Tag Archives: Governmnet

As of most things when viewed through liberalism, Chilcot has been framed badly.

“Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism” – Slavoj Žižek

In 2003 the Iraq war ignited, with British prime minister Tony Blair fully backing the US led coalition, which was spear headed by George Bush and his administration. This bloody conflict, including the following occupation claimed over a million lives with the effects of this war still pumping out violence today. For those not in the know, we are currently (at last) having the Chilcot report dispensed. As a clear  attempt to quell dissidents and ensure the story fades into irrelevance, it has taken seven years for these documents to be made public,  in what can only be described as state suppression. This nearly decade long wait for this inquiry  was a result to convenient & unspecified “delays” in which evidence of war crimes were kept from the British public. Now it has been clear for many years now that the Iraq war was illegal & at it’s roots the inquiry states what many of us already knew.  However, despite stating the absolute obvious, these reports hold evidence to the crimes perpetrated.

Yet despite the value these reports hold, their is a fundamental criticism that must be addressed. The issue lies with Chilcot being solely framed from the liberal perspective. Liberalism key flaw is the idea of the individual being everything & at it’s heart rules out the reality of the dialectics. Because of this Historical correlation is being completely ignored within the framing of this debate. Because of Britain’s dominant liberalism, we are looking at these events as if they were in a vacuum. The divide and conquer of Iraq did not start in the early 2000’s more accurately it took form in 1914 with Britain, France at war with Germany. With Britain & France eyeing new territory in the decaying remnants of the Ottoman Empire, In 1916 British and French drew up the notorious Skyes-Picot agreement to partition the Arab peoples into new states that could become “Area’s of influence” for capitalism. France would take what is now known as Lebanon and Syria while Britain would seize Jordan, Palestine and what we today call Iraq.

This narrow field of perception is not only a fallacy in ignoring the basic concept of cause and effect but, it endangers any real Justice or progressiveness for us as a society to learn from. We must look at the narrative rather than the single sentence to understand how we can move forward. With the apologists & excuses that will come with the inevitable political fall out, we must not lose sight of the reality of the situation, nor allow this to become a sensationalist story to fade into the echoes of time.

 

This Capitalist swine need drowning in Panamanian water.

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The papers have been ablaze with headlines about the recent exposé of Mossack Fonseca & Co and the 2.6 terabyte file containing 11.5 million leaked documents about the internal operations of one of the world’s leading firms in the incorporation of offshore entities, and which is head-quartered in the Republic of Panama. Dubbed the Panama papers by the media, the data shows that Mossack Fonseca was working/worked with more than 14,000 banks, law firms, corporations and other men in black to set up companies, foundations and trusts for clients who with the company’s expertise profited hugely from off shore accounts and various Tax havens. The files were originally obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) and then leaked to more than 100 media partners.

The core of this investigation contains nearly 40 years of records, and includes information about more than 210,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions. The countries most heavily implemented in the crime were Hong Kong, UK, USA and Switzerland with the British Virgin Islands being the most popular tax haven for clients of Mossack Fonseca to use. As well as corporations such as HSBC, Rothschild Trust and Landsbanki Luxembourg many of the world’s elite were implicated in the data. Dictator and agitator of Syria Bashar al Assad, authoritarian, manipulator Putin as well as Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson,who has now resigned after leaks exposed his offshore accounts he had set up secretly with Mossack Fonseca.

The British prime minister David Cameron was also exposed in the leaks, with his late farther Ian Cameron being linked to off shore accounts and profiting from a “unit trust” fund; this is where a group of people pool their money (by buying shares, or units) and use it to invest in a variety of companies, to spread out the financial risk. The money from this passed to David Cameron upon his father’s death. The documents also shine a light on Britain’s capitalist relationships, exposing Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan president of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) who up till now had secretly been UK’s biggest offshore landlord with a 1.2 billion property portfolio.

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Now it is important to keep things in context by pointing out that under our current political structures, i.e capitalism, off shore accounts are not completely illegal; and instead they often exploit legal loop holes to bypass current laws set up to halt tax avoidance. In fact, the rhetoric from the bourgeois and Cameron’s allies would have you believe that nothing damnable has happened. Herein lies the fundamental problem which makes this much more criminal, and in turn, exposes the deeper rooted sickness embedded at the heart of our society’s ideology that allows such inequality to inherently exist within our economic systems.

