Media Activism in Saudi Arabia

It was interesting to read how different groups within a nation can influence groups of power such as the regime and inspire others to rise. Media, specifically social media, has allowed a population of young activists to rise. These activists range from 20`s to early 30`s and stand with different groups within Saudi Arabia. Although the article contained a lot of details that broke down the political perspective of Saudi Arabia I was surprised there wasn’t more details that directly addressed the Women2Drive issue although they did tie in women briefly, but it mainly focused on the pressure put on the regime to change. The use of media has allowed not only for these groups of protestors to exchange ideologies, but also as a communication device to gather together and essentially keep their “campaigns” alive and updated to the public. Although the groups had different individual goals they all had the similar goal of getting the regime to do something for the people of Saudi Arabia.

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Media Activism in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Islamist & the Arab Spring

In the reading by Stephanie Lacroix, we learn about a variety of social activist groups and how they continuously reformed, even though the Regime would shut them down. Some of the earlier movements started in the 1970’s and defied the royal families. One of the larger, well known movements was the of the Sunnic Islamic movement, also known as the Sahwa. They protested and lead many of them to be imprisoned. The movement eventually split into two different groups, one which focused on “society” issues and the other on “political change”.

If we look at movements in more current times, it is easy to see how much technology advancements have impacted social media movements. Lacroix explains in her journal, “the young themselves were becoming more actively politicized” through the new media platforms such a Twitter and Facebook. Thus, opposing a new threat to the Regime and demonstrating the ongoing issues in Saudi Arabia. A number of Sahwa activists were able to establish the Kingdoms first political party, known as the Islamic Umma Party. As a result of, allows people to question the royal families power and the government system they have in their State.

Throughout the piece, I am able to see how social movements create a new threat to the Regime. Not just by it being virtually available, but because it was easier to get people together to protest. The more people are able to see the problems they have in Saudi Arabia, the more effective their movements will be. I feel there are still too many things left to be acknowledged and gradually changed but these changes have been embedded since the 1970’s. There will be a change, if not know, there is hope for tomorrow. As Lacroix states towards the end of her article,”Though the royal family has undoubtedly won the first round of the game, it could therefore experience more challenges to its authority in the not-so- distance future.”

Saudi Islamist & the Arab Spring

The Controversy of Activism

In the blog post “New Media, New Civics? My Bellwether lecture at the Oxford Internet Institute” Ethan exercises the question whether social media was an essential platform that extruded Mubarak. It’s evident that some social media did cover important events that others mediums did not, for example, the protests in Gezi Square in Turkey. But is the internet given too much credit?

This question goes back to the role of anonymity that I discussed in my first blog about the effects of social media in the We are all Khaled Said” post. Can people really be activist without face to face interaction?

It’s a controversial topic because many of the social movement where assisted by online planning such as #FUCKSCAF and #YOUSTINK. If it wasn’t for the anonymity, people would not be bold enough to question their human rights as much as people do online. Is it fair it to distinguish this type of action from the original meaning of activism and categorize it as “slacktivism”?

According to the online dictionary, activism is defined as “the policy of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political and social change. It technically still is activism.

Ethan compares the Arabs’ activism to the Hispanics’ activism. Hispanics have similar ways of campaigning for political and social change but they also approach their contest a little different. For example, a group of undocumented Hispanics went back to their home country in order to receive trial in a different court, where their legal status was more likely to be granted. The group did this not only for themselves but for a bigger group of undocumented individuals. In a sense, Hispanics have demonstrated to have a more strategic way of activism. Yet again, you have to look at what this indigenous groups are picketing against; sovereignty and a presidential system.

The Controversy of Activism

Cultural Knowledge on the Internet

As emphasized in last weeks readings, the power of social media is greater than we might think it to be. In this weeks readings the importance of social media and the use of internet sources throughout Herrera’s reading was also a topic of great importance.

In the scholarly article, titled Youth and Citizenship in the Digital Age: A View from Egypt by Linda Herrera, we read how the young people of today are refers to as “wired youth” as opposed to kids who are being dumbed down because of the internet, and we come across several personal stories of people who have found their way of expression and sociability through resources the internet provides for them.

Herrera spoke about the lives of many people who used the media sites, such as Facebook, to branch out, video games to find happiness social medand a social life, and blogging as practice for a  professional career. In particular the story of Haisam, introduced in Phase II: Cultural Revolution, caught my attention, and is a prime example of how the internet can expand someone’s cultural knowledge of countries different from their own, and help someone kick off their professional career as journalists, who at first might have only been interested in simply informing their social media followers of the election news happening around them.

