VIEW: The new Face(book) of revolution —Dr Hiba Tohid - Friday, February 11, 2011

Source :\02\11\story_11-2-2011_pg3_6

Social networking websites have become ‘ideological’ battlegrounds over time, where one creed takes on another by disparaging it on group posts or individual statuses

“Revolución sí, golpe military, no!” (Revolution yes, military coup, no!) came Castro’s call early January 1, 1959, on ‘Radio Rebelde’ (Rebel Radio). It was only a matter of time now that Batista would fall and the rebels reign.

The revolution that left its indelible mark on the pages of history as the ‘26th of July Movement’ came riding high on the short waves of a radio frequency that carried it across Cuba from ‘within the enemy territory’ — Sierra Maestra.

Revolutions need voice! Revolutions need blood! Both are drawn by reaching out to the poorest, the marginalised, the neglected sitting at the very fringe of society. The messages that once travelled to these social peripheries tucked in a pigeon’s claw or safely concealed within a roti soon jaunted the airwaves that, at present, have been taken over by cyberspace.

Through bits and bytes, millions in the Arab world ‘clicked’, ‘tweeted’ and ‘posted’ to the call of revolution. The fire that had immolated Bouazizi’s body had engulfed the cyber and cellular world, charring a decades-old ‘one man show’ down to the ground.

While debates are rife over the nature and consequences of such a revolution, it is the spluttering spontaneity with which it flared that has the analytical gurus awed, young mutinous blood bubbling, and self-indulgent despots biting their nails.

Modern day revolution is no different from its predecessors. It is the playground of the young and the restless. The spirit of Bhagat Singh and Che Guevara comes fluttering back into the derelict youth, disused to the point of frustration, where throwing a mere stone at a monstrous tank is revenge enough.

Like the young guns that fuel it, revolution too is impulsive. It comes as an unruly tide that cannot be held back with teargas or baton charge. It throws into disarray the age’s old, conceding, at times non-representative, namesake oppositions along with public institutions loyal only to one who sits on the throne. Tahrir Square in Egypt is buzzing with action that has revolution written all over it.

This new breed of Bhagats and Ches has a wee bit advantage however — they are ‘wired’! While millions marched to the Freedom Square aka Tahrir Square, a camaraderie nearly ten-fold as large conglomerated on Facebook and Twitter.

Allegiances are tweeted, slogans are posted — virtual revolution has finally arrived.

Shaken governments do not have a very good record of dealing with virtual uprisings. At best, internet access is cut off. This cyber policing incites more criticism and condemnation, however, driving the cyber rebels from their home pages out onto the streets.

November 3, 2007 was a dark day when former president Pervez Musharraf choked the media (a deed he still regrets). Not too long after, he was sent packing from the presidency. Years later, he regains momentum via the same link that was made inaccessible towards the end of his regime.

That is the power of the virtual world; it can make or break, it is a force to reckon with.

Social networking websites have become ‘ideological’ battlegrounds over time, where one creed takes on another by disparaging it on group posts or individual statuses.

There are the sceptics of course (such as this writer) to whom this ‘philosophical showdown’ is rather contemptuous. Just as they play Farmville, they want to play ‘dogma’. This may add to the resounding numbers, yet it dilutes the essence of a cause.

To cynics their own. However, cyber comrades reboot to upload revolution 2.0. For them revolution has become the writing on ‘The Wall’.

There is a new prompter doing the rounds on Facebook inviting ‘virtual solidarity’ with revolutionaries in Egypt. Whether one accepts or declines, the fact that a call raised in the lap of an Arab country echoed as far out as South Asia (even beyond) is a success unto itself.

With one dictator having already ‘signed out’, how long will the other stay ‘logged in’ while confronted with this new face of revolution? Let us keep posted!

The writer is a freelance columnist. She can be reached at

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