Tunisia Ima Let You Finish But… Egypt Had One of the Best Revolutions of all time!

Celebrated historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense, as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”. Paine’s historic pamphlet is commonly attributed in helping set the wheels of the Revolutionary War in motion. By targeting a popular audience and writing in a simple and straightforward way, Paine made political ideas palpable to a common audience. This catalyzed the inclusion of average Americans in political debate, and ultimately riled them to a historical cause.

Today, no matter how well written, enlightening, and impassioned a pamphlet or any other form of distributive literature may be, could it create the same impact as a viral YouTube video, mass texting, or a barrage of tweets as seen in the Egyptian Revolution?

One of the reasons Paine’s work was so successful was that the audience of his time thought his work pithy and to the point. Yet today, it would be nothing short of a miracle to see a mass of people read and act on a pamphlet… it seems almost impossible to imagine any written literature sparking a revolution in today’s 140 characters-or-less society . This holds especially true in light of the Egyptian Revolution, where Facebook and Twitter became the common medium for decimating information and sparking insurrection.

Its simply mindboggling to think that Paine’s influential words made just as much of an impact as the one-lined collective tweets of Egypt. The medium has gone from impassioned lines of rhetoric that read “Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived!” (Paine, Common Sense) to that of, “Yo Tunisia, I’m happy for you, and I’ma let you finish, but Egypt had one of the best revolutions of all time!” (tweeted during the Egyptian Revolution by @onlyforegypt).

Twitter and Facebook are remarkable tools for revolutionaries because of two main reasons. First, they are the most efficient way to distribute information. With the click of a link, billions of people can receive information, and it can come from anyone. This makes it almost impossible to suppress revolutionary ideas, and even if a nation censors its own Internet access, it cannot stop the rest of the world from looking on and continuing the dialogue. Secondly, Facebook and Twitter become an entity that unifies a movement in the most concrete way possible. Revolutionaries can literally see their strength in numbers by the amount of followers they have online. Aside from just spreading information, they can also receive it to gauge what the masses think, and what they are saying.

Ultimately it seems as though the future of revolutions no longer lay in the hands of single revolutionary figures. The days of the Paine’s, Guevara’s, and Ghaddafi’s are over, and in its place comes the collective voice of the oppressed. The concept of revolution is undergoing a revolution itself, and for the first time in history, the power of change truly and literally lays in the many voices of the people.

To get an interesting visual on how the tweets influenced Egypts future, be sure to check out this video on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2guKJfvq4uI

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10 Responses to Tunisia Ima Let You Finish But… Egypt Had One of the Best Revolutions of all time!

  1. I think the author’s post regarding social media’s ability to facilitate revolutionary/mass gathering practices is a fantastic point worth mentioning. As we progress into the 21st century, we have seen the noticeable influence that social media has on the globalization of society. Facebook has brought people from all four corners of the earth in contact with each other. Twitter has become a powerful up-to-the-SECOND source of information.

    For example, I can perfectly recall the night that Osama Bin Laden’s compound was raided. My parents were watching Donald Trump’s show “Celebrity Apprentice” when right before the contestants entered the infamous board room, the screen went blank. What appeared was an message screen claiming to announce an urgent memo from the President of the United States. At first, I got extremely nervous thinking of the worst. But then I quickly realized that maybe I could find my answer through twitter. Sure enough, I quickly began to follow Fox, CNN, “Breaking News”, etc., and almost immediately, I assured my parents of what had happened in Pakistan before President Obama ever came on television.

    My point is that social media outlets are not only new age methods of communication, but they are also powerful tools that can generate strong outcomes. They are, as the author mentioned, like Paine, a catalyst for practically anything that requires support. Countries like China and North Korea ban social media sites primarily for this reason. Censorship once stood for the prevention of dissent. Today, however, it is far more than just that. As we can see, social media is a weapon that actively and forcefully promotes free speech. Facebook/Twitter completely changed the political makeup of a nation that had previously lasted for decades! Scary thought, right?

    Internet traffic during the spark of the Egyptian Revolution:

    Cool slideshow showing social media’s influence on the revolution:

  2. allisonrd says:

    “Ultimately it seems as though the future of revolutions no longer lay in the hands of single revolutionary figures. The days of the Paine’s, Guevara’s, and Ghaddafi’s are over, and in its place comes the collective voice of the oppressed. The concept of revolution is undergoing a revolution itself, and for the first time in history, the power of change truly and literally lays in the many voices of the people.”

