Media and Intranational Cascading Effects: The Egyptian Revolution’s Cairo-Alexandria Interdependency

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Presentation: Media and Intranational Cascading Effects:  The Egyptian Revolution’s Cairo-Alexandria Interdependency, by Amro Ali.
Conference: Covering the Arab Spring
Date: 1-2 September 2011
Venue: University of Copenhagen

Slide One: Introduction

There has been much discussion on digitally enabled cascading effects, or domino effects, across national boundaries in the Arab spring. But internal cascading is not often given the same amount of attention, despite it being a critical component to the relationship between the media and the masses.

During the course of the past couple of months, I undertook weekly travels between Cairo and Alexandra to study the dynamics and mechanics of the social movements in both cities. On the Friday 27 of May this year, I was observing the mass demonstrations in Alexandria, what was dubbed the second revolution. One of the lead protesters took out his smart phone to check the progress of demonstrations in Cairo, and announced to the crowds that our brothers in Cairo have reached a million. The implication being that Alexandria can beat that. The Alexandria protests got bolder, the chants got louder, the marches got stronger.

Continue reading “Media and Intranational Cascading Effects: The Egyptian Revolution’s Cairo-Alexandria Interdependency”

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The Arab Spring, Egypt and Australia: The Intertwinement of Perceptions and Influences (Transcript)

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Presented at the Australian Institute of International Affairs – ACT Branch, 18 August, Australian Institute of Interntional Affairs2011
Transcript taken from http://www.aiia.asn.au/act-papers/doc_details/798-amro-ali-middle-east-specialist-and-satirist-transcript

A common question that I was asked by the Egyptian youth when I was in Tahrir Square
in Cairo was ‘what do Australian think of our revolution?’ I replied that they were very
impressed, but if you want to push an Egyptian youth’s buttons you just have to say ‘you
guys were inspired by Tunisia’. That is like Australia being inspired by New Zealand.
For a period I was travelling between Cairo and Alexandria quite often to study how
protests were organised and behaved in the two cities. When I was in Alexandra in what
was dubbed The Second Revolution, in late May, one of the lead protesters took out his
Smart Phone and found out through his Al Jazeera app. what was going on in Cairo. He
yelled to the crowd ‘our brothers in Cairo have reached one million’, the sub-text to that
being ‘we can do better’.
To understand Cairo and Alexandra, it is rather like the Melbourne-Sydney rivalry except
that one did end up being the capital city.
As trivial as this may seem, it is underscoring something that needs further discussion in
the discourse of the Arab Spring. They are all perceptions and influences – and the values
and narratives that shape and are shaped by them. I want to look at three aspects: Imagery
as an agent of change; Egyptian soft power and how this impacts on the Arab Spring and
finally where Australia fits into this emerging new Arab order. Continue reading “The Arab Spring, Egypt and Australia: The Intertwinement of Perceptions and Influences (Transcript)”

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The Tahrir Square that Eclipsed the Terror Scare: Reframing Osama Bin Laden in Revolutionary Egypt

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Transcript of my speech presented at the University of Western Australia
click here for details of the event UWA Panel


Abstract: The presentation will seek to argue that while Osama Bin Laden and Egyptian society shared two similar key goals: end to oppressive dictatorship and US meddling in the region. It was Bin Laden who lost considerable legitimacy on Egypt’s streets prior to and, more significantly, as a result of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Mubarak’s Egypt was central to Bin Laden’s narrative of repression and political revolution in the Arab world, ideologically underpinned by his deputy, Egyptian physician, Ayman Al Zawahiri. Three main dynamics came into play to sideline an already waning Al-Qaida narrative: the opening of an alternative route of political and social dissent; the growing Al-Qaida-Egyptian Islamist divide as well as the latter’s political maturation; and, critically, societal perception shifts vis-à-vis the burden of responsibility in the ruler-ruled paradigm.

