Friday, February 25, 2011

How the Hell did they do it?

Since January 25, world news has been full of coverage of the Egyptian revolution.

Following closely after a successful revolt in Tunisia, Egyptians orchestrated a civil resistance that has had an unparalleled effect on Egypt and the broader region. While the news coverage of the movement inferred that youths were instrumental, images typically conveyed a broader, more popular involvement. Thus, it wasn't until a Feb 15 NYT article by Kirkpatrick and Sanger that carefully documented the explicit role youths had played in planning and carrying out the movement that I became aware of just what an unprecedented moment this is in observing youth capacity.
How did Egyptian youths accomplish such a stunningly fast and remarkably peaceful overthrow of one of the strongest governments in the Middle East?

According to the news coverage, they did so in large part by using social networking technology, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Documenting the extent and strategy of such high tech activism will be critical, but in the end, the success of the movement had to have been informed by other factors, not least of which appears to be the unique role the Egyptian armed forces have played in refraining from squashing the protests.
Given that our Center at the University of Tennessee ( is devoted to understanding youth's involvement in political conflict, I decided to go to Cairo and observe the immediate aftermath of the toppling of the government. How do youths feel about this dramatic event? How hopeful are they that meaningful change will occur? How united is the population? How accurate has been the media coverage of their role?
I'll submit continuing blogs with what I learn.
Brian K Barber
Director, Center for the Study of Youth and Political Conflict, University of Tennessee

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