Assignment#2 – Media & Sovereignty

Ever since the invention of the printing press, in the middle of the 15th century, the sovereignty of monarchs and the church have been threatened. Without the printing press Martin Luther’s doctrines and the ideas of the Enlightenment, would not have spread. Among the Enlightenment ideas were freedom of speech and the press. In order to suppress these freedoms, many nations resorted to either outright intimidation of journalists, or they set up their own state controlled press. Even today, most nations have state controlled news, which only writes positively about their government. Dissenters are often tortured and imprisoned.

Now there is a new type of media that has emerged. Social media, and nation-states are struggling to suppress its message. New technology, in the form of social media sites, such as Face Book and Twitter, have opened up communication to all, and ideas and events are spread instantaneously. This is what happened this year in Egypt. Social networking spread the words of revolution, especially to the young and unemployed. More than half the population in Egypt is under the age of 30, and more than 25 % of these people are unemployed. Mix in with that the soaring price of food, and you have the recipe for revolution. The Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarek had never allowed free elections in the 30 years of his rule. Most people felt that their needs were not being considered. Due to the social media, overnight, the streets of Cairo and several other major cities were filled with young, peaceful protesters, demanding change. Within several weeks of constant peaceful protest, Mubarek resigned. Now there will be free and open elections in the fall. Hopefully, some form of democratic government will be established.

The key to all this is the word PEACEFUL. The Middle East has not been an area where peaceful protest has flourished. Rather, it has been an area known for violence and terrorism. However, now, as protests are spreading throughout the region, the protesters are mainly peaceful, with the governments often reacting violently, in order to maintain their control.

I was just reading, in the latest issue of Time Magazine, about a group of “social networking rebels” in Palestine. They want their leadership to stop the violence against Israel, and work for a peaceful solution of their differences. Certainly violence hasn’t worked. Maybe the peaceful approach will, with the help of the social media.

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One Response to “Assignment#2 – Media & Sovereignty”

  1. Prof. Hala says:

    Excellent post — sharp, insightful and well-crafted. Your emphasis on the peaceful nature of the internet-enabled protests in the Middle East and North Africa is key. Interestingly, some see these anti-government uprisings, which were fueled by the spread of information, as part of a broader “information war,” ironically, a “war” fought by nonviolent means.