Any elementary course in Humanities teaches that throughout history, societies have always been constructed of a privileged minority who control an impoverished majority. Churches, monarchies, and governments have perfected the art of separating the haves from the have nots and ensuring that it stays that way. It is a fascinating and depressing dynamic.
We also learn that it is impossible for these ruling minorities to resist the urge to be cruel and unfeeling toward their minority controllees. And why not? It’s human nature for those in control to want to stay in control. That generally requires some level of abuse, as a reminder of who’s in charge coupled with forcing the work that ensures that the national bank accounts stay full. That’s what the period of history called the Enlightenment so important. It was the first time that a “middle” class developed as a result of literacy. Up until then, it was just the church telling people what the books said and forcing them to do whatever they wanted because it was what “God” wanted. It was the first peaceful revolution.
The final, and most important lesson of history is that you can only repress and abuse a citizenry for so long before they get angry enough to overthrow their oppressors. It’s as if a spell is suddenly broken and the majority suddenly awakes to the realization that they are a majority and breaks its bonds with violent reprisal, ala the French Revolution.
Such has been the case in Egypt for a very long time. The government and the police have been committing gross acts of abuse, neglect and indifference to its people without resistance – that is until recently when bold “cyber revolutionaries” have had the courage to post proof of the abuses in ways that are indisputable, causing the police and the Egyptian government to acknowledge and deal with the fact that they have been caught and will no longer get away with what they have so freely enjoyed for so long.
As it relates to our study of media, what makes this different and interesting is that the Internet allows these revolutionaries to strike their blows online, often eliciting international awareness and sympathy by simply posting evidence of the abuses. As described in Stephen Franklin’s article, Whence the Revolution, even Egypt’s incredibly corrupt police force had to deal with two of its own officers when their video of them abusing a bus driver went viral. Up until that point, it had always been “your word against mine” and the more powerful word of the police had always won. It paved the way for the revolution that toppled the previously unshakable reign of Hosni Mubarak, and has hopefully moved that nation one step closer to a more democratic paradigm.
Franklin’s article describes “An invisible hand” that controls the media, meaning that as long as the government is exclusively in control of the media, it’s viewers will only receive content that is created by, and glorifies itself, there will be no opposing viewpoints expressed, although there are many. A fist often symbolizes revolutionaries, most notably by the Black Panther movement here in the U.S. Finally, the Internet has leveled the playing field for today’s revolutionary. Their fists don’t necessarily have to physically strike their oppressors anymore; all it may take is knowing how to strike a keyboard.