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Is the NYT trying to find the white man responsible for the brown people doing the right thing?

The white men responsible are Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg. That's already in the standard western version. And Obama (yes, I know he's not really white...) for giving the Cairo speech that started the whole thing (If you think this is off the wall, think of Reagan's "Tear down this wall!" bringing down the Soviet Union). One hardly needs Gene Sharp if you want to make up a U.S-based myth for the uprising.

More likely, the NYT just wanted to find an angle nobody else had covered, to make up for having otherwise missed the whole story. It's a lot easier covering a story where most of the material is already in English....

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:39:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No evidence as usual, just generalised claims. Of course I'm not saying the NYT is perfect, just that one might be as fair as one expects them to be. Where there are faults they should be condemned, but evidence should be supplied, as one also requires them to do.

They "missed" the story ? Here's an early report, no mention of any "white men" and emphasis on how wide-ranging support for the protests was:

The protests, at least partly inspired by the toppling of the authoritarian government in Tunisia, began small but grew all day, with protesters occupying one of Cairo's central squares. Security forces, which normally prevent major public displays of dissent, initially struggled to suppress the demonstrations, allowing them to swell.

But early Wednesday morning, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades, the police finally drove groups of demonstrators from the square, as the sit-in was transformed into a spreading battle involving thousands of people and little restraint. Plainclothes officers beat several demonstrators, and protesters flipped over a police car and set it on fire.

Protests also flared in Alexandria, Suez, Mansura and Beni Suef. There were reports of three deaths and many injuries around the country.

Photographers in Alexandria caught people tearing up a large portrait of Mr. Mubarak. An Internet video of demonstrations in Mahalla el-Kubra showed the same, while a crowd snapped cellphone photos and cheered. The acts -- rare, and bold here -- underscored the anger coursing through the protests and the challenge they might pose to the aging and ailing Egyptian leader.

Several observers said the protests represented the largest display of popular dissatisfaction in recent memory, perhaps since 1977, when people across Egypt violently protested the elimination of subsidies for food and other basic goods.

It was not clear whether the size and intensity of the demonstrations -- which seemed to shock even the protesters -- would or could be sustained.

The government quickly placed blame for the protests on Egypt's largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is tolerated but officially banned. In a statement, the Interior Ministry said the protests were the work of "instigators" led by the Muslim Brotherhood, while the movement declared that it had little to do with them.

The reality that emerged from interviews with protesters -- many of whom said they were independents -- was more complicated and reflected one of the government's deepest fears: that opposition to Mr. Mubarak's rule spreads across ideological lines and includes average people angered by corruption and economic hardship as well as secular and Islamist opponents. That broad support could make it harder for the government to co-opt or crush those demanding change.

"The big, grand ideological narratives were not seen today," said Amr Hamzawy, research director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. "This was not about `Islam is the solution' or anything else."

Instead, the protests seemed to reflect a spreading unease with Mr. Mubarak on issues from extension of an emergency law that allows arrests without charge, to his presiding over a stagnant bureaucracy that citizens say is incapable of handling even basic responsibilities. Their size seemed to represent a breakthrough for opposition groups harassed by the government as they struggle to break Mr. Mubarak's monopoly on political life.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:16:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're missing the point of the "white man" comment. I was merely pointing out that the ingredients for building a myth of this sort are already there, so there's no need to bring in Gene Sharp for this purpose. I wasn't actually claiming that they were already doing this already (as I think my reference to Obama's speech should have made clear).

As to your quote, my point was that the demonstrations were partly a culmination of a series of labour protests over the past few years. All your quote shows is that there were many reasons for people joining the current protests, which isn't that surprising. You've convinced me elsewhere that the NYT eventually covered this aspect, but not that they did so early on during the protests (or before, though I did find one NYT article of one major strike from 2008; maybe you can do better).

Thi s isn't really a problem that is in any way specific to the NYT, but reflects a natural tendency of all media groups to focus on the new media aspect of a story, since that is what they are familiar with, and that is the easiest way for them to get information. We're only focusing here on the NYT because they seem to have been the source of the Gene Sharp story.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:51:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

You still don't justify this: "having otherwise missed the whole story."  The story cited is from the beginning of the protests, makes it clear that the opposition is wide-ranging. Later reports, as you acknowledge, go into the background more and deal with the recent history of strikes - which  "partly" lead up to the revolution.

