WikiLeaks, Social Media Bonanza: the Middle East
So, we’re being bombarded by media on events in the Middle East which would appear to have been driven by new information technologies, exploding demonstrations by protesters demanding changes in their political and social regimes. There seems to be a common factor in the latest embroilment of a situation fueled by now more accessible internet, social media which have become tools of mass demonstrations by dissatisfied action by citizens claiming to be politically oppressed. People discovered a short cut to the Facebook of their lives, jumped into the reality of social media in search for others like themselves, in hope of improving their present social status and find a passage from their misery to a more hopeful time.
If like me, you’ve been following the timing and consequences of WikiLeaks and its diplomatic cables (last November 2010), you’ve seen the voices of debate rise, one could say to sensationalist levels.
In the Middle East, many are claiming that the regimes that are or were in place in the affected countries are confronted by citizens that have legitimate rights to democracy, freedom of rights, freedom of information, freedom to gather and demonstrate and to be heard without any restraint. Others add that oppression is present and that change must happen so that these concerned citizens can free themselves from oppressive political regimes.
But what is really going on here? How did these demonstrations get organized in the first place, organizing demonstrations in the thousands of people, now the millions in Egypt? social media and the internet.
Media is driving the underlying idea that we must beat the drum while we can. The demonstrations are legitimate and are de facto signs of social un-rest and require immediate internal dialogue between the present regimes of government in place and their people. The media has reported that information controls were used such as in the shutting down of the internet and cell phones and continues to be used by these regimes to express their authoritarian control over the population. These regimes attack their own citizens to keep a hand of steel on a population that is defenseless and have no means to express their democratic voice.
However, according to the media who referred to a diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks, the uprising was first off fueled by a diplomatic officials’ report on the corrupted regime in Tunis. It revealed a personal perception of a situation that was just that, a personal opinion. Information that was in the first place to be kept private got leaked out to the internet. This personal opinion and perception shed light on what was perceived to be corruption within the circles of power in Tunisia. The diplomatic representative’s report had far more reaching consequences than originally intended and that is what is actually happening: Wikileaks, Social Media and global Telecommunications.
So what started these uprisings? Wikileaks? The media? The internet? I don’t think we can pinpoint the exact triggering cause but for sure the strong public demonstrations and demonstrators are asking to be freed from political oppression, claiming better social conditions, and denouncing lack of economic and social policies to address impoverishment and high unemployment.
The major impact that these leaks have had are like a spark that just lit up a fire. It is not the only spark and that is what is of serious concern. What other region is going to de-stabilize ? That is how powerful the internet and social media can be, they put in private citizens the power to organize and to follow through with information that normally would have never been transported or would have been filtered through media and government.
Did the diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks from the diplomatic representative abroad really fuel the social unrest in Tunisia? Or, was it WikiLeaks and the leaks themselves that help fuel the demonstrations by being circulated on social media? Or, are the present conditions demanding reforms in the region, a mixture of consequences from the Leaks, social media, and oppression combined with tightening economic realities? It is for certain that all of these factors are influential but even more so the fact that we are right inside the new information age.
The present governments are being challenged and at risk of falling by the very decisions of control, controlling traffic on the internet, controlling the medium and the message. At such a state of decentralized access to information, isn’t it like trying to plug a leak with a needle? Attempting to catch a slipping situation to try and maintain order and controlling information, who really can?
Media is attracting our attention to the mass protests in Egypt whose present regime is a publicly known ally of Israël and the United States, protests that got jump started initially by information that was reaching the citizens in the affected countries. Which made me think about how much government was controlling if the people of these countries were able to organize using social media? Interesting, is it not?
Like anyone could be, I’m worried now that all the publicity that social media has attracted, fueling such power shifts or power shifting events, what will not happen to these new technologies: will they be still accessible in countries where oppressive regimes still exist? Will countries start investing heavily in monitoring the information out there?
Also, I was thinking in my bed this morning, wasn’t the information leaked in the first place, illegally obtained? The very source of change in the present case (WikiLeaks) is a combination of social and economic factors which were the base. But the real spark as stated above, this leaked information illegally obtained and which exposed the lavish lifestyle of the governing class over its impoverished population.
One could also be concerned that the Diplomatic cables meant to be used for a specific audience (not public) to help advance national interests (countries who represent other populations, electorates), were fed by Wikileaks right in the public domain. The consequences of such violations of existing rules are growing not only in what the media is reporting but with what could have great implications on the world socially, politically and for military purposes by de-stabilizing the Middle East to such a point. Haven’t we had enough of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
What all this is showing us today is that real power shifts are happening between the state and ordinary citizens caused by new electronic communications device that far more impact on life than, I think, anyone thought about in the planning stage. We are interacting with the outside world thinking we are shielded by physical distance and behind our electronic devices without taking the time to talk to each other, understand our world and without taking the right time to comprehend the extremely brutal speed of change of re-aligning elements around global social politics and the world.
Our privacy and our secrets are at the center of the present turmoil in the Middle East whether through information, oil, economics, politics or social disparities. These matters seem to be at play around the globe at a blink of an eye speed. The internet and social media are dramatically accelerating changes everywhere around the globe and we seem to be just discovering how much power we really hold in our hands and in our thoughts. Is it the present or is it instantaneous?
Remember how great your power is online, its impacts on you, on others, on nations, on the world as the world is now seeing and reading at the speed of global communications, the speed of fiber optics, the speed of light. You impact the world and the world impacts you through social media and the internet.
We are at the beginning of a serious change curve in all of our lives. So hold on tight, it’s about to become a new world, faster than we ever expected!
Tagged as: change in the Middle East, diplomatic cables, Egypt uprising, Facebook, social media, Tunisia, WikiLeaks
Comments are closed.