Allahpundit has already been providing plenty of coverage of the unrest in Egypt, but one portion in particular caught my attention and has been sparking some discussion in the online community. It involves the latest rumor (coming from the Telegraph in the U.K. so take it for what it’s worth) that the U.S. was behind the Egyptian uprising. That’s a debate for another day, but some of the specifics mentioned are still interesting from a techno-geek perspective.
The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.
On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.
Youthful activists and technology are always a great match, so some obvious questions followed. I participated in one discussion which tied the above tid-bit in with the immediate attempts by the Egyptian government to shut down all access, not just to television, but to the internet, cell phones, Twitter, instant messaging and all social media. Clearly it has always been in the interest of any repressive regime to limit the flow of news during a crisis, but could there be more going on here?
First be sure to recall the American and European craze for “flash mobs” over the last few years. One great example took place in Britain where an army of Santas suddenly appeared to sing, dance and march, which was later replicated in other cities. Using modern social media technology, (replacing the “phone trees” of bygone days) hundreds of people can quickly be formed up into a group, all bringing a Santa hat, to sing and dance. And if the surrounding crowd is in a festive mood, many of the mob participants bring some extra hats to hand around. Before you know it you can amass a substantial body of activity, and we’ve seen it happen repeatedly.
Now transplant that operation to a city like Cairo. In the old days you’d need to plot your revolt with secret meetings in dimly lit cafes, and you never knew when the waiter would turn out to have a brother in the secret police. But today, through the miracle of social media and with a little training and planning, you could have hundreds of people show up in the city square on short notice. But instead of Santa hats, they bring guns and bricks and flags and torches and Molotov cocktails.
And, as with the previous example, if you’re in a city where there is already widespread discontent with the government, it’s a fair bet that a large body of citizens might join in with hundreds of like minded fellows even if they would never have dared plot such a thing on their own. And if they didn’t happen to have any “Santa hats” with them?
“What’s that brother? You forgot your Molotov cocktail? No problem! Have one of mine!”
Before you know it your several hundred man mob has grown to more than a thousand and the capitol is in flames. Not so far fetched if you think of it in those terms.
So, exit question: Might we have just witnessed the first Flash Mob Revolution? And could it be the model of the future?