Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Egypt’s April 6th Whimper

Yesterday marked one year since Egypt’s liberal Facebook dissidents first launched their technologically innovative – if not entirely successful – protest against the Mubarak regime.  To commemorate the occasion, the “April 6th” movement planned a well-publicized general strike, which attracted the support of a broad-based coalition that included the Ghad party, Kefaya, Nasserists, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Well, the official verdict on April 6th II is in: it was a complete failure.  For the most part, Egyptians carried on with their day-to-day activities, while April 6th leader Ahmed Maher retreated to an undisclosed location.  In turn, the regime declared outright victory, with the state-run al-Ahram boasting that the locations of proposed demonstrations were completely empty. 

Of course, these locations were empty because the regime did what it usually does when confronted with possible demonstrations: it stifled them.  First, the government packed the downtown areas with police officers and soldiers, thereby preventing protests from occurring in key intersections. 

Second, the regime arrested 34 demonstrators from various parts of Egypt to intimidate their peers.  (This relatively low number of arrests, however, suggests that there weren’t too many people intent on demonstrating to begin with.)

Third, in the few locations where protests were seen as unavoidable – such as near Cairo’s Muslim-Brotherhood-dominated professional syndicates – the regime dispatched overwhelming police contingents to encircle the demonstrators and thereby prevent others from joining them.  In this vein, my UPenn colleague Sarah Salwen reported that 20-30 trailers full of police were lined up along the streets outside the Journalists’ Syndicate, with the police standing shoulder-to-shoulder along barricades for a rally that ultimately drew somewhere between 100-200 mostly seated demonstrators. 

Naturally, the stunning failure of April 6th II has left Egypt’s opposition leaders totally dispirited.  More importantly, however, it has raised important questions regarding the future of Internet activism, including whether “virtual protests” are giving young dissidents the false impression that they can affect change by simply joining an anti-Mubarak Facebook group.  For nearly a year, Egyptian opposition leaders of every political stripe have been counting on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to provide new mechanisms for evading regime control and organizing the masses.  At the very least, yesterday’s disappointment will force them to reconsider the efficacy of this tactic.


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.