Ever since the buildup of the uprising in Egypt, one can identify a consistent attempt by the counter-revolutionary forces to represent those angry citizens (especially youth) as a minority who only exist in virtual reality. Whenever those angry citizens shows their discontent over Facebook, Twitter or any social media outlet, whether before the anger has moved to the streets or even after, conservative forces tend to ridicule their opinion and negate their weight in reality.
This understanding of those angry citizens was also re-enforced by elections results, where their voices never managed to reach power or win in any elections post 2011.
However, what those forces fail to grasp, is that such a limited understanding and creation of this fake divide of virtual vs non virtual realities is what is blinding the different ruling regimes to date to foresee the possibilities of ruptures. They insist on seeing the interactions on social media as something distinct and separate from interactions happening on the streets.
What startles the regime more is that even when it realizes the crossing realities and its role in shaping political subjectivity, it fails to grasp its dynamics. On January 28th 2011, the government shut down the internet, thinking that it will weaken the mobilization and yet it failed.
Later, they kept trying to look for the sources of knowledge or the origin of these new ideas in order to clamp down on them. They keep trying to identify key figures or Facebook group admins or key bloggers failing to realize the fluidity and horizontality of these spaces of which no one can control. In brief, the regime insist on seeing those angry citizens as part of one singular identity rather than rhizomes connected through multiple different assemblages.
Recently, the regime has started to engage with these new mediums creating their own Facebook pages, twitter accounts, thinking that they can hijack these spaces or counter a dominant narrative. President Sisi, even threatened implicitly few days ago that he can crack down on the internet using two military battalions and this medium will be done. All indicators of how short-sighted and incapable the different regimes are in seeing the dynamics and fluidity of these spaces; which even if cracked down on, can and will develop in other forms. More importantly, they fail to realize that the impacts of these mediums can never be undone.
Indeed, sometimes I have doubts about whether technology actually opens up possibilities of identities and assemblages or it rather reinforce isolation and one sided promotion of ideas and views. I keep looking at how many people get more locked in their opinions especially when they increase their number of followers in any of the different social media outlets. I also see many of the older generation impressively capable of not listening or shutting down from opposing views. However, looking deeper at Egypt, one keeps seeing how technology offered endless opportunities of identities, ideas and political subjectivity being shaped by vast possibilities of assemblages. One can also see, that even with these ego building or resistance to new ideas, influence and interaction do happen whether voluntarily or not.
These regimes should realize how they have lost this battle of technology a very long time ago. Maybe Gibran can inspire them to sanity for he says:
‘You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams’.