Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: "Orderly transition" in #Egypt

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  • Christiaan,

    Voice of protester in Egypt;
    http://www.saynow.com/playMsg.html/?ak=TkxFNENGTHVQQzdTdVE4N0xILzlLdz09

    @alaa's sister I believe: @monasosh

    London, UK • Since Dec 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Just found Gordon Campbell's story about Key's feeble response. I'm sure yesterday's Breakfast interview had more context and that Key is being poorly advised by craven toady McCully, but I can see why people are alarmed.

    Key: Well, the concern is that there are some nations that simply do not recognise Israel. And, taken to the extreme, in Iran, Ahmadinejad has said he basically wants to see Israel wiped off the face of the Earth. So, it’s a very serious situation. Egypt’s provided stability and leadership and calmness. Obviously, the hope always being that that position would spread across the Middle East, that it would be possible to broker a two-state solution, with recognition of Palestine as well but this certainly looks like it’s taking things, potentially, in the wrong direction.’

    Newsflash for Key: what Anwar Sadat and his successor Mubarak were offering wasn’t stability, it was tyranny.

    ...

    On the ground, New Zealand citizens have also felt abandoned by their leader during this time of crisis.

    Other nations – including Australia, Thailand, Canada and the US – have put plans in train to evacuate their citizens from Egypt as the demonstrations approach crunch time. Instead, Key has indicated that there no immediate problem, and talked vaguely of asking the Americans for help if the need arises. New Zealand officials have been denying the need for government action, by saying that the fastest way out of Egypt is on a commercial flight.

    Hopefully our government's position is becoming more constructive today, though they still seem to be putting their faith in the free market for evacuating our citizens, and hand-wringing over the impact of their failure to take action sooner. Muppets.

    "What we don't want to do is create an expectation that there will be any particular outcome [on New Zealand Government action] occurring. We want people to be encouraged to continue to seek or to maintain any commercial options they've got," McCully said.

    ...
    "Inviting people to go travelling on the day that there's going to be a major demonstration might not be the best advice that we can give them."

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    Yes, there's an amazing lack of leadership and ambition going on.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A useful Guardian column on the internet shutdown:

    As recently as a week ago, Egypt's internet was extraordinary in the Arab world for its freedom. For more than a decade, the regime has adhered to a hands-off policy, leaving unblocked everything from rumours about President Hosni Mubarak's health to videos of police beatings. Unlike most of its regional neighbours and other authoritarian regimes, Egypt's government never built or required sophisticated technical infrastructures of censorship. (Of course, the country has hardly been a paradise of free expression: the state security forces have vigorously suppressed dissent through surveillance, arbitrary detentions and relentless intimidation of writers and editors.)

    Partly as a result of its liberal policies, Egypt became a hub for internet and mobile network investment, home to a thriving and competitive communications sector that pioneered free dial-up services, achieved impressive rates of access and use, and offered speedy wireless and broadband networks at relatively low prices. Indeed, Egypt is today one of the major crossing points for the underwater fibre-optic cables that interconnect the regions of the globe.

    But last Thursday, the Mubarak regime shattered a decade's worth of accomplishment by issuing the order to shut down the mobile networks and internet links. Since the internet age dawned in the early 90s, no widely connected country had disconnected itself entirely. The starkness and suddenness of Egypt's reversal – from unrestricted to unreachable – marks one of the many tragedies of the Mubarak regime's brutal and hamfisted response to last week's emergence of citizen protests.

    Also, a table of internet penetration in the Middle East and North Africa.

    Egypt has a relatively low penetration rate (~16%) but the highest number of internet users in the region: ~13 million.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Sacha,

    Hopefully our government's position is becoming more constructive today, though they still seem to be putting their faith in the free market for evacuating our citizens, and hand-wringing over the impact of their failure to take action sooner. Muppets.

    Especially since normal commercial flights will likely eventually be grounded for security reasons.

    Mubarak has kept Egypt stable - until now. He's ruled Egypt under an effective state of emergency for 3 decades and doesn't know when to quit.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4356 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    It's not the story, certainly, but in the context of the regime's near-total shutdown of electronic communications, it is a story.

    But this is business as usual. Close the borders, seize the presses, control the telephone exchange etc. You try and control all possible means of communication, and realistically most of them won't matter, but the cost to you of doing so is very low.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    I know I'm obsessed, but I can't wait to see Chris Trotter's take on all this. Will he endorse Mubarak? (The NDP is a nominally socialist party). How crazy will his historic analogies be from a country with so much history for him to distort? And how will he tie it all into domestic New Zealand politics? John Key as Moses? Phil Goff as Cleopatra? Hone Harawira as Rommel?
    It's exciting.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 902 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    You are obsessed. My pick is that Egypt's troubles will be because of all the liberals getting in the way of the communists uprooting the fascists.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    I can't wait to see Chris Trotter's take on all this.

