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The Social Networking Behind Egypt’s Unrest
Posted By Michelle Horstman On February 2, 2011 @ 4:00 pm In NewsReal Blog | Comments Disabled
Everyone is speculating on this past week’s activist eruption in Egypt and how it got started. Called completely “grassroots,” I am discovering that these activists have had quite a bit of help in preparing for this type of action from Google executives, our own State Department and many others.
Although the Left has always complained of our meddling in the affairs of other countries, it appears to be acceptable when they are the ones doing it.
The Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) has offered much support to the effort of the activists in Egypt, which did not begin this week but has been building for years. Offering annual summits with workshops, activist manuals and assistance with matters such as circumventing internet proxies, they have done their best to streamline the process for activists globally to rise up against “social injustice.”
Currently, the AYM is offering many helpful ways for you to support the efforts in Egypt, such as going to a solidarity protest or offering your modem service so they can be online anonymously. Google has compiled a handy Egypt crisis response page keeping people posted on the current locations of protests and instructing them on how to post tweets without internet access.
First, by all accounts, is the April 6 Youth Movement. Leftists, socialists and pro-labor people know that the movement takes its name from April 6, 2008, when a series of strikes and labor actions by textile workers in Mahalla led to a growing general strike by workers and residents and then, on April 6, faced a brutal crackdown by security forces.
The leader of the April 6 movement is Ahmad Maher, a 28-year-old construction engineer who was profiled last week in the Los Angeles Times. Well-wired and Internet-connected, Maher told the paper: “After the revolution in Tunisia, we are able to market the idea of change in Egypt. People now want to seize something.”
A recent release from Wikileaks introduces us to the April 6 Youth Movement’s connection to the larger Alliance of Youth Movements:
1. (C) Summary andcomment: On December 23, April 6 activist xxxxxxxxxxxx expressed satisfaction with his participation in the December 3-5 \”Alliance of Youth Movements Summit,\” and with his subsequent meetings with USG officials, on Capitol Hill, and with think tanks. He described how State Security (SSIS) detained him at the Cairo airport upon his return and confiscated his notes for his summit presentation calling for democratic change in Egypt, and his schedule for his Congressional meetings.
So what is the Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM)? From their Mission page, they describe themselves as “a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping grassroots activists to build their capacity and make a greater impact on the world.” And boy, do they offer a lot of help. AYM was co-founded by Jared Cohen (Director of Google Ideas who formerly worked for the State Dept.) and Jason Liebman (Howcast founder.) AYM partners with MTV, Google, CBS, MSNBC, Facebook, YouTube, National Geographic, Columbia University Law School and even our own State Dept. Annual summits feature workshops from the best in the social networking business.
Here is a brief look at the most recent summit from CBS:
At the opening reception last night, hosted at Google’s headquarters, I met a smart bunch of people from organizations such as Blue State Digital (which ran Obama’s online campaign), Howcast, Middle East peace activists One Voice, and the East London-based Young Foundation.
But the highlight is an A-list bunch of conference speakers at the conference today and tomorrow — including Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, Scott Heiferman of MeetUp, as well as top people from Google, YouTube and the World Bank. Other keynote speakers include Jeremy Gilley, the former actor who founded Peace One Day, and Joe Rospars, who was the new-media director for Obama for America.
You can sense the scale of their practical ambition from the title of some of the sessions: one is called Tech Solutions to Repressive Regimes.
One of AYM’s so-called “ambassadors,” Maajid Nawaz, has been all over the media doing interviews. He is active on the AYM Twitter as well as the Facebook page here, where they are coordinating their action in Egypt. The related April 6 Twitter account keeps everyone updated and links to some of their favorite sites like E-Socialists Revolutionary Socialism where you can view some of their suggested demands (translating from Arabic.) He has been well trained in the use of media and social networking.
It seems odd that Maajid Nawaz would be chosen as an “ambassador” for AYM. According to his own bio on AYM, he served four years in an Egyptian prison as an Amnesty International ‘prisoner of conscience’ and was formerly a leader in the “peaceful” global Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) Islamist movement set on the destruction of Israel. About HT, Nawaz now says:
I think that what I taught has not only damaged British society and British Muslim relations and damaged the position of Muslims in this society as British citizens, I think it’s damaged the world.
He had to take a less obvious path. Now professing to be peaceful, he is with the Quilliam Foundation. New name, fresh reputation.
The Quilliam Foundation (named after a 19th century British convert) is being pitched as advancing the counter-argument to extremism.
For a man of peace, Nawaz and his progressive friends at the AYM seem to be at the center of everything, and it doesn’t seem to be progressing peacefully.
Google and the State Department appear to feel very confident about their role in assisting global uprisings, but we might have a few suggestions. In their next AYM Summit, they might want to consider adding some workshops on the backgrounds of the participants they are training and considering who might come in to fill the void left by the people they dispose.
Just a thought. As it is, this social networking experiment has taken a dangerous turn and leaves us wondering which country might be next on the list for a little “social networking.”
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