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Forget Osama, The Battle for the Arab World’s Future is Underway

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(If above video not working, go directly to link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YZ8sqJI6qY)

On a windy evening, 27 April, a momentous event occurred that received little international headline but was significant to Egypt’s future, and, by extension, the Arab world. An unprecedented debate took place between the Muslim Brotherhood, led by Sobhi Saleh, and the secular liberals, led by Amr Hamzawy.

The event was scheduled to be held in the famous Library of Alexandria. But a last minute unexplained decision shifted the event across the street to the College of Law, Alexandria University.

The venue packed over ten thousand into the theatre, with students, activists, and the general public, cramped into seats, spread on the floor, dangling off windows. Doors were forcibly shut to stop the public from entering an already over-crowed venue. Continue reading “Forget Osama, The Battle for the Arab World’s Future is Underway”

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The War of Academia on Social Media

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When Henry Kissinger once queried the Chinese Premier Zhou En Lai in 1971 for his views on the consequences of the French Revolution, Zhou famously respond, “It is too early to tell”. In other words, 180 years notwithstanding, Zhou’s point was that the consequences of social revolutions do not crystallise until much later.

Academics who specialise in revolutions and Middle East studies are often fond of quoting the Zhou lesson yet are quick to omit social media from the discourse explaining the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Since January, I have attended countless academic seminars discussing the uprisings where specialists are downplaying social media to such an extent as to make it inconsequential. You know you are in for the long haul when a speaker remarks smugly that Facebook did as much for Egypt as the fax machine did for the fall of the Berlin wall.

The line goes something like this: “The revolutions of the French, the Russians, the Iranians, are proof that you do not need social media”. This argument has been repeated to me ad nauseum. Moreover, the critics are engaged in the logical fallacy they often warn against: argumentum ad antiquitatem, “appeal to tradition”, that is to say, because it happened in this manner in the past, it has to be correct. Continue reading “The War of Academia on Social Media”

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Why a Democratic Egypt Should Trump all Fears

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By Amro Ali:

It was Lenin who once said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”. After decades of stagnation under Mubarak, there could not have been a more fitting description for the events in Egypt of early 2011.

In 18 days, the Middle East experienced a geo-political earthquake. President Hosni Mubarak was successfully overthrown after 30 years in power. Yet what made the events spell-binding was the relative non-violent nature of the protestors, the all-inclusiveness, Muslim-Christian unity, and the communal spirit – an inspiration to the world. After the Pyramids, Tahrir Square became one of the most famous Cairo landmarks and was elevated to the hall of famous squares alongside Tiananmen Square.

After the January overthrow of Tunisia’s leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Middle East experts were appearing and proclaiming that the Mubarak regime would not follow the Tunisian path. Yet what so-called experts and intelligence services could not measure or foresee was the indomitable spirit of a downtrodden people. Once unleashed, people power kept gathering momentum at a formidable pace.

So, where to from here? Can Egypt handle its own version of democracy and put to rest the fears that have done the rounds on the news circuit? While the road ahead will be difficult, it is an absolute essential that a transition to democracy takes place and is supported by the international community. Continue reading “Why a Democratic Egypt Should Trump all Fears”

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Defriending Mubarak – Egypt’s social media revolution

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By Amro Ali:

In early 2007, while still a student at the ANU, I received a call from my younger relative in Alexandria, Egypt. Her words: “Are you on Facebook?”

Little did I know, some four years later, social media tools like Facebook would help drive passionate anti-government protests in a country that had been struggling to suppress politicised social media and its outcome on the streets of Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square and other cities in Egypt.

On 6 June 2010, my neighbour in Egypt Khalid Saeed was brutally killed at the hands of police, a tragedy about which I had written last year entitled “Egypt’s Collusion course with History”. In the wake of his death, his symbolism as martyr for anti-government sentiment flourished with the creation of the “We are all Khalid Saeed” Facebook group page whose members grew into the hundreds of thousands. Saeed’s symbolism was powerful; like the Iranian shot dead, Saeed was Egypt’s Neda Agha Soltan. Continue reading “Defriending Mubarak – Egypt’s social media revolution”

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