    It's bound to be uppity wimmins to blame, undermining the proud socialist peckers of the nation's menfolk.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes, there's an amazing lack of leadership and ambition going on.

    If only Kiwis were allowed to apply for roles in the US government, eh.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    Naw, it'll be "Egyptians refused to be cowed by the do-gooders of the West who advised patience/calm/submission to tyranny and had an old-fashioned revolution all on their own that no doubt was inspired by Marxist ideology."

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    But this is business as usual. Close the borders, seize the presses, control the telephone exchange etc.

    But cutting off the internet entirely isn't business as usual; as Russell just illustrated, it's pretty unique to this situation. No-one's ever done this before; sure, cutting off communication is standard, but there's never been this much to cut off, so quickly.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The army gave Mubarak the kiss of death this morning when it declared the protest legitimate and said it would not move against the demonstrators. Now all that the regime has is the state security apparatus, and if thy crack down to hard the military will intervene with bigger and better guns. Remember, since the Egyptian partial victory in the 1973 war the army has been an enormous source of patriotic pride in Egypt.

    Expect Mubarak to flee and a junta of generals to take over promising reform. The army runs Egypt now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1811 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The social networking narrative risks making the assumption that has dogged Western foreign policy forever - that everyone has the same aspirations as the population of Point Chev, Palo Alto or Islington. For a subset of Internet-active Egyptians, this might be true, but it probably isn't what's driving the protests.

    The really key people in this are the grassroots (papyrus roots?) soldiers. By withdrawing their consent, they force the government to move. That didn't happen in Iran (or Tienanmen Square). It was the pivotal factor in many successful revolutions and reactions in the past 100 years. (The others mostly involved a collapse of will in the ruling group). These guys mostly aren't on Twitter. (Have you *tried* keying text on an iPhone with an AK47 in the other hand?)

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Sacha: I'm pretty unhappy with the Campbell's implication that Key is, by virtue of his mother and the acclamation of the Jerusalem Post, acting out some sort of traitorous solidarity with Israel, rather than being his typical ill-informed self.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Note to self, make sure to keep CB and VHF radio batteries charged up when we have a revolution.

    Edit: Note to self, get iPhone holder on AK47.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    No-one’s ever done this before; sure, cutting off communication is standard, but there’s never been this much to cut off, so quickly.

    I suspect because it hasn't had quite the urgency in other, similar situations, where either the infrastructure hasn't been up to much, or where the medium hasn't had the overt connotations of viral information spread (at least in the minds of the Powers That Be.)

    I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes the standard from now on for most countries with anything more than a rudimentary telecommunications network.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Sacha,

    In places like Egypt, Twitter is used mainly on mobile phones, isn't it? Think of it as the social layer that helps route messages to groups. Like a telephone tree on steroids.

    100% correct. In much of the developing world the phone has become the key internet tool, and in the last 24 months the big phone companies have put vast sums into Egypt (and many other countries at that level). Facebook use in particular has exploded. The most recent figures I can find online are a year old and put the number of FB users in Egypt at 4m. I would be very surprised if that hadn't doubled since then. Twitter as well. If you have a phone it's very likely you have both especially in the urban areas and under 30.

    These have become very, very empowering. It's hard to overstate how much they mean in nations where the people have never had such a voice before.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3208 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    The really key people in this are the grassroots (papyrus roots?) soldiers. By withdrawing their consent, they force the government to move.

    The higher-ups need to be in on it too, surely.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Have you *tried* keying text on an iPhone with an AK47 in the other hand?

    I'm pretty sure my nieces could and get a high score at the same time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3420 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Sacha: I'm pretty unhappy with the Campbell's implication that Key is, by virtue of his mother and the acclamation of the Jerusalem Post, acting out some sort of traitorous solidarity with Israel, rather than being his typical ill-informed self.

    Agreed, weakens the argument. And Key is hardly the source of the government's thinking either, such as it is.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    keying text on an iPhone with an AK47 in the other hand

    Angrier Birds

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    where the medium hasn't had the overt connotations of viral information spread

    That's the crux of the Gladwell vs Shirky take - beyond perception, do these new forms of technologised social organisation actually allow tangibly different action?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16772 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The online media narrative "it's about Twitter" is simply a reflection of the traditional media narrative NZer relieved to get out of Egypt. Pick a subgroup that you relate to and write about how they're affected.

    -----

    It also strikes me that it's dead easy for a government to restrict mobile Internet to a "walled garden" of acceptable sites, given it all goes through a handful of gateways. Of course, the dominant platform helps by already providing the required facilities out of the box.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Yes, when I heard I that the military were not going to act against the protesters that was a"game over" moment
    Something special about watching history in action
    Who next

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

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