The coverage of the new media aspect was not just because it was "familiar" to them, but because, as is widely acknowledged, it did play a significant role in building suppport for and organising the revolution, and here's another reference to earlier strikes:

Published: February 5, 2011

Its power and importance has been building for years. In 2008, the April 6 Youth Movement used Facebook to gain more than 70,000 supporters to help raise awareness for striking workers in Mahalla al-Kobra, Egypt.

In the last two years, that movement and other human rights advocates have also turned to Twitter and to YouTube, the third most visited Web site in Egypt after Google and Facebook. YouTube, which human rights advocates have used to upload dozens of videos showing Egyptian police torture and abuse, has evolved as an enormously powerful social media tool as more people have been able to capture and share video on cellphones.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 07:41:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The coverage of the new media aspect was not just because it was "familiar" to them, but because, as is widely acknowledged, it did play a significant role in building suppport for and organising the revolution

Widely recognised by whom? The people who were actually bleeding and sweating in the streets, or the people who were looking on from outside? In the former case, how do we know? Who has had feet on the ground that understood the local language and were familiar with local conditions?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 08:07:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Already cited here a few times- some of the Egyptians centrally involved in organising the revolution  say so:

They are the young professionals, mostly doctors and lawyers, who touched off and then guided the revolt shaking Egypt, members of the Facebook generation who have remained mostly faceless -- very deliberately so, given the threat of arrest or abduction by the secret police.

Now, however, as the Egyptian government has sought to splinter their movement by claiming that officials were negotiating with some of its leaders, they have stepped forward publicly for the first time to describe their hidden role.

There were only about 15 of them, including Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who was detained for 12 days but emerged this week as the movement's most potent spokesman.

Yet they brought a sophistication and professionalism to their cause -- exploiting the anonymity of the Internet to elude the secret police, planting false rumors to fool police spies, staging "field tests" in Cairo slums before laying out their battle plans, then planning a weekly protest schedule to save their firepower -- that helps explain the surprising resilience of the uprising they began.

Mr. Elaimy, who was imprisoned four times and suffered multiple broken limbs from torture for his political work, now works as an assistant to Mohamed ElBaradei, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the International Atomic Energy Agency. In turn, his group built ties to other young organizers like Ms. Moore.

The seeds of the revolt were planted around the time of the uprising in Tunisia, when Walid Rachid, 27, a liaison from an online group called the April 6 Movement, sent a note to the anonymous administrator of an anti-torture Facebook page asking for "marketing help" with a day of protest on Jan. 25, Mr. Rachid recalled. He wondered why the administrator would communicate only by Google instant message. In fact, it was someone he already knew: Mr. Ghonim, the Google executive.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:56:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Keen to preserve their achievements, the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, which includes members of the April 6 Youth Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and young supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei, plan to form their own opposition party.

During the protests, they were successful in mobilising the Egyptian people with the help of social media. But as the roadmap for the future is planned, will their voices be heard in the clamour for real change?


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 11:07:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That tells us what the ElBaradei faction thinks, and who they are. It doesn't tell us how influential that faction is, or what role they played.

I'm not saying they aren't central, let alone that they played no role. But I'm not prepared to take the American press' word for it, and your Al Jazeera quote only mentions them as one faction among several.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:18:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, yeah.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:42:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What, you mean I should take the American press' word for it?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:44:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
tells a compelling narrative that has this small group organising in poor neighbourhoods, organising feints, etc. to finally arrive in Tahrir Square with a crowd too numerous to dislodge by the police.

It hangs together. The Egyptian police are very good at keeping the lid on, they have done so for 30 years while there has been no shortage of people with legitimate grievances.

Unless someone can come up with a plausible competing narrative as to how Tahrir Square got occupied (and I think we can agree that this was the indispensible catalyst of the revolution), I'm happy with this one. Even if it was printed by the NYT.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 03:46:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But there is an alternative, and not prima facie less compelling, narrative. Namely that the mass protests in Egypt were the culmination of a number of years' escalating labour conflicts, with the Tunisian revolt being the trigger that caused the conflicts at individual workplaces to coalesce into a coherent revolutionary movement.

I'm not arguing that that's the true version, or even that the two are mutually exclusive. But I am arguing that when attempting to ascertain their relative importance, you need to take the American press with a heavy dose of salt. Mass union organisation as a basis for democratic revolutions is so far outside its frame of reference (and what it is politically possible for it to print) that it is liable to underestimate its importance.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 04:05:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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