202 million people unemployed around the world, along with a weakening global economy, and an ever widening gap between the rich and poor, with very little genuine governmental action or reaction on behalf of the people, has created much suffering for anyone not rich. Likewise, these economic and political hardships have generated a wave of social unrest that may yet destabilize established political regimes world-wide. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, along with live cable broadcasting, have been important technological tools for young people across the globe fed-up with no means for economic advancement and who have had their freedom thwarted by political regimes unresponsive to their needs. However, now that evidence has surfaced that these technological advances in social movement mobilization are being monitored, and used by governmental law enforcement agencies and military regimes in at least one Arab nation (Egypt) to crack-down on protestors, it remains to be seen whether or not the internet will continue to be a force for positive democratic change, or whether or not it will become yet another tool for government repression.
Overview and History of the Global Uprising:
The Arab Spring, a term used to describe “the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests (both non-violent and violent), riots, and civil wars in the Arab world that began on 18 December 2010” was the first social movement to use social media to organize and protest against government repression” (Wikipedia).
“The [initial] catalyst for the current escalation of protests was the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi. Unable to find work and selling fruit at a roadside stand, on 17 December 2010, a municipal inspector confiscated his wares. An hour later he doused himself with gasoline and set himself afire. His death on 4 January 2011 brought together various groups dissatisfied with the existing system, including many unemployed, political and human rights activists, labor, trade unionists, students, professors, lawyers, and others to begin the Tunisian revolution” (Wikipedia).
Causes of Unrest:
“Numerous factors have led to the protests, including issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, political corruption (demonstrated by Wikileaks diplomatic cables), economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors, such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the population” (Wikipedia).
Political Change Resulting from Global Social Movement Political Action:
These social movements have had mixed results, but clearly they have had sufficient impact to cause Western governmental leaders to take notice and engage in covert efforts to thwart their ultimate outcomes, because in general, as of December 2013 “rulers had been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt (twice), Libya, and Yemen; civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests have broken out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan; and minor protests have occurred in Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Western Sahara, and the Palestinian Authority” (Wikipedia).
More specifically, and perhaps more disturbing for governmental leaders world-wide, is the fact that these social movements aided by social media have led to the direct overthrow of governments in at least four countries. “Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January 2011 following the Tunisian revolution protests. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 11 February 2011 after 18 days of massive protests, ending his 30-year presidency. The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown on 23 August 2011, after the National Transitional Council (NTC) took control of Bab al-Azizia. He was killed on 20 October 2011, in his hometown of Sirte after the NTC took control of the city. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed the GCC power-transfer deal in which a presidential election was held, resulting in his successor Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi formally replacing him as the president of Yemen on 27 February 2012, in exchange for immunity from prosecution” (Wikipedia).
Other leaders in the region who have been affected by the social uprisings are the following: “Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015, as did Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose term ends in 2014, although there have been increasingly violent demonstrations demanding his immediate resignation. Protests in Jordan have also caused the sacking of four successive governments by King Abdullah. The popular unrest in Kuwait has also resulted in resignation of Prime Minister Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah cabinet” (Wikipedia).
It is important to point out however, that the unrest in the Arab world has not been limited to that region. “The early uprisings in North Africa were inspired by the 2009-2010 uprisings in the neighboring state of Iran. These are considered by many commentators to be part of a wave of protest that began in Iran, moved to North Africa, and has since gripped the broader Middle Eastern and North African regions, including additional protests in Iran in 2011–2012” (Wikipedia).
“Weapons and Tuareg fighters returning from the Libyan civil war stoked a simmering conflict in Mali which has been described as “fallout” from the Arab Spring in North Africa. The sectarian clashes in Lebanon were described as a spillover violence of the Syrian uprising and hence the regional Arab Spring” (Wikipedia).
Likewise, beyond the Middle East and North Africa, “in the countries of the neighboring South Caucasus—namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, and —as well as some countries in Europe, including Albania, Croatia, and Spain. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso, and Uganda, and countries in other parts of Asia, including the Maldives and the People’s Republic of China demonstrators and opposition figures claiming inspiration from the examples of Tunisia and Egypt have staged their own popular protests. The protests in the Maldives led to the resignation of the President.” (Wikipedia).
“The bid for statehood by Palestine at the UN on 23 September 2011 is also regarded as drawing inspiration from the Arab Spring after years of failed peace negotiations with Israel. In the West Bank, schools and government offices were shut to allow demonstrations backing the UN membership bid in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron; echoing similar peaceful protests from other Arab countries” (Wikipedia).
Perhaps, most importantly for Western nations, is the realization that the “15 October 2011 global protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in the United States and has since spread to Asia and Europe, drew direct inspiration from the Arab Spring, with organizers asking U.S. citizens “Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” The protesters have committed to using the “revolutionary Arab Spring tactic” to achieve their goals of curbing corporate power and control in Western governments.” Furthermore, “the Occupy Nigeria protests beginning the day after Goodluck Jonathan announced the scrap of the fuel subsidy in oil-rich Nigeria on 1 January 2012, were motivated by the Arab people” as well (Wikipedia).
Western Government’s Response to the Global Social Movement Threat:
However, a disturbing trend has developed from these successes. “Some critics have accused Western governments and media, including those of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, of hypocrisy in the way they have reacted to the Arab Spring” (Wikipedia). In fact, some have gone even farther, to suggest these very same Western powers are trying to covertly thwart democracy. “Noam Chomsky accused the Obama administration of endeavoring to muffle the revolutionary wave and stifle popular democratization efforts in the Middle East” (Wikipedia).
