Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Revolution Will Be Televised

And Tweeted and YouTubed in real time...

I'm old enough to remember when typewriters were licensed, printing presses were seized, and newspapers shuttered by despotic regimes because that was how unauthorized information was distributed, from one person to another, on sheets of paper.

Then came telephones, fax machines, dial up bulletin boards, internet, satellite television, web, cellphones, text messaging, blogs, and other tech I'm too much a Baby Boomer to have even heard of yet, let alone appreciate the power of.

Where repressive regimes once clung to power with cavalry, secret police, fire hoses, dogs, tear gas, rubber bullets, rifle bullets, or tanks, now they also monitor Facebook pages, shut down the internet, hack their opponents' servers, and turn off cell phone service. 

Tweets from teenagers while they're being beaten by government-sponsored goons.  Cellphone video of despotic thuggery as it happens.  These evocative stories and brutal images are delivered to the world by sophisticated yet affordable technology that is even more powerful because it is ubiquitous, uncensored, unedited, and unfiltered.

One hopes the popular revolution in Egypt is allowed to become peaceful again.  Mubarek's sad tactics were old when telephones had dials and computer screens were green.  Time for Hosni to retire in undeserved luxury and let the people he was supposed to serve have their shot at liberty.  Yes, liberty - the special freedom to act that stops where another person's rights begin.  Where people are free to express themselves without fear of brutality, because the rule of law has been preserved and protected.  Where hospitals, merchants, and museums need not fear looting because order is maintained by benevolent actors.  Unless Mubarek calls off his goons, and their camels, and their Molotovs, the Army will be faced with a choice - protect their countrymen or prop up Mubarek.  They have shown great restraint so far.  Now is the time for the Egyptian Army to demonstrate professional resolve, a love of liberty, and a commitment to human dignity.