“Twitter, Facebook, and various instant messaging platforms (SMS, Skype, Google Chat, etc.) act as force-multipliers for revolutionary movements…” — Jeffrey Carr
As the world watches Egypt crumble into chaos, with over 100 dead and 2000 injured, the Obama administration continues to be somewhat and rather curiously ambivalent. On the one hand, on Friday, Vice President Biden came to the defense of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, saying that he shouldn’t step aside. Yet, on the same day, the Telegraph (ala Wikileaks) reported that the U.S. had planned “regime change” for the “past three years” while both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton demand that internet be restored to the Egyptian protesters. This morning, Secretary of State Clinton again clarified the United States’ official position, “We do not want to send any message about backing forward or backing back.”
For all the lack of clarity on where the Obama administration stands, one thing is becoming more and more clear: Signs are beginning to point more toward the likelihood that President Obama’s State Department, unions, as well as Left-leaning media corporations are more directly involved in helping to ignite the Mid-East turmoil than they are publicly admitting.
If it is indeed the case that the Obama administration, with help by private-sector companies and the union movement has led an “internet revolution” in the middle east and toppled two governments within a month, the longer-term ramifications for U.S. relations with other allies such as Saudi Arabia and certain other Arab monarchies, could prove to have much more far-reaching consequences.
The Role of Unions in the Tunisian Revolution.
Last month, a riotous and deadly revolution began in the North African nation of Tunisia, which led to the ouster of long-time ruler President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. According to a Huffington Post report:
After 23 years of iron-fisted rule, the president of Tunisia was driven from power Friday by violent protests over soaring unemployment and corruption. Virtually unprecedented in modern Arab history, the populist uprising sent an ominous message to authoritarian governments that dominate the region.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he applauded the courage and dignity of protesting Tunisians, and urged all parties to keep calm and avoid violence.
Although there have been numerous articles regarding the role of unions in the Tunisian “revolution,” perhaps none have been so clear as this one in the Huffington Post:
Though the movement appears to be a mix of grassroots spontaneity and targeted direct actions, it has achieved political valence through the savvy of organized labor activists. In the days leading up to the uprising, unions were feeding the foment of the demonstrators by calling strikes nationwide, including an 8,000 strong lawyer strike that paralyzed the courts.
As Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst commented:
Unlike the short-lived uprising in neighbouring Algeria or recent socio-economic protests in other Arab countries, the popular Tunisian uprising was immediately supported by all the opposition groups, from the Islamists to the Communists, as well as by the labour unions, which helped it spread to all major parts of the country, including the influential north.
While the General Tunisian Workers’ Union (UGTT) was initially involved in helping to set up a transitional government, its leadership has since pulled out due to a popular uprising from the rank-and-file workers. Nevertheless, the AFL-CIO announced on its blog that:
The global union movement is reaffirming its strong support for the General Tunisian Workers’ Union (UGTT) and the Tunisian people in their courageous struggle for equality, social justice, political freedom and democracy.
In a statement, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which includes the AFL-CIO, said it welcomes the fall of the dictatorship in Tunisia and fully supports UGTT ’s call for an end to corruption and nepotism and a genuine transition toward a true democracy.
As the Tunisian fires still burned with political confusion and turmoil, almost spontaneously, an explosion of unrest has thrown Egypt into chaos as well. However, as the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin notes, the two events cannot be viewed separately:
Stephen McInerney of the Project for Middle East Democracy says that the events in Tunisia are anything but unique to that country. To the contrary, the massive protests in Egypt were “inspired by and a direct result of” recent events in Tunisia. Despite Feltman’s dim view of the trans-national nature of democratic movements, McInerney says, “I was in Cairo the day Ben Ali stepped down. Immediately the conversation was, ‘How do we translate this to Egypt?'”
In fact, the mass political protests in Egypt would not, he says, have been possible and would not have been so successful if not for Tunisia. A mass movement, run almost entirely by secular groups and directed solely at Egypt’s political system is “unprecedented,” he explains. The Muslim Brotherhood allowed its members to participate, but did not organize or populate the street demonstrations, he says. “Egyptians are watching very carefully what happens in Tunisia ” he reports. It sends a “powerful message” to Egyptians, Algerians and throughout the region that secular democracy can be theirs as well.
As the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, which works with other union around the globe, has been supporting Egyptian unions for quite some time, it is not surprising that it posted on its website support for the Egyptian protests as well: The Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services has issued a statement supporting the popular uprising in Egypt and calling on President Hosni Mubarak to respond to the people’s demands.
