Political tension in the Middle East is nothing
unusual — in fact, the idea of peace in the region seems
almost impossible. Government censorship is also not
a new approach of political repression. Elites have long
subjugated the masses, quelling revolts by stifling the
exchange of information.
Shutting off Internet and cell phone service to a
whole country takes transgressions against civil liberties
to a new tyrannical low. On Friday, President Hosni
Mubarak halted the flow of communication in and out
of the country in an attempt to silence civil unrest.
His effort to sweep resistance under the rug, however,
has drowned him out and given credence to opposition
leaders, while a riveted global audience watches for reasons
more refreshingly progressive than the traditional
oil parlance.
Even now as Egyptian protesters gear up for another
day of demonstrations, journalists and observers from
other countries — the only ones able to consistently
post updates online — have flocked to the area, catching
the scent of something different in the air. Words
like “democracy” and “revolution” surface in coverage of
Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, prompting nervous excitement
in the East as well as the West because a new
generation calls for reform.
The people of Egypt have decided that consent
is necessary for representation, and it’s obvious that
Mubarak no longer has theirs.
Youth in Revolt
Two-thirds of Egypt’s population is under the age of
30, and has therefore spent their entire lives under the
rule of one man: Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak has allegedly
rigged elections to keep his long lasting regime,
undermining civil and personal liberties for his constituents.
The striking element of the recent outcry in Egypt no
doubt lies with the youth’s involvement in demanding
reform in the face of a deficient government. In
America, the inalienable rights we have been given are
continually taken for granted, as integrally Yankee as
baseball and hot dogs. These Egyptian protesters should
serve as an important model for our own youth — they
should serve to inspire us, to cast off our political apathy.
The courage that is needed to attempt overthrowing a
tyrannical government is enough to make anyone think
twice, and yet advocates of reform and representation
in the Middle East are risking their lives to be heard.
In modern America, concepts of protests and revolution
have almost become a thing of myth— sure there’s
the American Revolution and Vietnam, hippie peace
marches and whatever — but what can our generation
say about being activists? What have we personally done
to secure our freedoms, to ensure that our voices are
continually heard?
Regardless of the political outcomes in Egypt, Yemen
and Jordan, there is much hope in the bravery that demonstrators
have shown. It’s inspiring to see someone risk
their own lives for the chance of their children living in
a brighter tomorrow. It’s refreshing to realize that activism
isn’t dead, at least somewhere in the world.
The Internet has become an undeniable part of our
social and political lives. The protests in Egypt were
first organized through social networks and 140 character
Tweets. But as the people learn how to employ social
media as means to their political ends, authoritarian
leaders are recognizing the dangers that unrestricted
digital speech pose for the stability of their regime.
As we’ve seen, Mubarak’s blockage of internet and
mobile service to almost the entire country rings of classic
censorship, but it’s been delivered with the frightening,
lightening-fast speed of the web. Easy on, Easy off.
Or is it?
When Mubarak’s administration shut down the
nation’s Internet, he did not simply just cut off the
people’s access to Facebook. He set a dangerous precedent
for the rest of the world’s governments. To shut
down the Internet was to attempt to isolate the people
of Egypt from the rest of the world. Citizens of Kim
Jong Il’s North Korea do not revolt because they satisfied,
but rather because they are ignorant of the other
liberties that much of the world enjoys. Unfortunately
for Mubarak, his people have already become a part of
the global community and trying to prevent them from
communicating with the outside world just sparked
more foreign interest.
Your Voice
Don’t take your freedom of speech for granted—it’s
a part of the First Amendment because it’s the most
important right you have.
Consider what you would do if your government
took away your ability to communicate on the Internet.
Not a mundane service outage, not a temporary loss of
Youtube video privileges— but a concerted effort to stop
you, your friends, co-workers and peers from connecting
with each other.
Living in the United States, the idea seems absurd.
Although Senator Lieberman has long crusaded for a
mass communication ‘kill switch’ to be made available
for the President’s use in emergency times, we at the
Daily Nexus strongly believe that Americans would
never let that happen. Nothing keeps the U.S. away
from Twitter and porn sites.
The world is becoming increasingly complex.
International relationships are increasingly intertwined.
As such, we move into closer proximity — intellectually,
politically, socially, economically, etc. — with our global
neighbors. This is a global community we are forming,
but not everyone has a chance to participate equally.
Those who have a voice have a duty to speak out for
those who are being stifled.