These leaks are but a glimpse of the ruling class and no doubt just scratch the surface of the accumulated wealth hoarded by the rich. For those wishing to look at the raw data click here. What is so appalling about the revelations the data shows, and why so many are in an uproar, is due to the utter hypocrisy that is highlighted in the leaks. Although not everyone who uses off shore accounts is automatically a crook; it does seem to appear to be a morally questionable way to profit, especially seeing it was only last year British PM David Cameron took to a stage in Singapore and said “the corrupt, criminals and money launderers” take advantage of anonymous company structures. The government is trying to do something about this. It wants to set up a central register that will reveal the beneficial owners of offshore companies. claiming that UK companies will be forced to reveal their “significant” owners for the first time. which now seems almost laughable seeing when confronted about his affiliation with the data dump Cameron claimed he did not have to disclose the information calling it a “private matter”. Tory MP Alan Duncan yesterday described the non-wealthy as “low achievers” in defence of Cameron in the House of Commons. If it wasn’t so insulting, it would almost be laughable especially from a mostly self- employed oil tycoon millionaire, who back in May 2009 appeared on the satirical BBC programme Have I Got News for You. The programme showed footage of Duncan’s previous appearance on the show in which he boasted about his second home allowance, denied that he should pay any of the money back and stated it was “a great system”.

However finding hypocrites within the political class seems far too easy and at the heart of it, it should be expected from this fall out. The important thing outside of the data that the Panama Papers will inject into society is, that it will dispel this myth that the wealthiest amongst us got their wealth through hard labour that has somehow been adopted by the mainstream. We need only look to the London protests starting and the people of Iceland, who are now calling for their entire government to resign. The only benefit of these scandals are the power they give the left and its various movements, that blossom when economic corruption is exposed.

Why as a revolutionary I do not support Jeremy Corbyn.

As a self-proclaimed cultural Marxist & someone who is normally labelled a “leftist,” it may come to most people’s surprise that I’m not a Labour voter & never have voted for our very British, Red party. What will shock people who know me even more whether in real life, or through my online aliases, is that I am also not a huge fan of Jeremy Corbyn. Before I go on and explain my argument, I should clarify. Any observer of politics can see that Corbyn is a figure both under fire from the right and hailed by the left. I have nothing against Jeremy Corbyn as a man, I agree with a lot of what he says, and even what he stands for. However, I do not support him nor has this Labour reform really changed my mind about voting for them.

I can see now the flock of Corbyn disciples rushing in to defend their “personal Jesus”, but hear me out before group mentality sinks in, and you sweep me under the umbrella of “Corbyn haters”. I do not support Corbyn, not based on his values, but based on his position within mainstream politics. I do not personally see him as a vessel of change as so many of the UK’s ‘left’ do. This inherently lies with me considering myself more of a radical rather than a liberal. The difference between the two, being that most liberals believe they can change the system through ideology, normally through education. They hope that if a population becomes enlightened systematic change will happen. A radical on the other hand believes that only after the destruction of existing power structures & constraints can change & progress really happen.

To look at an example of why I personally do not throw myself at jezzer, we need only look to our European neighbours in Greece and the SYRIZA political party. Founded in 2004 by a coalition of leftist parties, SYRIZA was anti-capitalist, democratically socialist and seen as the hard left . The party itself was labelled as radical, unrealistic and mocked as ideological nonsense by mainstream media outlets as well as centre & right political figures (not too dissimilar to how the papers and pundits view Corbyn today). Despite this, the party was praised and hailed by anarchists, lefties and progressives all across Europe as a positive movement of real drastic change. The party was meant to help Greece break out of Europe’s class wars with the banking system and direct it away from the Americanization and potent corporate threat that plagues Europe. Greece, like many others, was a country hit hard by the 2008 global economic crash caused by Wall Street. By 2010, Greece had to avoid bankruptcy by taking a bail out from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank. However, these came with strict austerity measures (Here). The price of this austerity hit pretty much instantly, and throughout 2010 several demonstrations sprung up around the country. These protests grew in mass and were provoked by the cuts to public spending and rise in tax. Protests and the anger behind them carried all the way up to 2014. The left relied on SYRIZA, and in 2012 began to throw itself behind the party hoping for a surge of socialism throughout Europe. This did not happen… Despite all the fancy words, violent clashes and anarchist mentality the party has been crushed by the blockades of capitalism & current politics. Despite its best efforts, the cries for cancellation of it’s debt from this “hard left” party quickly shifted from an ultimatum, to a debate and now lingers in political bureaucracy. With the exception of Ireland and Spain,

