Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Okay, so I haven't been covering Egypt here. I'm a shitty blogger, etc. The reason I haven't posted anything yet is chiefly because I'm ambivalent about the end game -- as I am with any large scale uprising. We simply don't know whether the potential new government will actually be far worse to its people and a greater threat to America. The potential for there to be a radical, theocratic government that replaces the Mubarak military government is -- what? -- 50/50? So while the goals of free elections and liberty are noble, and worthy of our full throated support, what are the real odds of that coming to fruition in this transfer? I don't know yet. The only thing we can hope for, perhaps, is a strong western influence (us) pulling some stunts behind the scenes to swing the outcome closer to our favor."

-- Bob Cesca

Speaking of shitty bloggers, I admit that I lazily pulled Cesca's explanation for why he's stayed silent on Egypt over here because it kind of nails my thoughts on the head. Unlike Fox news, which can't even find the fucking place on a map (sure it was likely a mistake by one guy in graphics, but oh was it a good one), I don't pretend to know enough about the decades and even centuries of political and social machinations within Egypt that have led to this one moment of epochal upheaval. And the last thing I want to be is one more dilletante American asshole offering ridiculous commentary from half-a-world away. I know that if we hope for every new government -- or even ones that already exist -- to embrace our ideals or at least be friendly toward our interests, we're going to be waiting a long time, so maybe it's myopic and culturally narcissistic to look at this revolution only in terms of how it might benefit the U.S. It may, it may not; freedom grows in unpredictable and sometimes ugly ways. That's why we have a State Department (and why I took offense not long ago at the idea of Wikileaks unleashing internal State Department cables and claiming they revealed nefarious skulduggery; that's what the agency is there for, to negotiate and smooth things over with countries we otherwise wouldn't be able to, and to do it sometimes by any means necessary).

The only angle in all of this that I think I can comment on, because I've done it before, is the way that social networking has become so powerful -- the instantaneous worldwide communication and transparency it provides so dangerous (as evidenced, actually, by the Wikileaks saga) -- that it can organize a revolution and prompt governments to try to look for the internet off switch.

It really is a brave new world out there.


IrishGirl said...

Someone made the point over at Balloon-juice.com that the average Egyptian doesn't even own a cell phone. While that may be true, it doesn't negate the fact that those who do own cell phones and have Internet access, were a part of these protests and they used the new technology to coordinate the protests and communicate with the outside world. I have some details on how they did it and some further thoughts on what it means in the "brave new world".

CNNfan said...

"is the way that social networking has become so powerful" said Chez.

Strictly for the sake of a conversation that is delimited in scope to published computer science, with absolutely no comment on any current events:

From its inception, the Internet began so powerful as a defensive military weapon for surviving densely populated areas to continue communication under nuclear warfare conditions. Encryption is classified as a military weapon.

Indigotea said...

You know, the West has tried behind-the-scenes machinations for centuries to ensure our own best interests are served. And the more we try to rig the game in our favor, the more the pendulum swings the other way against us. Nobody likes being part of a puppet state. Not even one that runs pretty well.

We can't keep saying that we support free and open governments and keep adding a quiet little asterisk to say, "Offer null and void if the US would be better served by an authoritarian regime." I'm not naive here. I know we have a long tradition of nation-building. Our attitude just doesn't work over the long-term. Eventually every propped-up leader DOES fall, and then we're really screwed.

Kevin Davis said...

Don't forget the ability for worldwide communication to inspire other people to do the same thing.