Skip to main content

    Intro: Mainstream media (even BBC) are treating the roiling protest in the middle East as if they, like Topsy jumped out of the head of Zeus.  As if the people just got to a boiling point.  As if there is a natural democrat in all of us that comes through at salient moments especially with the internet available to reflect that surging desire.
    Well no,  It probably wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been Facebook (thank you, Mark Zuckerman)  But it would never have happened if there had not been a model of strategic action, a playbook, that students, in the case of Egypt and Tunisia, young men, educated, but despairing but searching, would not have found Gene Sharp,  “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.”  

    How Egypt happened:  Gene Sharp and Optor and years of organizing

     Mainstream media (even BBC) are treating the roiling protest in the middle East as if they, like Topsy jumped out of the head of Zeus.  As if the people just got to a boiling point.  As if there is a natural democrat in all of us that comes through at salient moments especially with the internet available to reflect that surging desire.

         Well no,  It probably wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been Facebook (thank you, Mark Zuckerman)  But it would never have happened if there had not been a model of strategic action, a playbook, that students, in the case of Egypt and Tunisia, young men, educated, but despairing but searching, would not have found Gene Sharp,  “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.”  

      This stuff information is not new. In 2008 Philip Shiskin wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about Gene Sharp and his impact on protest movements in Serbia, the Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgistan.  The article mentions the fact that Sharp's 1993 guide to unseating despots “From dictatorship to Democracy has been translated into more than 28 language and used by opposition activist also in Zimbabuwe Burma, Russia, Venezula and Iran.  The Iranian government has run a campaign against Sharp as a CIA infiltrator. The article includes cloak and dagger stuff (sneaking Sharp, a very old man) into the jungles of Burma to teach young opposition activists.  But it also reflects an underground operating just under radar of pro-democracy organizing in places you would never have thought of.  Like Egypt.

 This is the WSJ article link http://online.wsj.com/...
but you can also access it (since my linking skills suck despite my lingering on this site since 2006) through Ben Smith’s article on Politico headlined “The most influential figure you’ve never heard of.”

     There are two New York Times articles discussing the Gene Sharp and organizing the Tunisian protests that begins: As protesters in Tahrir Square faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia: “Advice to the youth of Egypt: Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.” which is just the beginning for practical advice."

         After more than a week of unrest, anti-Mubarak protesters clashed with supporters of the president for control of Tahrir Square. When confronting the police, the protesters wore armor made of cardboard and Pepsi bottles.
The exchange on Facebook was part of a remarkable two-year collaboration that has given birth to a new force in the Arab world — a pan-Arab youth movement dedicated to spreading democracy in a region without it. Young Egyptian and Tunisian activists brainstormed on the use of technology to evade surveillance, commiserated about torture and traded practical tips on how to stand up to rubber bullets and organize barricades.
          They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent resistance channeled from an American scholar (Sharp) through a Serbian youth brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley.
the links
http://www.nytimes.com/...
and
http://www.nytimes.com/...

       The crux for me though is that Sharp’s books and activities gave the Arab activists access to the thinking of a figure long depised in the Muslim world: Mahatma Gandhi.  Gandhi’s successful resistance against the most powerful  empire in the world  is a model for all of our social change movements.  It seems to me that  the Gandhian non-violent scenario has not been available to Muslims because of the hatred for Gandhi ever since the Pakistani partition.    None the less, what Sharp and others have done is to bring his remarkable techniques and revolutionary practices past old battles into the hands of the Arab left and enabled them to make an end run, at least for relatively secular countries, around the Al Qaida model of anti-imperialism, which just replaces one autocracy for another.  

The exchange on Facebook was part of a remarkable two-year collaboration that has given birth to a new force in the Arab world — a pan-Arab youth movement dedicated to spreading democracy in a region without it. Young Egyptian and Tunisian activists brainstormed on the use of technology to evade surveillance, commiserated about torture and traded practical tips on how to stand up to rubber bullets and organize barricades.
They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent resistance channeled from an American scholar through a Serbian youth brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley.
This is getting a a lot of attention: Ben Smith at Politico quotes (I believe without attribution) the Times article

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site