Let My People Go … Online! The Party of We and People Power
In my last editorial on CorpCounsel.com, I introduced the “Party of We”; the global power of the Internet Nation and its collective ability to challenge terrestrial nations and change the course of history.
I theorized that, short of turning off access to the Internet, terrestrial nations were ultimately powerless against the united strength of the Internet Nation. My evidence was the ability of a relatively small group of hackers to shut down payment processing by VISA, MasterCard and PayPal over objections to the treatment of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
I predicted that virtual wars between nations as we know them and Internet users were only a few clicks away.
For the last two weeks, we have witnessed how the Internet and social media platforms have facilitated regime change in Tunisia, helped organize a massive uprising against the government of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and are rapidly helping to bring other governments to the brink of collapse.
On Tuesday, King Adbullah II of Jordan dismissed his entire government and named a new prime minister. If news accounts are to be believed, Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is expected to announce Feb. 9 that he will not seek another term and will leave office in 2013. And in Syria protesters are planning a “day of rage” to be held in the streets of Damascus at the end of this week. How President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran who succeeded his father in office, will respond to this remains to be seen. We will know soon enough.
But the situation in Egypt is now well beyond the government’s control, and Egypt is the largest and most strategically important of these countries.
As its citizens communicated and organized through Facebook and Twitter as well as other Internet portals, Egypt’s ruling party took the unusual measure of shutting down both Internet access and mobile phone networks, realizing that they could not quell the rebellion of Egypt’s population if it allowed open communications to continue. As reported by one Egyptian web site, Marega.org, by running Twitter through its site, Egyptians united against what many among its population saw as a repressive government.
To silence the uprising, Egypt shut down the Internet. But in doing so, it shut down countless transactions, banking, commerce, and essential communications as well. For all intents and purposes, it shot itself in the foot in hopes of censoring its population for the short term. But it was already too late. Pulling the plug is only temporary and today, often ineffective and inflammatory.
Egypt couldn’t afford to cease Internet and mobile access for long without severely damaging its economy (experts currently estimate that it cost the nation $90 million). When it turned it all back on Wednesday, Egypt rearmed its disgruntled citizens, and all the citizens of the entire Internet Nation, with a renewed dedication to shut down the government of Egypt and those of other repressive regimes. It’s a classic catch-22. Egypt will soon learn that it can’t win by censoring or pulling the switch.
Now that Egyptians can again interact on social media, the entire Internet Nation is likely to unite behind them in what could well become the seeds of global revolution, as the concept of freedom permeates the entire Web, spilling over into other wired, yet repressed, populations.
Witness Jordan’s dismissal of its Cabinet on the heels of Egypt’s disruption. Will Jordan’s government continue to follow Egypt’s ill-fated and backward behavior like a lemming? Or will it openly embrace free speech and a citizen’s government? If the latter, it might soon become a true participatory democracy. If the former, it’s going to go off a cliff.
As all this unfolds, repressive regimes will come to realize that they must draw their battle lines, not on the streets, but in the cloud, using the same platforms as the protesters use; Facebook, Twitter, and countless websites; to stake their claim to leadership.
But it won’t take long before they’ll find they can’t take on the Party of We and expect to win. So most likely they’ll get desperate and act in the only way they know how; by inflicting violence upon their own citizens. That will further isolate those regimes from the Internet Nation as well as other democratic terrestrial nations.
What we have been witnessing over the last two weeks will clearly lead to the restructuring, if not the downfall, of Egypt’s current government. The Party of We will bring its first repressive analog regime down.
But what Phoenix will rise from the virtual ashes?
Who will lead and how will they harness the Internet Nation to change Egypt for the better, not simply replace one regime with another potentially similar or more repressive? Who will be their allies? Will foreign aid play any role?What ideologies will prevail? How will this impact the search for a lasting peace in the Middle East and beyond?
Therein lies the real risk, as no one can be sure whose voice will come to the fore nor how long any one voice will prevail as the influence of terrestrial nations wanes and the Internet Nation rises. It is indeed a fine line between control and chaos.
The battle has begun. Welcome to the age of the Internet Nation & and the revolution of the Party of We.
Doug Wood – We Expert
Reprinted from Corporate Counsel, http://www.law.com/jsp/cc/index.jsp