This is the decade of the social networking media. Right now, it is being defined by their fight against the establishment. Empowering tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogs have already taken down Tunisia’s ruler of 23 years, and the Egyptian despotic President is not far from their sights.
President Hosni Mubarak has, from his standard playbook, done a hatchet job of it – taking an axe to them instead of a scalpel – by cutting off Egypt’s Internet and wireless service last week in the face of huge street protests. But, that will not stop protesters in venting their anger and frustrations, as this media has ways of reaching places where the conventional media cannot.Other repressive regimes are watching to pick up tips against this new threat to their rule, with ripple effects already being felt in Jordan and Yemen. The Iranian Republican Guard was able to crush the Green Revolution using their bludgeoning force last year, but would need to be well prepared to take on the second wave, which would be more pervasive with the successes of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the ultimate results of Egypt behind them.
Even developed countries like the USA have felt the brunt of this media as evidenced by the Wikileaks maelstrom and their heavy-handed handling of it. The conventional media has been outmanoeuvred in these skirmishes as well, as these tyrannical regimes are experts in shutting down the old brick-and-mortar mode of reporting.
Like dominoes, these new ways of organizing and communicating protests are sweeping across the Maghreb region and Middle East. How their rulers and governments will deal with them will define their regimes’ future. Will the ‘freedom to surf’ lead to the ‘right of representation’, or will the freedom of expression be suppressed in all forms, old or new?