This article was originally released on February 28, 2011, as a response to events then unfolding on the ground across the Middle East and North Africa. Many of the learnings contained in this piece can help to inform our understanding of the continued instability across the region. The authors take sole responsibility for the views contained in this article.
Everyone’s been talking about ‘Revolution 2.0’ across the Middle East. The so-called digital revolution has attracted at least as much attention as the political volcanoes themselves as they’ve erupted – first in Tunisia, then Egypt, spilling over into Libya and now simmering at various levels of discontent as far and wide as Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Oman, Iraq and even Saudi Arabia. Online social networking, content-sharing platforms, and satellite news channels have certainly been massive enablers of the regional uprising we’ve seen unfold in recent weeks. But the truth is that this has been first and foremost a people’s revolution, and a young people’s revolution at that. The digital tools that have enabled and continue to progress their causes are just that, tools. Yes, it’s true that the January 25th Revolution in Cairo spread from a single Facebook page, and that Twitter alone allows activists the crucial real-time citizen-journalism that spurs real-time action. But the danger in over-crediting the media and under-crediting the message is that we dilute the fearless passion it has taken for these young people to stand up for their civic rights in the face of often blank autocratic oppression. As with all historically successful revolutions, it’s the people, and not the tools, that really drive the change. And in a region where the people have been voiceless for so long, the world needs to take the time to understand them better.
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