In the piece it is mentioned that Haisam’s life was transformed after the internet, “For Haisam, the computer was ‘like a gateway to heaven.” Not only was the internet a way for 24 year old Haisam to explore new music, cinema and enrich his knowledgeculture in different cultures, the internet also lead him and friends he met on online forums, who were also interested in lyrics and music, to convert 125 years worth of Arabic music into digital format, “If not for their labor, this music might have been lost.”

As, both a cinema and a music student I greatly appreciate people who are interested in learning about cinema, and lyrical content of music. Even more so, as a music student who primarily studies middle eastern music, it is because of people like Haisam that I can study musical arabic theory with listening examples, which help me test hearing and allow me to practice distinguishing different maqams in traditional arabic songs.

Not only have people like Haisam been able to experience a “cultural revolution”, but they have also been able to make their own culture and news available to people around the world.

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For my project I am interested in creating a website, the topic of my choice is unclear so I am open to ideas. Designing a webpage has always been something I’ve been interested in doing and I do feel having website design experience is beneficial and useful. For now I’m thinking a webpage where people can share news pieces of around the world, with emphasis in Egypt and countries where revolutionary uprisings are happening. There can also be a section where one can learn about cinema, music and arts of different countries. My idea definitely needs some refining, so if anyone is interested I’d be happy to hear opinions and additional commentary.

Cultural Knowledge on the Internet

Together: Social Media

Social media has been a way for people all over the world to connect, and in Egypt’s case for a revolution to be made possible. Throughout the readings, we came across pieces which have helped m
e understand the potential of social media and its social_media_people1outcomes. In “We are all Khaled Said” we see how social media has worked to bring together teens and people of all ages who have been fighting for police brutality to be stopped among the youths.

The second article, “We Are All Revolutionaries Now: Social Media Networks and the Egyptian Revolution” by David Faris, as opposed to giving just one in depth explanation of a certain situation, tells us more about the effects in general about social media websites. I found the piece being very helpful to help me understand how effective social media can really be. As a user of social media for mostly socializing reasons, I never knew what other ways social media can be used, and even though I have came accross pages involving people of similar political interests, I hadn’t known how important and essential this medium is to keep pushing forth and connecting people to work together to keep striving for social movements.

This article breaks down how Facebook and Twitter have played a role in theimages Egyptian revolution, and how it has been able to give the opportunity to novice activists to engage in a change as well. The article says, “Finally, Social Media Networks are fully comprehensible and usable even to novice activists, needing nothing beyond standard computer literacy (and sometimes not even that).” It is essential that Facebook, twitter and social mediums be accessible to people all over the world, so people can express their beliefs, and come together easily. Accessibility plays a big role on how effective a site may be, as it may be reached and followed by many people around the world at any time. For example, for myself, being able to access the WAAKS Facebook page has helped me become more aware of revolutionary happenings around the world and more informed on police and government brutality in Egypt. Had I not been able to publicly access the webpage through a click of a link, I may have never been informed, and thus would have to seek out other places to follow honest news.

The article also makes a point that using social media is also low cost, “Furthemore, the applications of Social Media Networks are extremely low costs, usually carried within the total cost of accessing the Internet and purchasing the necessary equipment (i.e., laptop, iPad, cell phone).” Along with easy access to web pages, low cost is also important if a site wants to be accessible to a great number of people.

In both articles the media is proven to be a source of connectivity and political activism. As long as we have accessible active social voices circulating in the media, people will be able to be more informed and participate or be a contribution to revolutionary change.

Together: Social Media

Social Media and Political Uprisings

Distorting Digital Censorship

In Ali and El-Sharnouby’s article dealing with Egypt’s youth and their actions against an authoritarian state through social media, they begin by stating that the youth make up most of the population. With the rise of social media activism such as the “We are all Khaled Said”(WAAKS) movement, the youth population has succeeded to cause political change with the fall of Mubarak while also failing to address the very issues that plague the young demographic, in which WAAKS unfortunately did not. The WAAKS Facebook page that sparked outrage to end the Emergency Law, which stated that the police practically held unchecked power, attacked the governmental policies that affected acts of police brutality and it ultimately succeeded.

Where the WAAKS failed was how it did not discuss the socioeconomic and political problems that affected the youth during their daily lives. This can be seen in the life of Khaled Said, the martyr and icon for the WAAKS movement. The social media movement had recreated and repackaged Khaled Said from a young man that was surrounded by a poor socio-economic environment, drug abuse, and loneliness to a middle class savvy intellectual that could resonate with the youth population online and across Egypt. All of the personal issues that Khaled faced in his own life became lost through his transformation into martyr for a political movement that succeeded in bringing attention to the Emergency Law while also not going far enough and only remaining focused on the outcome of Khaled’s life. Although I think the image change of Khaled Said was unintentional, the movement did ultimately achieve its goal of bringing widespread attention to police torture and towards more actions against ending the Emergency Rule. It is really unfortunate that Khaled Said’s personal life was washed away during WAAKS time and as time passes by, I believe more people will realize his personal sacrifice that evolved into a political statement.

