamed ElBaradei’s organization (two-minute video with Samer Shehata).

Self-Organization?

The technological narrative has also been used to describe the rebellion as “leaderless” and “self-organizing” (see a claim for this by Wikinomics’ Don Tapscott here, and an illuminating analysis of the question by sociologist Zeynep Tufekci here). Tapscott takes a strong form of the argument: “Just as people can self-organize to contribute to Wikipedia, the computer operating system Linux, or the world’s biggest library of video content, they can participate in social change and coalesce into revolutionary movements as never before.”
(Aside: Does anyone else find the language of “self-organization” insulting to the protesters? It slides too easily into this kind of thing: “much in the same way that slime mould coalesces in a forest and moves towards an emergent common ‘goal,’ so too do simple-message-connected crowds of people coalesce to move towards a common, emergent goal without the overt direction of an explicit leader.” So brave protesters are like slime mould? Really?)
But of course coordination and leadership is not necessarily going to be obvious to Western eyes. As David Kirkpatrick writes in the New York Times: “They are the young professionals, mostly doctors and lawyers, who touched off and then guided the revolt shaking Egypt, members of the Facebook generation who have remained mostly faceless — very deliberately so, given the threat of arrest or abduction by the secret police.”
Some organizing was kept off Facebook on purpose, and so received little attention – like these flyers that Jodi Dean points to. As she says, even Lenin – not exactly known as a networky kind of bloke – agreed that “mass movement and ‘professional revolutionaries’ are not alternative organizational forms. Each is necessary”.
Another counterpoint to this “leaderless protest” story is a fascinating Wall-Street Journal article by Charles Levinson and Margaret Croker, who tell a story (The Secret Rally that Sparked an Uprising) about clandestine meetings of small groups of organizers outwitting the efforts of the police to follow what’s going on. Of course, getting such a story requires a lot of interviewing and building of confidence.
But there is a kernel…
So yes, I do think the Facebook Revolution narrative is overstated, and that the Egyptian rebellion marks much less of a break from previous revolts than the language of “Revolution 2.0” suggests. I agree with this article in TechCrunch (of all places) that “People, not Things, are the Tools of Revolution”. But there is a kernel of truth there, I do admit. Ghosim’s quotation at the top of the page is a clear indicator that some young Egyptians feel a sense of identity with Facebook and the Internet: that it is their generation’s culture, not their parents and not the authorities. But that’s for another time.http://whimsley.typepad.com/whimsley/2011/02/egypts-facebook-revolution-looking-under-the-lamp-post-.html

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Where the Arab spring will end is anyone’s guess

Arab unrest has become a permanent feature of the global landscape, unfinished business wherever it is happening.

Egyptian protester with portraits of Mohamed Bouazizi and Khaled Said

The Arab Spring united protesters across the region, but it is still unclear how the situation will play out in many countries. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Tunisia‘s Jasmine revolution will always be remembered as the event that triggered the Arab spring, which has shattered the status quo from Libyato Syria and is widely seen as the biggest transformative event of the 21st century so far. But, six months on, progress has been patchy.

Mohammed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who started it all by burning himself to death in December 2010, had his desperate imitators in Egypt, where revolution erupted days after Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s flight into Saudi exile; and in Jordan, which has seen sporadic unrest but no uprising.

But if the politics of the Arab spring are local, many factors are common across: young people angry and frustrated at the lack of freedoms, opportunities and jobs, unaccountable and corrupt governments, cronyism and, in a few places, grinding poverty.

Rich and poor alike lived in fear of the secret police. But Tunisia, one of the most repressive regimes, fell quickly. The decision by the army to dump the president and not crush the protests was a vital lesson for the Egyptian generals. The alternative is the cruelty of the dictators’ fightbacks in Tripoli and Damascus. Regional differences were ignored in the chain reaction that followed. Yemen’s protests were galvanised by the drama in Cairo’s Tahrir Square but they also involved tribalism, elite rivalry and a small but alarming al-Qaida presence against a background of resource depletion and fear of state failure. Sectarian tensions were the key to the trouble in Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy rules over a restive Shia majority.

Islamists, the bogeymen of the west and the enemies of all autocratic Arab regimes, have not – yet – played a significant role. Still, Ennahda in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have new opportunities in multi-party systems that will in turn change them. The killing of Osama bin Laden was a timely reminder of the defeat of jihadi ideology in an Arab world being transformed by people power.

