As we all huff and puff and, through our links and writings, somehow imagine ourselves complicit in the blowing down of the house of Mubarak, perhaps a bit of self-criticism and cooling off is in order. Esther Penbassa gets us started with a a scathingly self-critical essay on Rue89, reminding us that Egypt hardly needed Western sponsorship or rhetorical support to accomplish its task, and that Egyptians, after all, led some rather vigorous anti-colonial movements in the mid-1950s. This was not a completely downtrodden people that needed some Western saviour to accomplish their task.
Or, we could heed Andrian Kreye in the Suddeutscher Zeitung: beware of inflating the impact of “slactivism,” the posting of links, the imagined community. The Internet, in other words, changes a few things, but doesn’t necessarily change everything or the most fundamental aspects of political process and change. In a very intelligent essay which also delves deeper into the personalities around Julian Assange, particularly the German netactivist Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Kreye writes:
Unzählige Twittermeldungen werden mit einem Mausklick weitergereicht. Solidaritätsbekundungen werden ins Netz gestellt und angeklickt. ‘Slacktivism’ nennt Morozov diesen Aktionismus am heimischen Bildschirm, ein Wortspiel aus den Begriffen Slacker (Faulenzer) und Activism (Aktivismus). Für eine wirkliche Revolution muss mehr zusammenkommen – ein kollektiver Leidensdruck, nachvollziehbare Reformideen, Kampfwille, breite Organisationsstrukturen. In den Umwälzungen in Tunesien und Ägypten bleibt das Internet deswgen nur eines von vielen Werkzeugen.
Innumerable Twitter reports can be spread with a click of a mouse. Expressions of support can be put up and clicked on the web. Author Morozov calls this ‘Slactivism,” a wordplay on the terms slacker and activist. For a real revolution, much more has to come together: a collective expression of anger, comprehensible ideas for reform, the will to struggle, and clear organizational structure. In the social upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, the Internet therefore remained only one of many implements.
Of course, in the meantime, we can rejoice: after eighteen days, the Huanqiu Shibao, the g0-to official source for Chinese readers who don’t read English and who don’t want to leapfrog the Great Firewall, has really opened up a whole new vista by including photographs of actual protesters on its main page for news from Egypt. (The tab still talks of “chaos.”) Of course, no comments on the stories are allowed, leaving us to grapple through keyboard patriots leaving their expressions of solidarity with Nationalist troops who executed Japanese war criminals in Shanghai in 1947. The people have spoken! And they support Chiang Kai-shek.