Always the most powerful and enduring of Man’s weapons.

How they are spread has always been an obsession with repressive dictatorships, who have traditionally gone great lengths to control or eliminate those means.

Clearly, new media has emerged which accelerates the spread and increases the exposure to those ideas. Just after midnight, Egypt provided echoes of the violent and brutally suppressed Teheran protests following the “elections” of 2009. This from the Associated Press:

Internet and cell phone services, at least in Cairo, appeared to be largely cut off since overnight in the most extreme measure so far to try to hamper protesters form organizing. However, that did not prevent tens of thousands from flooding the streets.

And just what ideas are so powerful, so feared by Egypt’s government? Well, they are not new.

“It’s time for this government to change,” said Amal Ahmed, a 22-year-old protester. “I want a better future for me and my family when I get married.”

Interesting times, these.

Perhaps, also, this should give us pause before handing our own government the authority to have a “kill switch” for the Internet and electronic communications. Yes, the idea is being conceived as a protection of US critical infrastructure in the event of a national emergency. Yet once authorized, such a capability is more or less permanently resident, for whatever purpose, in the hands of the government.

History has shown us that granting overreaching emergency powers to a government is an emergency unto itself. Until the result is a fatal cure for whatever the disease might be. That’s not a situation we should ever be willing to risk.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Foreign Policy, History, Homeland Security, Travel

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  • It is perhaps time to revisit the discussion between Malcolm Gladwell’s critique of social activism online back in October 2010 New Yorker, and Clay Shirky’s response in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.

    It turns out, they were both right, and Tunsia – now Egypt – are examples.

    Information dominance? Noteworthy the information dominance of consequence in Egypt today is Al Jazeera.

  • As I am want to say; Silence is the oxygen of tyrants.

    Small and large.

    Will the secular Egyptian govt preserver as well as the Islamist Iranian? Yet to be seen.

    What is going on in Egypt has huge implications. As a staunch republican (small r) and a democratic (small d) fundamentalist, in theory I should feel heartened by what we are seeing from Tunisia through Egypt to Yemen … but if one power structure falls, another must take its place.

    Especially with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the movements that have the structure, ideology, and manpower to take and execute power when the old one falls do not move the trend lines in the right direction. They are not interested in a republican form or government based on democratic ideals – just the opposite.

    That is the worry. Should they take power in Egypt, after killing as many of the old power structure they can – they will most likely default to looking for scapegoats and demons to blame for their problems. Internally there are the Copts, externally there is always Israel.

    History is needy. She will not be ignored.

  • Wharf Rat

    I have a couple of questions:

    1. Has this been percolating for a long time? How does something like this just ‘explode’?
    2. Is this being helped by the bad guys? Is there pro-democracy protesters that are being egged on by the islamic hardliners who for years have wanted to take over Egypt?

    I’m all for an authoritarian government to fall and allow for true and free elections. But what happened in 1979 was in Tehran was removing one bad guy for another bunch of bad guys.

    I’m not a fan of Mubarak, but sometimes protesters want to take down an authoritarian governement w/out a plan, or without knowing their ‘allies’ in the fight simply want to replace it with their own brand of authoritarianism.

  • Wharf Rat

    Sal: I receive weekly notifications from a group based in Virginia that monitors persecution of Christians around the world, and one hit hard is the Coptic Christians in Egypt. I’m told their 10% of the population.

    There was a story in Iraq that some terrorist attacks are being perputated because muslim women are held against their will by Christians in Egypt. That’s a fraud. Coptic Christian teenagers are being kidnaped and forced to web muslim men and convert to save their lives. Multiple families are missing young women, and Mubarak has done nothing. But as you say, this could get worse for the Coptics in Egypt, not better. We better keep a watch on this.

  • Wharf Rat

    sorry, found two typo’s – They’re versus their, and wed verus web.

  • Jay

    All eyes on Mubarak, the possible next government, and the canal…

  • andrewdb

    This strikes me as the equivalent of seizing the radio station during a coup attempt (or if you are the Regime, playing nothing but Chopin – which I recall is how one western journalist knew Solidarity was gaining ground in Poland).

