Why don’t you just switch off the Internet and go and do something less boring instead?

After the slightly carapaced scepticism of Evegny Morozov on Friday, here’s some genuine insight in to what the chance nature of success in online ‘resistance’ from Peter Levine in California, who reckons Hosni Mubarak’s big mistake was turning off the net in Egypt all at once:

I suspect the first phase of Internet activism was essential, for a particular purpose. It let everyone know that there was a potential mass movement. The inability to tell whether other people are at the point of acting is often a barrier to popular action. Still, even if you know that other people are angry, you can’t tell from their Tweeting and Facebook-posting whether they would actually put their lives on the line. Not knowing, you may fear to act.

That impasse had to be broken by a decisive signal that it was time to revolt together. And Mubarak (ironically) gave the signal by shutting down the Internet. It was a particularly powerful signal because all the energy that people had been expending online had nowhere to go–unless they went into the streets.

According to Levine, in trying to disrupt the rebels the Egyptian dictatorship tripped the rebels out of the embrace of Adam Curtis’ machines of loving grace into each other’s company.

  • Net impact on activism overblown. States use internet too: http://www.ted.com/talks/evgeny_morozov_is_the_internet_what_orwell_feared.html

  • Google and twitter came into their own during the Egyptian ‘uprising’.

    But I was struck by the headline of this thread, actually there are so many of us who work on computers and have the news etc in corners of the screen as we work that taking it away to enable us to find something more interesting would probably leave the vast majority of us not just unemployed, but uninformed and very bored indeed. I have to say that even my little blog sees an increase in visitor activity at lunchtime, I’m pretty sure Slugger must be the same, with bells on.

  • RepublicanStones

    With respect. I think he’s overstating it a little. Sarah Grebowski puts it best…

    It was not merely a “Facebook” revolution, or one of young activists. It was the participation of Egypt’s subaltern- lower class segments of society who are excluded from power structures and are certainly not plugged into the internet- that truly boosted the revolution’s momentum. These people contributed important revolutionary know-how to protests, for example tactics in dealing with the riot police. Also, it was workers strikes that pushed collective action over the edge, cornering Mubarak. Famous activist/blogger Hossam El Hamalawy commented that he actually finds terms like Facebook or Twitter revolution insulting, as it diminishes Egyptians’ activism on the ground.


    Also IIRC Mubarak didn’t actually manage to shut the internet down entirely. That said, the picture in this article is immense.