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Social Media Networks and the Egyptian Revolution

Faris begins by explaining the importance of Social Media Networks such as Facebook and Twitter and how they are an incredibly powerful communications tool that can reach out to thousands of people in a matter of seconds. Social Media Networks allow activists to gather groups for rallies and protests without the need for money or expensive communications tools as Facebook and Twitter can be reached very easily through different mediums that are widely available. Additionally, it is also a powerful tool against authoritarian regimes. For example, the article states that social media was used to trick the Egyptian regime of planned protests and then they quickly relocated the protests last minute in order to avoid any violent or major conflicts with the government.

Another example that is shown in the article is through the Kefaya, which like the We Are All Khaled Said movement, protested against the end of the Emergency Rule. The Kefaya movement helped connect old protestor figures and new digital activists against the authoritarian regime. Anyone can start a digital activist movement and Faris states that even though the WAAKS Facebook page was started by a Google Executive in Dubai, these new technologies helped spark widespread political actions that probably would not have been possible if they did not exist. To me, this article looked at the positive effects that social media has and how it has transformed digital and street protests. What I found most interesting was when Faris stated that the January 25 protests could have taken place without the use of digital technologies, but that would have greatly changed the outcome. Communication mediums such as Twitter and Facebook that allow rapid conversation have no question elevated social and political involvement and uprisings against authoritarian regimes. egyptian_revolution_002_by_cyg_x_1-d38mdg0.jpg

-Ivan Palacio

Social Media and Political Uprisings

Youth and Digital Technology in Egypt

According to Ali and El-Sharnouby, Youth in Egypt has increased in population but during the era of Hosni Mubarak, this majority populous was marginalized. At first, in 1981, the youth were seen as productive forces but due to the NDP’s failure to implement any policies, significant amounts of this youth group could not get steady employment causing them to continue living dependent upon their parents. With this frustration and other factors, Egyptian youth were the catalyst and heart behind the fall of Mubarak, mobilizing the populous. Post revolution, these young people failed to recognize that they had to focus on the realism of their situation, “realities of drug abuse, religious extremism, poor-quality education, unemployment, sexual frustration…”(Ali and El-Sharnouby, 90). Ali and El-Sharnouby argue that the “We are all Khaled Said” movement is responsible for driving the Revolution in on the 25th of January. But the movement failed to identify and even discuss other socio-economic youth issues prevalent during the context of that period.

Not only did these youth’s serve as a tool for these revolutions and social movements, but so did the emergence and continued development of digital technology, specifically social media. This can cause digital co-option which is getting followers to gravitate towards one particular argument, discussion, discourse, aim, etc, while alienating others in the community by using “slogans, incidents, and cultural symbolism in their mobilization strategies”(Ali and El-Sharnouby, 92).

The Facebook page for WAAKS is a good example of this digital co-option, using Khaled Said is a martyr and unifying figure, to shift awareness towards other victims of Emergency Law. Khaled Said was not only part of the youth but a man of middle-class background whose death transformed him into the ultimate saint.

What I find immensely intriguing was Khaled Said’s influence by black American subculture including language, clothing and anti-police views. While this didn’t affect his activism its important to recognize these marginalized groups and how culture can thread them together.

Black American subculture and Egypt’s youth have perceptions painted onto them with judgement and disdain and yet they can help to empower one another through culture, language and style. I recognize, in the implications of this movement, various aspects that connect back to the United States and our social movements.

Ali and El-Sharnouby state on page 98 “This form of denial about ‘ourselves; as a society reinforces the syndrome of victim blaming. A woman is blamed if she is harassed; she is accused of wearing ‘unsuitable clothing’…just as a youth who takes drugs is perceived to deserve what he gets from the police.”

I can’t help but thing of Black Lives Matter and the perpetual, systemic and undeserved violence against Blacks in America. Police brutality over no crime or perceived petty-theft crime has become extremely common and life-threatening.

In conclusion, digital activism by specifically the  youth, assisted by the saint-figure of Khaled Said on Facebook, helped to mobilize efforts on January 25. The construction of Facebook pages, digital technology in general, and its connection to activism and ability to mobilize efforts is not only outstanding but proven to be successful, as studied in the WAAKS movement.

 

KhaledSaidcartoon

Youth and Digital Technology in Egypt