In Anderson’s “Demistifying the Arab Spring”, a main issue that arises is the US’ often-held view of Arab countries having a singular goal–but it’s simply not true. In Tunisia and Libya, speaking freely is dangerous and restricting while in Egypt citizens are relatively free to express opinions. This is why Anderson states that
“Egyptian Facebook campaigners are the modern incarnation of Arab nationalist networks whose broadsheets disseminated strategies for civil disobedience throughout the region in the years after World War I.”
Egypt perhaps is the most lucky then–the protest organizers are young people in the major cities fighting for the government to address unemployment and poverty, using their tech-savvy prowess and modern tools to mobilize their voices. That’s not to diminish their problems; Egypt is also plagued by an unruly and distrustful police force and constant off-the-books payments in most transactions.
On the other hand, in Tunisia (where Arab unrest was initiated), citizens need to grapple with class divisions and combat Islamist militant leader Ghannouchi’s “brand of political Islam.” The young people simply want their fair share of wealth and employment opportunities. In Libya, the situation is much more dire; the country’s economic woes include artificial scarcity, a cruel regime, and corruption due to a complete absence of political groups, associations or national organizations. Qaddafi has also prohibited private ownership, retail trade, a free press, and a reliable police force. Anderson argues that Libya isn’t even at the point of discussing democratization, but needs to construct “national identity and public administration.”
Clearly, this is not a cohesive and singular Arab revolt. The authorities in power in each nation present unique challenges. So how does this play into social media and its effect on these revolutions? The answer is not simple, and several theories we have discussed in class could provide an answer, but Howard and Hussain in “The Role of Digital Media” claim that “digital media became the tool [in the Arab spring] that allowed social movements to reach once-unachievable goals.”
Personally, I don’t believe that digital media was the sole spark that lit any revolution but I think it certainly sped up word-of-mouth and gave the people a place to speak where they felt safe.