Greece is one of the few rare European societies that has had a hard left ideology drilled into its populace. Yet despite a huge anti-austerity backing and a history of being anti-fascist, the country was unable to bypass the ‘barriers’ of our modern political systems. Where are those leftists now? Well, without the party, riots have stopped, protests are much smaller & change has yet to come for Greece. A contributing factor that I believe is overlooked within the Greek Crisis is this blind faith in one icon, and lack of diversity in the political movements that Greece had. This has led to the stale mate in negotiations that SYRIZA is currently embroiled in. The anti-capitalist movements have crumbled and the anti-austerity protests have been quelled. This is because there was no other viable choice around to grab the movement, and once the party had failed or slowed down, those behind it began to have their faith shaken. The left soon disbanded and Greek citizens returned to their homes still discontent, yet, like a victim of beatings they had become silent in face of their abuser. I fear Corbyn may mean the same for the British public. The hysteria that surrounds him seems appealing to those disenfranchised with politics, or those on the fringe of it, but despite Corbyn’s views being socialist he himself is a bureaucrat. Yet again there is the tendency to throw ourselves behind a messiah figure regardless because the left seem so rare in mainstream politics. But no matter how hard we wish for it, Corbyn will be faced with those same barriers that SYRIZA came across in its confrontation with austerity, and will arguably crumble in the same fashion. It all boils down to whether one truly believes that change can come from within the system. I personally find this notion insulting. I’m not saying changes don’t happen from within, but true change arguably does not. To put this into perspective we don’t ask domestic abuse victims to try and change the relationship with their partner “from within” – we tell them to leave that partner and report them to the proper authorities. So why do we assume we can barter with abusive political systems? As if we ask nicely enough through the proper channels, that the same system that abuses so many will stop? Appealing to our oppressor’s humanity is an oxymoron in itself and I do not believe that without revolution that we will ever have true change. For me personally Corbyn becomes irrelevant to the fight against austerity, and capitalism as a whole, and despite being a bishop for the UK’s left he’s still a chess piece in a fixed game.

What contribution does the Internet make to democracy?

In this essay I will be looking at what contribution the internet makes to democracy if any, and relate it in particular to the events around the Arab Spring. First of all we need to see that the internet itself it only a proving ground, which means that it is up to the people using it to fill it with good or bad things. The internet may not directly bring about democracy but rather can be used as a tool by democratic movements and act as a platform for them to express their ideas or to raise awareness through posting information that is available for people to chose to view. However, crediting the internet with contributing to making the world a more democratic place means that we are expecting that the people involved in this are acting responsibly and also that people are actually wanting to be involved in making the world a better and fairer place.

However, I think it would be interesting to take a step back to 2002 when the internet was 3000 days old and James Crabtree wrote an article on opendemocracy.net entitled The Internet is bad for Democracy (https://www.opendemocracy.net/media-edemocracy/article_822.jsp 5 December 2002). In his article Crabtree writes the following:

“In the language of 1066 and All That, we have come to believe that the Internet will be a Good Thing for democracy. The consensus is caring in intent and unthinking in execution. In intent, it recognises that western democracy is hobbled by disengagement, falling turnout, and disconnection with citizens. But it assumes without thinking that while the Internet might not revolutionise the world, its sum effect will make life a little better. There are good reasons to believe this might not be the case.”

Crabtree argues that in his opinion using technology to promote democracy could be “disruptive” to existing organisations. He starts by stating that the internet has changed people’s expectations and uses the example of sending an email to a bank. We look for an immediate response to our query or complaint. This then leads people to expect that the same will happen with everything on the internet regardless of the size or complexity of the issue. Therefore when people start targeting big organisations, whether they be governmental or corporate, there is the expectation that these institutions will come back with a rapid response. Crabtree points out that the problem is that these types of institutions do not work in the same way that the internet does and states that “pluralist politics functions by slowly filtering individual preference through groups. Yet, the Netizens still want their answers, in hours not weeks. If they don’t get them, because representative democracy doesn’t work that way, democratic frustration will surely follow.” (Opendemocracy, December 2002) He also points out that the level that these organisations work at does not allow for dealing with individuals or small groups but that they function best through dealing with organisations of equal size, therefore, because the internet works through small groups coming together to protest or fight for change their voices never get heard by these organisations – “At base, traditional democracies work best when dealing with big groups, such as the British Confederation of British Industries (CBI) or Trades Union Congress (TUC). They don’t have the resources to deal with tiny voices.” (Crabtree, Opendemocracy, December 2002)