Another variable has been the response: French support for Ben Ali was embarrassing; the US was praising Mubarak days before he departed. Muammar Gaddafi had no friends – and the Arab League was crucial in providing a figleaf for UN-sanctioned Nato intervention. Bashar al-Assad, by contrast, has yet to be condemned by the UN for a crackdown that has cost at least 1,300 lives. Bahrain is too strategically important to face more than a rebuke from the US.

Elsewhere in the region, Israel is nervous about the demise of Mubarak. Turkey fears instability in Syria. The Palestinians, eclipsed by drama elsewhere, are trying to learn lessons. Iran’s support for the Arab uprisings is sheer hypocrisy given its crushing of democratic protests since 2009.

Now the EU and the US must stop being seen by Arabs as “partners for dictators” in the words of the Tunisian academic Ahmed Driss. Billions of dollars will be needed to support democracy and development.

Tunisia and Egypt fear instability as they face free elections. But the really hard transformational work, as the respected commentator Rami Khouri has observed, “will start in the years after the new parliaments are elected and the complete infrastructure of political governance is forged according to the will of the majority”.

There are exceptions. The Saudis are investing to create jobs and defuse dissent. Jordan and Morocco have tried liberal gestures. Algeria’s oil wealth and experience of civil war have helped maintain peace there. But it is striking how Arab unrest has become a permanent feature of the global landscape. It is unfinished business wherever it is happening. “The outcome of this tectonic realignment is not just unpredictable but unknowable,” said Prince Hassan of Jordan.

 

Source : Guardian

Ganzeer: The Artist behind the Blueprints for the Revolution!

On the 27th of January, 2 days after the revolution started, and one day before the famous Friday 28 (The Day of Rage), Western Media reported the surfacing of an Anonymous flyer that gives a blueprint for the revolution. This caught our attention later on, because it negated those who said that there was no “planning” and that the revolution was a spontaneous occurrence.

The presence of such a flyer suggests careful planning, and the full knowledge of what was going to take place. It is simply a recruitment and rallying communiqué and ultimately proves that there were schemers and plotters. Now we are not against the presence of those, but the important question is why didn’t they come out after the revolution? And why is everyone who was involved in the revolution trying to prove that it wasn’t planned?!!

Anyhow, we first picked up the news about the flyer on The Guardian.uk, which wrote of:“Anonymous leaflets circulating in Cairo” that provide “practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices.”


The booklet/flyer was titled “How to revolt cleverly” (كيف تثور بحدائة) and it consisted of 26 pages of tactical advices and black & white illustrations (probably to facilitate photocopying), arranged in a neat and straight layout, the booklet is signed only by: “long live Egypt”.

The booklet also includes aerial photographs with approach routes marked and diagrams explaining crowd formations. It advises demonstrators to wear clothing such as hooded jackets, running shoes, goggles and scarves to protect against teargas (a piece of advice which we received over facebook and proved very handy on the 28th of Jan), and to carry dustbin lids – to ward off baton blows and rubber bullets – first aid kits.

A key point which highlights the degree of preparation was that the booklet instructed recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopy, and not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which (supposedly) were being monitored by the security forces. The booklet asked protesters in Cairo to gather in large numbers in their own neighborhoods first, to avoid getting detected by police forces and state security, and then move towards key installations such the state broadcasting HQ on the Nile-side Corniche and try to take control of it, “in the name of the people”. Other priority targets listed were the presidential palace and police stations in several parts of central Cairo.

We researched further, and found news of the booklet on many other western news networks, but as usual no mention of it on the national or Arab news networks.

On the same day The Atlantis published a translated version of the leaflets, which it said, it had received from “2 sources” but didn’t disclose who sent it to them, or whether they knew who was behind it or not.

We were very intrigued by the leaflets and wanted to know who were the people behind it, and we researched it extensively for the past months, but with no luck. Until we had a breakthrough two weeks ago.

On May 26, 2011, Twitter was on fire with the news of arrest of three activists for hanging a poster titled “Freedom Mask”. Among those three activists was the artist who designed the poster, a graffiti artist & graphic designer named Mohamed Fahmy, who goes by the net alias Ganzeer. Mohamed Fahmy was released on the same day, but already he had caught our attention.

We researched his work extensively, and immediately we were stricken by the close resemblance between his graphic design and the “Revolution Blueprints”. Fahmy has a very distinctive style in his graphic design and illustrations, and the Revolution booklet bore the trademark of his style.

But what really closed the deal for us and made us 99% certain that he was the artist behind the “How to revolt cleverly” booklet, was his flyer designs, and particularly those two posters prepared after the revolution for two graffiti workshops and an older lealflet he designed in 2009.