    Doesn’t the USG already have the power to shut down telephone systems?

  • The Usual Suspect

    It sounds like today, after Friday prayer, that the Muslim Brotherhood unleashed its followers on the streets to join in and expand the protests. The protest today are of a very different nature than they were on Monday with the addition of the MB. If Mubarak bolts, we all know what will fill the power vacuum and that is not pleasant nor helpful to the entire situation in the Middle East. You can see the hand of Iran in this uprising.

    While this goes on, as it has for the past week, the implications of having radical fundamentalist holding the keys to the Suez Canal should be causing some sleepless nights for various governments around the world.

    I spoke with a friend of mine from Egypt this morning. I asked him if his parents and the rest of his family were safe. He said they were and that it was a good thing that the people were rising up against Mubarak. I hope they (the secular people) have a plan to fill the vacuum, because the other side certainly has one ans it will not be pretty.

  • Matt Yankee

    Same thoughts as above comments…the thing I don’t understand is why the CIA or some other trusted group can’t poll (or other method) the population well before any riots to know what would happen if the people do take over. Then we could make decisions quickly when things do start unraveling to decisively put down the situation…maybe even as Iran and China do, if it means keeping Al Qaeda or Hezbollah out of power. I do mean local forces putting down local rebellions not Americans.

    Just perceive we are uncertain about who’s side to take…

  • Andy FMF

    “Information dominance? Noteworthy the information dominance of consequence in Egypt today is Al Jazeera.”

    Not sure if this comment was meant to convey that Al Jazeera was functional within Egypt, but as of this morning it was reported that all internal communications were being propogated by the mosques. Media specifically stated that Al Jazeera was off air in Egypt…..maybe it has changed.

  • Grandpa Bluewater


    What you are talking about is human intelligence of the crystal ball variety. Finding Lech Walesa before he steps forward from the crowd.
    Sifting the population for potential leaders five years before the first demonstration. In an autocracy with no toleration of political activity outside the ruling structure, in a culture, a religion, and a language not your own, when your own culture places no value on language fluency, no deep knowlege of non judeo-christian theology or religious polity, and a gut belief that “deep down we all want much the same thing”.

    Don’t hold your breath. Hunting Ohio class in a john boat is easy by comparison.

  • RedneckJamesinTN

    The problem with moderates in muslim countries is the same everywhere.

    Most moderate muslim families wont have as many children as a Radical will. They will simply out breed there enemies. Add to that the problem with leaders like Osama and others staying in power for decades or longer and they can afford the long view.

    What does it matter if the revolution ends in egypt if and a moderate government is formed that 5 to 10 years down the road is as bad as the Ayatollah in Iran? Look at many muslim countries. Its amazing they accually appear to be going backwards as far as rights, culturaly and even technologicaly in some instances.

  • The Egyptian government has really gone too far. Instead of solving the problem and appeasing the people, it has gone to worst lengths as to cut off the internet. But of course, this will not hinder people from causing change to happen in the government. It’s time the Egyptian government listen to the people.

  • Lowly USN Retired

    Why should the “Egyptian Government Shuts Down Internet, Cell Service” be a shock or surprise to anyone? This violation of freedom occurs as a matter of routine by monarchy governments throughout the Middle East; perceived crises, true crises, or a crises of inconvenience, it makes no difference to these paranoid rulers.

    Our politicians made the Egyptian monster without requiring Egypt to adhere to a Bill of Rights for the Egyptian people. The D.C. political machine spent billions of dollars to grab Egypt from the clutches of the USSR to give it the Russians thirty or so years later. Because of Americas failure in Egypt, the Iranians may soon take control of Egypt. Should this happen, guess who will be coming to dinner? Russia, no doubt.

    It is in the best interest of the United States to shore up the existing Egyptian government as it is surely the lesser of the two evils. Once the uprising is suppressed, strict oversight by the U.S. in Egyptian human rights and economic issues must happen.