“In less than a generation, the Internet has altered the daily lives of individuals in ways few would have conceived in its nascent stages. Initially a playground for the computer savvy, the world of blogs and tweets has given equal voice to anyone with a computer and a web connection.” Miller Center . Internet and Democracy. Available: http://millercenter.org/debates/internet. Last accessed 20th April 2015 . What the internet offers is the dissemination of information and I argue that is information that creates a democracy. As Albert Einstein famously said “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved through understanding.”

To show how much the internet has changed the way we react to situations that we wish to redress, I would like to look at the story of Edward Snowden. In June 2013, Edward Snowden an employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) began to leak files to the press that exposed world wide Government snooping at the hands of American agency the NSA and British intelligence agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).

“The British spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), taps fiber optic cables all over the world to intercept data flowing through the global Internet, we learned. The GCHQ works closely with the NSA, sharing data and intelligence in a program that’s codenamed Tempora.Tempora is one of the key NSA/GCHQ programs, allowing the spy agencies to collect vast troves of data, but for some reason, it has sometimes been overlooked. After a couple of months from the Tempora revelation, a German newspaper revealed the names of the companies that collaborate with the GCHQ in the Tempora program: Verizon Business, British Telecommunications, Vodafone Cable, Global Crossing, Level 3, Viatel and Interoute.” orenzo-franceschi-bicchierai. (2014). The 10 Biggest Revelations From Edward Snowden’s Leaks. Available: http://mashable.com/2014/06/05/edward-snowden-revelations/. Last accessed 30th April.

While in Snowden’s leak XkeyScore 32-page NSA presentation dated 25 February 2008, he gives details of Xkeyscore, which allows agents to access unfiltered and unlimited web traffic all without a warrant. This acts as a monitoring tool that can piece to together details of a user by intercepting web traffic from around the world. However, in Laura Poitras 2014 documentary about Snowden and his interactions with Guardian journalist and writer Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong we witness Snowden and Greenwald communicate via encrypted internet chat. This example opens up the debate over the usage of the internet by individuals and governments. The internet gives us ability to instantly connect from anywhere to anyone in the world, granting us the power send videos and media to thousands of devices. However, on one hand we see Snowden communicating and leaking his information via the internet while on the other hand, as shown by many governments, are own included, the internet is just another tool of the surveillance industry which is being used to invade and control populations.

With camera phones and the ability to live stream there is no denying the change the internet and technology on a whole has had on the press, a key tool for any full functioning society. We also have the rise of citizen journalism, with the public being able to capture hours of footage from mobile devices and simultaneously upload it to the web for millions of views as they witness events unfold. We also have the ability to blog and live tweet reports. The internet has also allowed the open dialogue between the press and the public with comment sections on websites. However, it is still important to understand that this does not guarantee a democratic process. For example, if we take a look at places like China or Bahrain, we can note that China uses what has been nicknamed the ‘great firewall of China’, a massive online snooping tool that monitors and censors the web. “China has Internet companies worth billions of dollars and more web users than the population of the United States — all while still being able to block information it deems counter to its interests. And now, some fear, the model is going global.” (Kristie Lu Stout. (2015). China’s Great Firewall: Fortune at the expense of freedom?. Available: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/25/asia/china-internet-censorship-kristie-lu-stout/. Last accessed 30th April 2015.) Amnesty international criticized China in 2008 saying it “has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world” China is one of the most dangerous places in the world for netzians with many offences ranging from communicating with groups abroad, signing online petitions, and calling for reform and an end to corruption. According to Reporters Without Boarders in 2012 and in 2014: “The Chinese government’s increasing efforts to influence global cyberspace rules is a further sign that internet freedom is under a sustained attack, said Amnesty International, ahead of China’s first World Internet Conference.” Amnestey International Blog . (2014). Internet freedom faces new attack as China seeks to shape global web rules. Available: https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2014/11/internet-freedom-faces-new-attack-china-seeks-shape-global-web-rules/. Last accessed 30th April 2015. If we now move on to our second example, Bahrain, where on 14 February 2011 thousands of pro-democracy activists took to the streets of Bahrain to demand political and social reform. While such demonstrations were not new, the scale of this particular demonstration was unprecedented as was the brutal crackdown carried out by the Bahraini government. According to figures released by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR,2011) and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Report (BICI, 2011:409) as of 16 April 2012, the protests have led to 76 deaths and 2929 people being incarcerated. Marc Owen Jones, from the University of Durham writes the following in his paper entitled Social Media, Surveillance and Social Control in the Bahrain Uprising, which appeared in the Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, Volume 9/Issue 2/April 2013: “…..both government supporters and activists alike turned to social media and the internet to follow unfolding events. The number of Twitter users in Bahrain shot up (Al-Wasat, 2011), and dozens of Facebook groups materialized, the majority of which were posting updates, information, photos and events related to the revolution. Indeed, media coverage of the Arab spring tended to popularize the social media aspect of the struggle, with many news outlets focusing on the role of Twitter and Facebook in the revolutions. Much of their discourse subscribed to the ‘technological utopian’ position, which views social media and the internet as a positive force that democratizes information, reinvigorates citizens’ political engagement, encourages freedom of expression and brings people together (Castells, 1996; Grossman, 1995; Rheingold, 1993; Saco, 2002).