Is the State Department & New Media Companies Driving a Coup in the Middle East?
On Friday, the Egyptian government shut down access to the internet in an effort to keep protesters from communicating virally. This drew a sharp rebuke from the Obama Administration, including from President Obama himself:
President Obama called on Egypt to bring back the Internet and access to social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter that have been suspended this week by the government there.
“The people of Egypt have rights that are universal,” Obama said. “That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights and the United States will stand up for them everywhere.
“I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, with cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also wrote on Twitter, from his @PressSec account, on Friday “Very concerned about violence in Egypt — government must respect the rights of the Egyptian people & turn on social networking and internet.”
For an administration that seems to be trying to walk a fine line between supporting an ally and “respecting the rights of the Egyptian people,” a call to turn the internet back on seemed rather odd. However, it’s really not when the pieces of the puzzle are put into place.
One of the Wikileaks linked in the Telegraph article makes mention of this interesting passage:
On December 23, April 6 activist xxxxxxxxxxxx expressed satisfaction with his participation in the December 3-5 “Alliance of Youth Movements Summit,” and with his subsequent meetings with USG officials, on Capitol Hill, and with think tanks. He described how State Security (SSIS) detained him at the Cairo airport upon his return and confiscated his notes for his summit presentation calling for democratic change in Egypt, and his schedule for his Congressional meetings. xxxxxxxxxxxx contended that the GOE will never undertake significant reform, and therefore, Egyptians need to replace the current regime with a parliamentary democracy. He alleged that several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011…
The Alliance of Youth Movements Summit referenced in the Wikileak was a summit held on December 3-5, 2008 and took place at the Columbia Law School in New York one month after Barack Obama was elected President.
According to the Summit’s press release:
From December 3 to 5, leaders of pioneering youth movements will launch a global network that seeks to empower young people to mobilize against violence and oppression. Brought together by Howcast, Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, the U.S. Department of State, Columbia Law School and Access 360 Media, leaders of the organizations will travel to New York City with the mission of crafting a field manual on how to effect social change using online tools.
Among the panelists that spoke at the 2008 summit were Sam Graham-Felson, Director of Blogging and Blog Outreach for 2008 Obama Campaign, Scott Goodstein, External Online Director for Obama for America, Joe Rospars, New Media Director Barack Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign, as well as Jared Cohen, Policy Planning Staff, Office of the Secretary of State (now with Google).
Since 2008, the Alliance For Youth Movements appears to have shortened its name to Movements.org, although its facebook page still uses both and stating:
AYM identifies, connects, and supports youth activists from around the world who use technology to organize for social change.
Movements.org is non-profit 501(c)(3) organization comprised of individuals from technology companies, media, the NGO community and digital activists from around the world. We provide a global network that aims to support and sustain campaigns for nonviolent social change that harness 21st century tools to safeguard human rights, promote good governance and foster civic engagement.
On it’s homepage and blog, this weekend, it has a post entitled 5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SUPPORT EGYPTIANS FROM ANYWHERE
It’s the weekend! And a possible revolution steams forward in Egypt. The stakes are incredibly high – a point underlined by the news that activists targeted for their involvement in the failed 2009 uprising in Iran were hung yesterday – so it makes sense that international onlookers are looking for any way that they might be able to help. Here are some ways to get involved if you’re not in Egypt but want to do something.
Note that a lot of these are for the more technically inclined. If that’s not you, one thing you can do is spread these tips who may be.
In other words, Movements.org is a 21st Century private and public-sector partnership for regime change. This is an organization that has the biggest internet players, as well as the U.S. State Department involved and is openly working to support uprisings.
According to Movements.org’s website, its list of private and public sponsors include Google, YouTube, Facebook, MTV, CBS News, MSNBC, as well as the Columbia Law School and the U.S. State Department.
As Jeffrey Carr notes on a Forbes post:
A powerful engine of change is rolling through Tunisia and Egypt, overthrowing the old ways of governing as well as those who govern. However, to call these history-making movements “Twitter revolutions” or anything similar does a huge disservice to the people involved.
Twitter, Facebook, and various instant messaging platforms (SMS, Skype, Google Chat, etc.) act as force-multipliers for revolutionary movements because they enable the entire world to bear witness and express support for the revolutionaries’ courageous acts.
Given the State Department’s involvement with a group committed to using the internet for “social change,” which calls into question both the President’s as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call to restore the internet, it appears the world may be witnessing the first internet-led attempts at “regime change,” orchestrated by President Obama and his allies on the Left.
Photo credit: Freestylee
[Emphasis added throughout.]
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776