    I’m not so sure this statement is completely correct. While I agree that many more people have access to tools like Facebook and Twitter than a printing press, that’s just the beginning. People need to have a reason to listen to you whether it’s because you are a prominent figure or what you’re saying is interesting or important to them in some way. The masses still existed during Thomas Paine’s time; just look at Shay’s Rebellion or the Boston Tea Party. So while social media tools have changed the way that information is distributed, it’s not really a shift from a single person to a mass free for all of revolutionaries, but rather the medium in which information is distributed.

  3. stephmfarr says:

    I think this poster did a good job of comparing the revolutionaries of today to our class discussion of Paine’s Common Sense. Twitter and social media in general have completely changed the way in which revolutions can be brought about, and I agree that pamphlets like Common Sense would not have the success that they had in Paine’s time. The poster is correct to say that ours is a 140-character or less society, and it is definitely true that change can still be affected in this shortened dialogue.

  4. jakmel says:

    Very interesting post! However, I think the original post and comments are focusing too much on how different the exchange of information was in Paine’s time compared to now. The whole idea of using a pamphlet to spread information is very similar to why people use social media like twitter and Facebook to spread ideas. A pamphlet was much shorter than a book and very direct in its point. Also, its short length made it easier for copies to be distributed to a lot of people in a very short amount of time. Although, information spread through twitter and Facebook is much more concise than a pamphlet, the idea of spreading information to a lot of people in as short of time as possible is still the same. All in all, I would consider the pamphlet a very very early ancestor of modern day social media outlets.

  5. jason5brown says:

    Social media such as facebook, youtube and twitter have undoubtedly been key in the Arab spring uprisings we’ve seen over the past year. One asset of these networks is that they allows citizens to control the some of the media, which is crucial, especially in nations where the state is unrepresentative and uses propaganda to alter the way the media portrays news. Social networking is conducive to transparency and participation, but also gives a sense of connectedness with fellow citizens that can seem hidden at times.
    More than a change in the way in which information is distributed, social media has given citizens the ability to connect with one another without worrying about geographical constraints and allowed the citizens to control the perception of the media. In Paine’s day, social networking would have been useful for people who may have been sympathetic to his desires, yet believed they were in the minority opinion and were afraid to express their opinions openly.

  6. palaie says:

    I can definitely relate to your point of view that social media such as twitter and Facebook have changed the way that citizens can show their dissent. However, this post reminds me of a comment that my high school American History teacher made. She said that what is written down in history is what those who can afford to write it decide to write. Thousands of years ago, paper and ink were not common commodities and those who could afford to buy them were those who could express their opinions. The same type of thing can be seen today. Countries like Tunisia and Egypt, although relatively advanced, do not have the same access to computers and fast internet like we do. It is those who can afford to purchase separate laptops or high speed internet that get to tweet their thoughts and let us, on the other side of the world, know what is going on. The majority that do not have easy access to social media, on the other hand, will not be given the same chance. This makes me wonder whether a revolution according to social media is truly a revolution wanted by the majority of the citizens. I am specifically referring to the Iranian Presidential Elections that took place in 2009. I recall seeing CNN and FOX News portray what was happening in Iran as a revolution that was going to explode any moment. The majority of the evidence that they provided for their predictions were tweets and Facebook statuses provided by the privileged classes (mainly twenty-something year olds). I visited Iran during that time and the view that I received from the majority of the citizens was very different from the news being provided by social media outlets.
    Although technology seems to have greatly increased the individual voices of citizens, it is scary to think that, at the same time, it may be preventing us from hearing those of others.

  7. aazilli7 says:

    There is no denying the power and scope of social media in influencing revolutions in the modern world, but I might have to disagree with you that: “The days of the Paine’s, Guevara’s, and Ghaddafi’s are over, and in its place comes the collective voice of the oppressed.” The collective voice has gained a new medium, there’s no doubting that, but I think central, leading figures will always be a necessary component of revolution.

    Social media is effective at spreading information all across the world, but they’re not really conducive of action. I feel that it is almost impossible to identify a specific set of revolutionary ideals in a sea of voices speaking on the subject. The ideals will be there, but they seem harder to locate and rally around than the highly respected and idealized words of a single leader meant to embody the whole cause. I do not think people will ever look to a hashtag with the same consideration as a prominent leader who speaks to specific points and courses of action to bring about change. Not to mention the fact that I do not think much revolutionary initiative is really sparked in a person checking Twitter on their smartphone.