Others were somewhat cynical, arguing that social media were merely a tool, and not necessarily integral to the efficacy of the revolutions as whole.”

What is becoming increasingly clear as we look at this question is that the internet can be used as a tool to bring about a democratic change and increased freedom, but it can also be used as a tool to control and bring down any protests for change in the regime. Four years down the line and there has been no change in the regime in Bahrain. What you do have is two very polarised sides – one which is pro-government and one which is anti-government. Both sides continue to use social media as a means of attacking one another and gaining supporters. Rebecca MacKinnon (2012: 27) states:

People, governments, companies, and all kinds of groups are using the Internet to achieve all kinds of ends, including political ones.… Pitched battles are currently under way over not only who controls its [the internet’s] future, but also over its very nature, which in turn will determine whom it most empowers in the long run – and who will be shut out.” Mackinnon R (2012) Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom. New York: Basic Books (Kindle version).

In Bahrain, it would seem that it is the activists who are ‘shut out’ and the government which is in a position of power. For activists in Bahrain, using social media as a means of going against the government or getting representation is fraught with danger. The tactics adopted by the government and secret police have brought about a climate of distrust, one that has disrupted the place occupied by social media by assimilating as part of the regime’s surveillance apparatus.

However, if we look at another country involved in the Arab Spring, we can see that the internet was successfully used as a tool by activists who wanted to bring about the change that the majority of the population wanted. In December 2010, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s ageing autocrat celebrated victory as his National Democratic Party (NDP) was re-elected into heading up the government in elections that were marred by widespread vote-rigging and repression. On February 11, 2011 the Vice-President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had resigned his post as President. What had happened during these three months? Well, a remarkable thing had happened – first tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and eventually over a million Egyptians took to the streets to demand Mubarak’s removal. Through the use of technology, in particular social media, these events were brought into the homes of people across the world, allowing them to witness events as they happened. Tim Eaton, BBC Media Action, in his article Internet Activism and the Egyptian Uprisings: Transforming Online Dissent into the Offline World writes the following: “It is suggested here that the significance of internet-based information and communication technologies (ICT) in this period is twofold: first, in their utility as a tool for activists to mobilize, organize and inspire Egyptians to take to the streets on 25 January 2011; and, second, in their use as a medium to document events in Egypt beyond the reach of the authorities. Indeed, this ability to get people to the streets –

rather than its ability to keep them there – was the primary success of internet activism

in this period, and its significance was reduced once the momentum of events had

reached the mainstream. However, without the initial call to arms online and Facebook’s

ability to get thousands – though not millions – into the streets, then the demonstrations

might never have reached the mainstream majority of Egyptians, and Mubarak might

have survived. At the very least, it is difficult to disagree with Ahdaf Soueif in positing

that without internet activism the fledgling Egyptian revolution could not have happened

in the way that it did, nor for that matter at such speed (Idle and Nunns, 2011).” (Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, Volume 9/Issue 2/April 2013)

