Looks like the revolution will not be socialized, at least not the one smoldering and catching fire in Egypt. Late yesterday the Egyptian government cut Internet connections first to the social networks and then to the whole dam Internet itself according to a story by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on ZDNet.
The implications are fascinating and enormous. In the old days, and I suppose even now — though I don’t want to test the hypothesis — when a country went to war one of the first things it did was to sever relations with and recall its ambassadors to its opponent. Ironically, Egypt is recalling its connection with the rest of the world, turning its citizens into captives. Can you really make captives of a whole country? Unfortunately, yes. And without the Internet there are fewer witnesses.
One of the logical conclusions I am forced to is that the authorities are ready to crack down and declare martial law, though in Egypt, a one party thug-tatorship, one wonders how martial law differs from the quotidian. The crazy specter of a government at war with its citizens looms ahead.
One of the mistakes the Iranians made a couple of years ago was leaving the Internet mostly alone. The ‘net proved a powerful window into that troubled society and perhaps that window limited the carnage of the government crackdown. So far Egypt looks more like China circa 1989 and Tiananmen Square. That was bad but at least we could preserve the smug assumption that the Chinese were to some degree Communist adversaries. In contrast the Egyptians are supposed to be allies.
What does it say that our ally is a one party state with a president who’s set a world record for re-election and who is preparing to pass on the “elected” office to his son? Ironically, that part of the world gives us too many examples of broken government. Iranian theocracy represses people and doesn’t work. Egyptian democracy represses people and doesn’t work. Saudi and other monarchies in conjunction with religious conservatives repress people and are barely functional if only because they have more ruthless police. It’s no wonder the middle east is a smoldering cauldron.
They say freedom and democracy are messy but compared to what?