In Egypt the Arab Spring’s democratic uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak was ultimately thwarted by a military coup that may or may not have been supported by the United States. Likewise, it has recently been discovered that Facebook and Twitter were monitored in Egypt, and were actually used against protestors there to quash their reform efforts and social mobilization. However, the Egyptian military does not have the capability to monitor these social networks, so it would appear the NSA (or the U.K. equivalent) has been providing the Egyptian military with key details about protestors names, their plans, and how to help them crush democratic movements and protests in that Nation. Why? American, U.K., and French governmental officials do not like to see governments they’ve been manipulating falling like dominoes to democratic movements empowered by social media, electing new leaders they cannot control.
More Recent Global Protest Developments:
In Syria, their own version of the Arab Spring wages on, after “Syrian security forces arrested about 15 children in Daraa, in southern Syria, for writing slogans against the government” which caused major protests to soon erupt “over the arrest and abuse of the children” (Wikipedia). This initial political unrest apparently sparked by the Arab Spring, the arrest of an old man, and “naughty children” has led to a devastating civil-war, war atrocities, and ethnic hatred that may take years of peace talks to stop, and may take several life-times to resolve. Those peace talks are occurring now in Geneva, Switzerland, but the U.S. appears to be attempting to bully its way into dictating what peace in Syria will look like, rather than allowing the Syrian people to define it for themselves.
In the Ukraine, due to backroom deals, their president will not allow the country to distance itself from Russia, and join the European Union, which has led the Ukrainian people to fight and shed blood for greater freedoms, with protest leaders being kidnapped, tortured, and killed for their efforts. In Thailand, protestors are attempting to topple the Thai Prime Minister for her support of amnesty for previous leaders related to her who were exposed for corruption and who left the country to avoid prosecution. One of the primary leaders of the resistance was shot dead in the street along with nine of his fellow protestors as of the publication of this article.
North Korea and South Korea, divided by a civil-war and their own min-“cold-war” for decades, are at each others throats yet again because of joint U.S. and South Korean military “games” scheduled next month. Turkey’s economy is on the decline, and major protests there have recently rocked it’s political and economic stability. Likewise, Argentina power protests have left garbage in the streets, and uncertainty and worry about the future, with their peso value reaching an all time low. And even in China, Chinese protestors are calling for governmental transparency and for Chinese political leaders to have to reveal their earnings since it has come to light that many have secret bank accounts overseas.
In South Sudan, Christians and Muslims are killing one another for religious and ethnic differences, and that conflict appears to be on the verge of erupting into yet another Rwanda-like genocidal event. Likewise, the Central African Republic is facing similar unrest due to dictatorship, and the oppression of it’s people via rape, torture, and murder, and the French and the U.S. recently intervened in that conflict in an apparent attempt to prevent yet another Rwanda. Furthermore, it would appear, the Central African Republic is a micro-example of what the entire world might someday look like if the people’s concerns are not sufficiently addressed by governmental leaders. A non-violent political protestor only truly becomes an armed “rebel,” “militant,” “extremist,” “insurgent,” or “terrorist” after they (or their fellow peaceful protestors) have been shot at enough times (or enough have been murdered) by government-backed military or police counter-insurgency authorities.
What Difference Does It Make?
The people of the world have awoken, and have chosen to rise up against their oppressors, by using social media to organize protests, and to circumvent the state owned and operated media channels. However, rather than showing support for, or at the very least, tolerance towards democratic movements, protestors have instead been met by harsh “iron-fisted” opposition from pro-government leaders and supporters (whether Democratic, Communist, or Islamic). These same government leaders have been aided by Western governments (most notably the United States, the U.K. and France – i.e. the major arms dealers), and have used surveillance organizations, the military, and/or other National and local law enforcement groups to suppress democracy and thwart political and economic change globally. The internet is being turned against those who would use it to preach peace and political change to an eager, youthful, but impoverished and oppressed congregation. Likewise, peaceful protestors are now unfairly being labeled as “terrorists,” rather than as “patriots” or legitimate supporters of democratic reform. To the point where the term “terrorist” itself has lost it’s original meaning, and now appears to refer to anyone wanting to use non-violent political protest to change the status-quo – i.e. the repressive political and economic systems that have hindered liberty and financial success for so many for so long.
It remains to be seen whether or not “the peoples” of the world will be able to continue to use social media to rise-up against the oppressive government systems attempting to maintain their power and control over them. Or, conversely, whether or not these same technological tools originally designed for greater freedom and communication will ultimately be used instead by powerful elites to identify and round-up millions of peaceful “terrorists” for re-education, further future enslavement, or immediate extermination. Clearly, efforts are currently being implemented by “the few,” so as to eliminate the threat peaceful protesters pose to the established political and economic institutions that have been built and can only be perpetuated via the continued suffering and hardships of “the many.” The internet and all social networks in the future will either be censored, or as has been leaked by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, it is already being used to create “social-profiles” of all users to identify all potential threats to established political and economic regimes for future elimination.
So be wary peace-loving “have-nots” seeking the means for greater economic opportunities and liberation through peaceful protest, because your desires and ambitions (once known as inalienable rights) are now an immediate threat to the “haves” currently in power. Thus, you must also be bold, for your chance to create political and economic institutions and systems more responsive to the suffering of the many is now or never! For surely tomorrow, you will be accused of terrorism, and will face charges of treason, and may even likely be put to death for your “thought-crimes,” “peaceful assemblies,” and for daring to exercise your “freedom of speech” directed against all “Big Brother” governments who are desperate to maintain their power and control over you. Power and control is slipping away from them a little more each day due to the unforeseen “people power” generated by political activism organized via electronic social media. But now, the people must not make the same mistake, and be fooled into thinking the tool of their potential liberation can’t also be turned against them. For in the not so distant future, the latest technological vehicle of empowerment for the people may yet become the very way in which we are isolated, enslaved, or even annihilated.