As in Bahrain, anti-government activity through the use of social media was not new in Egypt. As far back as 2005, the country had a set of dedicated, committed and insightful political commentators who had begun to challenge the state-run media, and were uncovering stories that the state controlled sector would not or were not allowed to publish. Eaton T (2011a) Internet activism and revolution in Egypt: the growth of online dissent in Egypt and its role in the January 25th protests. MA thesis, University of Exeter. This first generation of internet activists were an integral part of the Kefaya movement which used many of the strategies prior to the 2005 presidential elections that woulod be used in the lead up to the January 25, 200 protests. The activists patterns of online behaviour shifted with the developments in technology. When social media hit the scene in 2007 a new generation of activists came to the fore. These activists were not particularly interested on the long arguments on political developments that the blogger community had created but were more interested in acting quickly and exploiting the capability of social media for a call to mobilisation. In 2008, protests partly organised through Facebook were a sign of things to come and in 2010 internet activists took up the cause of 28-year old Khaled Said who was brutally murdered at the hands of Egyptian police in June of that year. The official line from the authorities was that he had died while choking on a bag of drugs, however, pictures published by a blogger named Zeinobia showed Said’s badly beaten body with clear fractures to his skull and jaw. One thousand people attended the funeral in Said’s home town of Alexandria while other protested outside the Ministry of Interior’s offices in Cairo. Following on from this, an Egyptian Google executive named Wael Ghonim established a Facebook ‘group’ open for all Facebook members to join in order to campaign against police brutality. The group was called Kulina Khalid Said (We are all Khalid Said – WAAKS ) which was an expression which was soon taken up by supporters of the group. By doing this Ghonim sparked an online mobilisation that ultimately led to the January 2011 demonstrations in Cairo.

The role that the internet played in getting the people of Egypt onto the streets in January 2011 is quite remarkable given the cost of opposing the government as well as the fact that the internet was only available to approximately 50% of the population. WAAKS had hundreds of thousands of supporters, but it is not known how many of them took part in the January 25 demonstrations. Nevertheless, this was by far the biggest demonstration that had ever taken place in Egypt and as the protesters started gathering in various locations around the city they picked up people as they went along. The people that they picked up came from all different walks of life, working class and middle class, educated and uneducated. To quote Tom Eaton (2013): “This success highlights the pitfalls of much of the criticism surrounding the impact of internet activism in effecting political change; for once internet activism managed to begin to mobilize society on the streets in combination with more established political opposition movements, it achieved the popular base necessary for the conduct of communication power. The fact that organization may have been started by a somewhat elitist set of activists with access to computer-mediated communication (CMC) through the internet does not mean that the impact of internet activism was restricted to the online world.” (Tim Eaton, BBC Media Action, Internet Activism and the Egyptian Uprisings: Transforming Online Dissent into the Offline World . Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, Volume 9/Issue 2/April 2013)

The reaction of the Egyptian government is witness to the gravity with which they took these internet activists. On January 28, the government took the decision to cut off the internet. The objective behind this was to presumably to quash the activists who would no longer have a means to communicate with each other. However, it had the opposite affect. When people discovered they could no longer use their mobile phones they resorted to the more traditional method of communication – word of mouth. This seems in fact to have enticed more people out onto the streets to see for themselves what was going on. Despite the blackout, many activists were able to find proxies and get back on line while others sent their updates to friends and relatives outside of the country to upload online. Some critics have argued that internet activity played little part in Mubarak’s resignation as they argue that demonstrations continued throughout the blackout. They however missed the point as, as Tom Eaton states: “the damage had already been done”.

(April 2013)

In conclusion, it can be stated that revolutions do not come out of thin air, nor do they come out of cyberspace. In Egypt as in Bahrain there had to be a common cause that bound the protesters together. In the case of the Egyptian revolution, the role of organized labour and the urban poor needs to be taken into consideration as well as the fact that they country had an established opposition movement. To say that the events were caused by a Facebook or Twitter revolution would be to oversimplify things and ignore other important factors. Tom Eaton puts it very succinctly: “Through the spread of information online, internet activists were able to establish networks of resistance within Egyptian political society. And, despite the relative weakness of the ties between members of these networks, CMC emerged as an effective tool to facilitate collective action. Perpetual connectivity of activists enabled them to have access to an infinite number of networks of trust and multiply the impact of social protest through the creation of an insurgent community. Internet activism made political action easier, faster and more universal in Egypt.” (Tim Eaton, BBC Media Action, Internet Activism and the Egyptian Uprisings: Transforming Online Dissent into the Offline World . Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, Volume 9/Issue 2/April 2013).

Therefore, does the internet make a contribution to democracy? The answer is yes it does, but it is only one of many different aspects that need to come together successfully in order to make a positive change.