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.

Advertisements
The Controversy of Activism

You Stink

The YouStink campaign targets removing the garbage that the Lebanon government refuses to acknowledge. The movement has an active website that is published in two languages to accommodate both the locals facing the issue and those who are interested in learning more. Not only does it provide their mission and what they stand for as a group but also have direct links to social media accounts that provide even more opinions and information. What amazed me were the pictures in the article written by Taylor. It was powerful to see not only the amount of trash just there in the open, but how the protesters are dealt with. They are hosed down, beaten, shot at, and injured fighting for sanitation in their homes. You think that the government would take action to help the people. They are asking for a simple thing, which is to pick up the trash. Without following through the spread of disease as a problem arises. I put myself in their situation and it sounds horrible: the thought that trash would just pile up in the streets.

You Stink

Revolutions are becoming socially mediated, but is there a hidden agenda behind the technology?

The class readings regarding social media revolutions and the distortion of digital citizenship, really opened my eyes to the harsh reality of Egyptian youth and the expansiveness of media technology. For instance, the way that the youths of Egypt used social medias like Facebook to both reach and inform people, who would never know of or truly understand the atrocities that young people face, in countries that lack human rights for its citizens, is amazing and would probably never occur without the expansive capabilities of the internet. However, I do feel that the youth movement that started “We Are All Khalid Said” (WAAKS) was wrong for their portrayal of Said, as a martyr, to support their politically driven agenda. From my understanding, Said was not an activist of any social movement to overturn Mubarak or to thwart the Emergency Law that plagued the youths of Egypt. He was just a youth, that’s it. A young man who lived in a country that treated its youths, as if they were a burden to society. In some way, WAAKS portrayal of Khaled Said, as a saint who could do no wrong, is similar to how the youths of Egypt are portrayed as a problem to society.

While the youth movements of Egypt gain attention for their means, the reality of what is truly epidemic, that is the marginalization of Egyptian society economically and the current disadvantaged state of both the middle- and lower-classes, are not being addressed. I think that in order for the youth movements to have a greater impact on not only the Egyptian society, but also on societies from around the world, it is important that these digitalized movements address the more rooted problems that have affected the country of Egyptian for centuries, not just recently. It seems as if those who are using digital media to gain attention and inform others, are simply using predominant problems that effect both themselves and a more specified grouping of society. However, my question is if the youth movements in Egypt were to expand their agendas to address the whole of society and the human rights brutalities they all face collectively, would those involved in such movements eventually lose their anonymity and become more susceptible to brutalities against their livelihood, both individually and socially? With this said, one could conclude that the reasoning behind the specificity of the digitalized youth movements, is to the extent to which they can begin to address the many problems that face their society, without feeling personally susceptible to the atrocities their people endure, due to the exploitation of power by the hierarchy.

Revolutions are becoming socially mediated, but is there a hidden agenda behind the technology?

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