The final Egyptian broadband ISP has been disconnected. While some are still getting some access through a Google workaround that allows Egyptians to tweet from their phones and Free World Dial-up (33172890150, username and password are both "toto." This information is of course utterly useless to anyone who can read it), most are unplugged.
For the people of Egypt, this amounts to a boot on the face of freedom of expression. Over here, it's a ray of hope that we may yet hear the end of insipid "news" stories about how Twitter is single-handeldly bringing democracy to the brown people.
Social media may have played a role in organizing early protests, but the solipsistic focus on the impact of an American invention on the movement was pathetic during the failed Green Revolution in Iran and it's pathetic now. Clearly it's been an important tool, but probably not more than the signs carried at marches or the loudspeakers dispersed about the crowd. That shutting down the Internet served to focus the demonstrations on Tahrir Square (a single central location being the best way to manage them without net access) should kill that narrative, but I'm not optimistic.
Of course, it ought to be said that without social media, the rest of the world wouldn't know about it, and there would be far less pressure, for instance, on President Obama to support the uprising. But the rest of the world doesn't go away when we have our eyes closed.
Here's my contribution to the second draft of history, now that we've gone and fucked up the first one:
The movement took to the Internet, with a frenzy of activity on social media, striking terror into the heart of the Mubarak regime. Acting in a panic, the government shut down the entire Egyptian Internet, which only served to strengthen the protesters' resolve.See that? That's how you write about the impact of social media in human history without losing the bigger picture. Free of charge, motherfuckers.
Seriously though, the United States have been elbow deep in the Middle East for more than fifty years now. How is Al Jazeera English not one of the five hundred channels on cable? You know, the news organization that the White House is using to monitor the situation in Egypt?
The wires that carry TV signals to our homes are the same ones that carry the Internet. They can go anywhere and everywhere, and yet we let the corporate hive mind decide what's on. Today what that means is that the world is changing and most people in this country are finding out fourth-hand. Tomorrow, the Egyptian people are going to take another step towards controlling their representation on the world stage, and Americans don't even have the vague, theme park-ish concept of Cairo that they have of Paris.
In this country, access to information is considered to be a basic human right, and foreign heads of state have called us "Information Imperialists" for it. In Egypt, the Internet has been killed with a flip of the switch.
You know what I'm going to say here. Do me a favor and pretend I said it in a way that didn't sound like your mom talking about starving kids in Somalia when you wouldn't finish your vegetables.