  8. brianoconnor16 says:

    I think that your post is an insightful illustration of the ways in which society has changed since the days of Pain, and the effects of these changes on the political climate. Social networking has undoubtedly provided a new medium that has allowed more people to have a voice. People can simply create an account through mediums such as facebook or twitter and express their ideas on a forum that makes it easier for others to view than ever before throughout history. Access and use of these mediums for everyday people is more likely in the modern day than other venues used to express ideas in the past. Paine had the ability to write and have an audience during the time of the revolution, but the vast majority of regular citizens did not. This is a stark contrast to the globally interconnected modern day society.

    Although I agree with the majority of your comments, I think that the idea that revolution being completely led by the people rather than individual leaders is a bit misleading. Although the people do have more of a voice, I think powerful and outspoken individuals often still are the impetus for revolutionary change. Social networking has created an outlet for the masses to have a voice. However, ‘regular’ people do not receive the same kind of attention that powerful people do. I think that people that are seen media spotlight by the masses have a much larger impact when they point out the imperfections within a society than an average citizen expressing discontent on the internet. Movements like the Tea Party in America gain much of their support when people in positions of power (Like Glen Beck with an everyday show on FOX) back the cause and bring attention to the issue. Clearly mass movements by the people are effective and highly influential, but I am simply saying that people in positions of power still have a serious impact on revolutions in society.
    A final issue that struck me while reading your post is the idea of political change being started through the new age media revolution rather than through distributive literature. I think that distributive literature may still have a place in sparking revolution, but likely in a different manner than its form during Paine’s days. People will still read literature attempting to spark change, but it is likely to be through the internet rather than in hard copy form. Other advances such as an increasing literacy rate worldwide allow more people to have the ability to read arguments for political change in comparison to the society in which Paine lived. What are the effects of more accessibility to online literature pushing for political change? More people can objectively assess what the best course of action is and if revolution is necessary. This allows for a broader base of the population to be involved in the political sphere, which I believe is a positive characteristic for democratic societies as we head into the future.

    Here are some websites that assess the changes that the internet and social networking have sparked in society that I found to be extremely interesting and worthwhile:

  9. flitvak says:

    I think that the brilliance of this point lies in the author’s statement that “the concept of revolution is undergoing a revolution itself, and for the first time in history, the power of change truly and literally lays in the many voices of the people.” The evolution of the pamphlet let to a change in the way people rebel and voice their opinion. However I question whether or not social media it has the same effect as did Paine’s pamphlet.

    The innovators of the day no longer convey their point through pamphlets but social media. It is Facebook and Twitter that has formed the basis of revolution in the 21st century. Their messages are capable of reaching an exponentially larger number of people and encompassing the opinions of the minorities.

    In my discussion section we discussed how Paine would have been considered the blogger of his day. His ideas were unconventional, controversial, relatively accessible, unregulated and unprofitable. Innovative thinkers today use social media to express ideas in ways that allow a broader readership, anonymity, easy publishing and most importantly feedback.

    Facebook and Twitter have allowed for a convenient and effective way of spreading ideas. However aazilli7 brings up a great counterpoint to the author’s main point. “I do not think people will ever look to a hashtag with the same consideration as a prominent leader who speaks to specific points and courses of action to bring about change.” I believe that in comparison to Paine’s pamphlet, the widespread use of social media undermines certain messages and causes them to lose credibility.

  10. a15haddad says:

    I think the author of this post is spot-on. The Internet has had a transformative effect on human beings’ ability to communicate with each other. The very idea that we can write blog posts for this class and, with just a couple clicks of a mouse, anyone in the world from the US to New Zealand can read it is something we take for granted now but would have been mind-blowing for people just 20 or 30 years. It has the potential to completely revolutionize civic republicanism. Communication barriers have always been the biggest roadblock of civic republicanism. During the American Revolution it was impossible for someone on one end of Massachusetts to hear news from the other end within a few days of an important event occurring. Because of this, civic republicanism has traditionally manifested itself locally within individual cities or counties. Today someone in New Zealand can hear what just happened in Uruguay instantly. Global internet campaigns exist for things as important as political revolution and as trivial as a Youtube video of a chipmunk turning his head dramatically. Civic republicanism is now a global phenomenon and will continue to be into the distant future.

    That being said, I really liked palaie’s point that while the Internet allows far more voices to be heard than ever before, it still favors those with means. Palaie used the example of people in Third World countries who do not have access to social media; we are still not hearing these voices. My professor in a history class I took last year, Brian Porter-Szucs, argued that the radio completely changed the nature of communication because for the first time the ability of two people to communicate was defined not by how close they were physically but by the technology they possessed. Porter-Szcus claimed that all subsequent inventions (telephone, TV, Internet) are simply extensions of that initial breakthrough. While the Internet has made communication far more open and democratic, the ability to communicate is still heavily determined by access to technology.

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