The above mentioned works are identical to the revolution booklet (see pictures below), not only do they have almost the same illustration work, but they also had the same fonts, layout design and the black & white clean-cut style of the Revolution booklet.

After we concluded our research, and were 99% certain that Mohamed Fahmy, is in fact the artist behind the “Revolution Blueprint” booklet, we decided to contact him on twitter, and get further information on why he designed the booklet, however, when we asked him if he was the person behind “How to revolt cleverly” booklet, his response was “Shuuush!” and then followed with: “It is not important!”

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Oh… But it is Mr. Ganzeer, it is actually very important!

And the more important question is, who else was involved in this Booklet with you?
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Update: 20:30 – 14/06/2011

Ganzeer responded to this article on his twitter account, denying his connection to the “Revolution Blueprints” and claiming that Black & White designs and the use of similar typefaces is not a proof that he is responsible for the blueprints.

Despite the fact that this is true, however, other than the identical design layout, the style of illustrations in the booklet carries the impeccable finger prints of Ganzeer’s craft.  Not to mention that the graphic designer who designed the leaflets must be an activist involved in the pre-revolution political scene.

It is highly unlikely that there is another activist, who has the same style, design skills & illustration skills of Mohamed Fahmy, and who operates in the same way as he does.

Thus despite his denial, we are still convinced that Mohamed Fahmy is the creator of the “How to revolt cleverly” booklet.

Source : Anarchiext

جنزير:الفنان المصمم لمخططات الثورة المصرية

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في 27 يناير، بعد مرور يومان على بداية الثورة، وقبل يوم واحد من جمعة 28 الشهيرة (يوم الغضب) ، نشرت وسائل الاعلام الغربية أخبار عن ظهور منشورات مجهولة المصدر يتم توزيعها بغرض التخطيط للثورة.  لاقى هذا اهتمامنا في وقت لاحق ، لأنه يبطل إدعاءات البعض بانه لم يكن هناك “تخطيط مسبق”، وبأن الثورة كان حدثا عفويا.

وجود مثل هذه المنشورات يشير إلى تخطيط دقيق، ومعرفة تامة بما سيجري و بالتالي التحسب له بتوزيع هذه المنشورات، التي هي ببساطة وسيلة تحذير و حشد، مما يثبت في النهاية أن هناك مخططين، كانوا يعلمون بما سيحدث أو قد يحدث. و نحن لسنا ضد وجود هؤلاء، ولكن السؤال هو لماذا لم يخرجوا بعد الثورة؟ و لم يصر الجميع على محاولة إثبات أن الثورة كانت مجرد مصادفة!!!

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على أية حال ، نحن التقطت أول الأخبار عن منشورات على صحيفة الجارديان، و التي كتبت: “منشورات مجهولة تتداول في القاهرة” و توفر “نصائح عملية وتكتيكية لكيفية المشاركة في مظاهرات حاشدة ومواجهة رجال شرطة و مكافحة الشغب ، ومحاصرة والسيطرة على المكاتب و الأجهزةالحكومية”.

عنوان المنشورات “كيف تثور بحدائة” و تتألف من 26 صفحة من النصائح التكتيكية و الرسوم بالأبيض والأسود (غالباً لتسهيل التصوير)، ورتبت في تصميم أنيق وعلى التوالي، موقعة بعبارة: “تحيا مصر”.

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المنشورات تتضمن صور جوية مع إيضاحيه للطرق الوصول للأهداف الحيوية ورسوم بيانية توضح كيفية تشكيل الحشود.  كما تحتوي على نصائح للمتظاهرين بارتداء ملابس واقية مثل السترات و الأقنعة، و الاحذية الخاصة ، و نظارات واقية و كوفيات للحماية من القنابل المسيلة للدموع ( تلك النصيحة التي تلقيناها من خلال الفيسبوك وأثبتت أنها مفيدة جداً في يوم 28 يناير) ، وأستخدام سواتر من صفائح الزبالة – للحماية من ضربات الهروات والرصاص المطاطي –كما تنصح بحمل معدات الإسعافات الأولية.

