Digital Organization under Authoritarian Regimes

Throughout both Faris and Ali & El-Sharnouby’s articles, it’s clear that the internet, and specifically social media sites, provide a platform for repressed people to quickly, cheaply, and efficiently organize under a specific issue rather than resorting to traditional activist efforts of organizing in a physical space. Faris talks about the formation of Kefaya in Egypt and the struggles they originally faced in opposition to an authoritarian regime. Attendance rates were low, and due to gender-based violence, many women activists refrained from protesting.

Social media sites are widely accessible and provide a platform for anonymity, but it is also important to note that although social media activism in these environments can be extremely effective, campaigns can be easily skewed. Faris accentuates the point that in these online campaigns, there are many leaders. Perhaps with many leaders comes a wider chance for a movement’s main focus to shift in order to fit the group’s agenda. In the case of We Are All Khaled Said, Ali & El-Sharnouby comment that WAAKS struggles between the true testimony of Said’s beating and the mythic portrayal of a martyr of police brutality that had been associated with Said both on Facebook and in conversation surrounding the campaign.

Ali & El-Sharnouby appear very concerned with this disconnect and make the point that regardless of whether Said was or was not the martyr that WAAKS claims him to be, digital campaigns such as WAAKS are simply unable to fully grasp the social and cultural context of these events. They suggest that Egyptian youth culture and activism does not tackle the uncomfortable, underlying social issues of alienation, substance abuse, religious extremism, unemployment, poor education, etc. and are instead idealizing social change through “heroic stories of martyrdom and sacrifice” (Ali & El-Sharnouby, 90).

Digital Organization under Authoritarian Regimes

One thought on “Digital Organization under Authoritarian Regimes

  1. Brandon Kado says:

    I would argue that Faris supports the use of social media to create an adaptable and more efficient means to organizing in physical space rather than replacing physical organization all together. Furthermore, Ali and El-Sharnouby claim that the martyrdom of Khaled Said is not an alternative approach to tackling youth alienation, substance abuse, religious extremism, unemployment, and poor education; it is the suppressive one-dimensional aspect of police brutality in Khaled’s martyrdom that fails to meet its potential in bringing these other issues into the political and media spheres.

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