Global Revolution (I). Sequence of gestation, explosion and contagion of the network movements cycle 2011-2013 (I)

Notes from the Three years of interconnected riots. Emergence, evolution and challenges of the network movements in the context of the #GlobalRevolution, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 23, 2013. More notes on this event: globalrev.

Guadalupe Martínez (Universidad de Granada. Expert in the Tunisian electoral process)
The Tamarod (rebellion) movement. Expression in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine, Iraq.

The Tamarod phenomenon takes place in a specific geographical area — the one that was part of the Arab Spring in 2011-2012 — but an area that is expanding — now towards Syria. But we have to take into account that not all Arabic countries are experiencing this movement, and not all countries are from the Arabic world (e.g. Turkey).

The Tamarod movement stands for rebellion and is liked with the Arab Spring, but it is not exactly its extension. It begins circa Spring 2013, a major visibility during Summer 2013 and a later phase of active action during Fall 2013. The name Tamarod is used in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine an Iraq. In Libya it takes the name of Rafd (rejection) and in Palestine as Qawen (resistance). The focus of reference is Egypt 30 June 2013 and it is an interconnected movement with the Net as a main node (especially Facebook and Twitter).

Common characteristics

There is a sociological mimesis: young, urban and educated citizens with experience in activism.

None of the movements questions the legitimacy of the governments, or how they did get to the government, but they do question how they use power once in office. This does not mean that there are no specific characteristics in each case/country: indeed, the focus of pressure is different as there is a defective illiberal democracy in Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya; a pluralist quasi-comptetitive authoritarianism in Morocco; or an restrictive hegemonic authoritarianism in Bahrain. And the distribution of power is also different: presidential republics (Egypt, maybe Palestine), parliamentarian republics (Tunisia, Iraq, Libya), absolutist monarchy (Bahrain), and constitutional (though authoritarian) monarchy (Morocco).

So, in general, the movement(s) aim at dissolving the ruling institutions, but they do put the accent or focus in different and specific aspects of their respective institutions. Tamarod is a movement for democracy, and in no case is a movement against a specific group (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood or the islamists). Thus, the relationship of Tamarod with the parties of each country depends on the context, the inner institutional structure of the country, the very same nature of the parties, etc.

The role of the security forces has also been slightly different in each country, ranging from frontal opposition (and fight), no implication at all, or even a positive implication — most of the cases, though, feature a negative implication of the security forces.

Lali Sandiumenge (Journalist. Author of the blog: guerrerosdelteclado.wordpress.com)

The Kifaya platform is born in Egypt in 2004, made up by experienced activists (“from the previous generation”) to ask for dire reforms in Mubarak’s government. Kifaya gathers, thus, people that have taken part in many other protests. The new thing is that the young wing of Kifaya trains other activists on how to use the new tools of technopolitics.

In 2006 there’s the blossoming of the islamist blogosphere. Youngsters belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood thus demand through the Net the freeing of imprisoned activists and, on the other hand, claim having a voice on their own without the mediation of media.

In Mahalla, during 2006 and especially in 2008, there are worker protests, which in 2008 becomes a complete riot, not only about labour rights but about basic needs like food (e.g. rice, which had seen its prices sky-rocketing).

The 6th of April Youth Movement is created in Spring 2008 to support the riots in Mahalla and it becomes the first hybrid movement which is born online but supports an offline movement and vice-versa: to try and spread an offline movement making strong an online movement.

After the murder of Khaled Mohamed Saeed (May-June 2010), a page is created on Facebook and quickly becomes a central forum of political debate around democracy (and the lack of it) in Egypt.

Little by little, the riots in Tunisia spread towards Egypt where activism escalates. The protests then quickly become an international unrest and evolve in parallel in both countries. Besides blog pages, Facebook pages, etc. in Arabic, increasingly lots of activists publish in English to escalate the conflict and place it outside of the region’s boundaries. At last, a general call is made to take Tahrir Square. Mubarak blocks the Internet, causing a Streisand effect and making the movement even more visible and gathering more international support.

Javier Toret (Investigador. Trabaja entre filosofía, política, psicología y tecnología, Datanalysis15M)

There are several factors that made the 15M movement blast, that generated a movement that became unrest and evolved into a huge movement.

There is a process of learning, specially in the field of technopolitics. “Hacking + activism + netstrike = hacktivism”. Added to this process, there is a context of an economic crisis, which is one of the determinants, but not the determinant of the 15M movement. Indeed, it is more important the political crisis around the legitimacy of democracy and a need to regenerate it: #nolesvotes, Generación NiNi against the bipartidism, Juventud Sin Futuro, etc.

Technopolitics is way beyond cyberactivism and is not at all slacktivism. Technopolitics is an idea of intervention, is feeding back the physical and the digital layers to improve political activism.

The 15M movement started in social networking sites: 82% of the initial participants new about the movement online — especially Facebook. 1.5M were very active and circa 8.5 participated in any way. 76% of the participants came not from traditional political activism: it was initiated by a brand new generation of activists.

The different movements were interconnected: 31% of the participants of the #nolesvotes movement then came to participate in the 15M. In other words, the 15M movement was slowly born in many other movements that evolved, merged and exploded into a new one.

There is a multilayer activism, which begins in the physical layer (i.e. the streets and squares), then up to the digital layer to try and impact the mass media and political layers.

What the 15M does is to gather all the energy spread across different social networking sites and digital platforms, and to make it go out of the Internet and onto the “plazas” or camps.

After that, the movement boosts. Searches on the internet about the movement, or even keywords as “democracy” peak after the camps, the network dramatically increases its size, a network of camps and replicating nodes is created, nodes are empowered, etc.

Israel Solorio (Researcher. YoSoy132 Movement, Mexico)

In Mexico is difficult to think about any social movement without taking into account the Zapatist movement and how they used technological tools for their own political actions. Other movements that affected were, of course, the Spanish Indignados movemement of the 15M, and also the killings of Tlatelolco during the student mobilizations in 1968. Among many others.

A difference from the YoSoy132 movement and the 15M movement and Democracia Real Ya is that the Mexican case was totally unintended. It all starts with a boycott to candidate Peña Nieto at the Universidad Iberoamericana.

The movement achieved major visibility through individual spokesmen that made it to the headlines and mainstream media, especially TV channels — though a specific individual ended up being hired by the main corporation, Televisa, which was a blow to the credibility of the movement.

Differently from the Spanish 15M movement, which was against political parties in general, YoSoy132 was definitively against the candidate Peña Nieto. Then, when Peña Nieto won the elections and came to office, the movement went into a sort of stand by state, with some action, but mainly remaining latent.

Discussion

Q: how are these movements being populist (or not)? Martínez: it is difficult to state. Many times they are just asking for a genuine regeneration of democracy, but it is also true that, in the Arab region, they often use populist messages and iconography to raise awareness and wake up people by the feelings.

Q: do you think mainstream mass media are censoring the news they do not like, or is it just that they do not understand or do not how to explain the movements? Martínez: it is interesting to state that many media — especially those that are against the government — in the Arab region, media are actually reinforcing and amplifying the movements. Toret: it really depends on the place. In any case, it is true that it is a common characteristic that these movements try to break the circle of power made up by governments and mass media and that determine the public agenda. Solorio: the role of media has been evolving along time. Initially they amplified the movement, as they wanted to foster political debate (or fight the candidate), but now they are more against it and aim at its destruction.

More information

Global Revolution. Three years of interconnected riots (2013)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2013) “Global Revolution (I). Sequence of gestation, explosion and contagion of the network movements cycle 2011-2013 (I)” In ICTlogy, #121, October 2013. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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