و لكن من النقاط الرئيسية التي تسلط الضوء على درجة استعداد أن المنشور به تعليمات للموزعين  تنصح بإعادة التوزيع عن طريق البريد الإلكتروني والنسخ ، وعدم استخدام المواقع الاجتماعية مثل فيسبوك وتويتر ، والتي (يفترض) أنها مراقبة من قبل أجهزة الأمن.  كما نصح المنشور المتظاهرين في القاهرة بالتجمع بأعداد كبيرة في الأحياء الخاصة بهم بعيدا عن أعين قوات الشرطة والجيش ومن ثم التحرك نحو هذه المنشآت الحيوية في الدولة، مثل مقر الإذاعة على كورنيش النيل ومحاولة السيطرة عليه “باسم الشعب”. و حدد أهداف أخرى ذات الأولوية مثل القصر الرئاسي ومراكز الشرطة في عدة أجزاء من وسط القاهرة.

عندما إلتقطنا الخبر، قمنا بالبحث عن مصادر أخرى، فوجدنا الخبر منشور على العديد من الشبكات الإخبارية الغربية، ولكن كالعادة غير منشور على شبكات الأنباء الوطنية أو العربية. في نفس اليوم (27 يناير) نشر موقع اتلانتيك نسخة مترجمة من المنشورات، و كتبوافي المقال أنهم التي حصلوا عليها من “مصادرين” و لكن لم يكشفوا عن هذه المصادر، أو عن ما إذا كانوا يعرفون من مصمم الكتيب أم لا.

منذ أن إلتقطنا أخبار المنشورات و نحن مهتمون جداً بمعرفة من كان وراء هذه المنشورات، فقمنا بالبحث على الإنترنت على نطاق واسع طوال الاشهر الماضية ، ولكن بدون حظ أو توفيق، حتى وقعنا على كشف بالمصادفة البحته خلال الاسبوع الماضي.

في 26 مايو 2011 ، كان موقع تويتر مشتعلاً بأخبارإعتقال ثلاثة من النشطاء بسبب قيامهم بتعليق بوستر بعنوان “قناع الحرية”. بين هؤلاء الناشطين الثلاثة كان الفنان الذي صمم البوستر، وهو مصمم جرافيكس و فنان جرافتي يدعى محمد فهمي، و يستخدم الاسم المستعار “جنزير” على شبكة الإنترنت. تم إطلاق سراح محمد فهمي في اليوم نفسه ، ولكنه على الفور حاذ على إنتباهنا.

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بالبحث في أعمال محمد فهمي الفنيه، لاحظنا على الفورالتشابه الوثيق بين الرسومه وتصميماته و تلك التصميمات و الرسوم الموجودة في منشورات الثورة. أسلوب وطريقة الرسوم التوضيحية واحدة تقريباً في معظم أعماله.

ولكن ما أكد شكوكنا وجعلنا على يقين لا يدع مجالا للشك، بأن محمد فهمي هو الفنان المصمم لكتيب “كيف تثور بحدائه”، كان طريقته في تصميم البوسترات و الكتيبات، وخاصةً في بوسترين مصممين بعد الثورة للدعاية ليوم الجرافيتي(أنظر أسفل) و كتيب قام بتصميمه في 2009. ليس فقط لأنهم يحويان نفس الرسوم التوضيحية، ولكن لأنهم أيضاً مصممين بنفس الخط وتصميم الصفحات كما في منشورات الثورة تماماً.

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و لهذ، و بعد تأكدنا من نتيجة بحثنا – بنسبة 99%-قررنا الاتصال بمحمد فهمي و سؤاله عن كتيب “كيف تثور بحدائه” ، فكان رده على تويتر هو: شششش… ليس مهم!

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ولكن في رأينا، يا ا. جنزيرأنه مهم، و مهم جدا ايضاً!
و الأهم هو، هل كانت فكرتك وحدك، أم كان لك شركاء؟؟؟

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تحديث: في 20:30 – 14/06/2011

رد جنزير على هذا المقال على صفحته على تويتر، نافيا علاقته ب “مخططات الثورة”، و كتب أن الأبيض والأسود طريقة تصميم شائعة و أن استخدام الخطوط المماثلة ليس دليل على أنه هو مصمم المخططات.

و على الرغم من أن هذا صحيح، و لكن، بخلاف تصميم الصفحات المتطابقة، فإن  نمط  الرسوم التوضيحية في كتيب يحمل بصمة جنزير المميزة.  ناهيك عن أن مصمم الجرافيك الذي صمم منشورات يجب أن يكون ناشط معروف من قبل الثورة.

ومن المستبعد جدا أن يكون هناك ناشط آخر، له نفس النمط، ومهارات التصميم و الرسم المميز  لمحمد فهمي، و يعمل بنفس طريقته.

و لذلك و على الرغم من نفيه، نحن مازلنا مقتنعون ان محمد فهمي هو مصمم منشورات  ”كيف تثور بحدائة”

Source : Anarchitext