When I first began to watch the national broadcasts of the Arab Spring, I honestly was extremely confused as to what exactly was happening. Two years later, social scholars are trying to untangle the confusing and inaccurate portrayals of the Arab Spring that national television continued to disseminate. In Demystifying the Arab Spring, Lisa Anderson (2011) attempts to take on the challenge of differentiating the Tunisian, Egyptian, and Lyban uprisings. I applaud Anderson for embarking on this challenge and taking a different focus in scholarship on the Arab Spring; however, I could not help but think as I was reading her article whether she was ever going to elaborate on each country’s unique characteristic posited to have contributed to the revolts. I think part of the mystification of the Arab Spring is that many of us are not knowledgeable of Arab countries in the Middle East or Northern Africa; Anderson’s (2011) divergence of the Arab Spring revolts is necessary because it is not common knowledge nor did the media often portray this perspective.
On the other hand, Howard and Hussein (2011) provide more insight into the relationship that we have focused on in class that of social media and SMS and the early Arab Spring revolts. I find it interesting that the scholars emphasize that the pervasive use of the Internet as well as text to discuss political dissent was in place prior to the circulation of Bouazizi’s self-immolation. Furthermore, as the the autocracy attempted to control the networks, the information pathways shifted. This was also apparent in Egypt (Howard and Hussein, 2011). In light of this, I am reminded of Howard Rheingold’s (2002) theory of smart mobs and their networked-structures. Anderson (2011) states, “The important story about the 2011 Arab revolts in Tunisia…is [not] about how activists used technology to share ideas and tactics (p. 321).”
After reading the scholars’ perspectives on the Arab Spring, do you think it is necessary to converge or diverge the characteristics of the early revolts in the different countries? In other words, can the arguments presented by the scholars be compounded? If so, how or why?