Tunisia: Amid massive protests, prime minister takes power while president flees

Fast-moving change today in Tunisia (not that you'd know it from watching American cable TV news—if you're in the US, keep your eye on Twitter, blogs, and more worldly online news organizations instead).

New York Times: "President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia has left the country amid growing chaos in the streets, French diplomats say, and the prime minister went on state television Friday night to say he is in charge."

Here is a YouTube playlist of eyewitness videos from the protests in Tunisia.

The Awl points to this helpful primer on Tunisia in Mother Jones Magazine.

Al Jazeera is all over it. Jillian York's opinion piece at Al Jazeera is worth reading: "Tunisia's taste of internet freedom."

Here is one Arab affairs live-blog of the events, in English, at al-bab.com. • Here's a report at Al-Arabiya.

This Wikileaks-leaked State Department cable became a catalyst in the social upheaval.

Here's a Foreign Policy Magazine piece that puts forth an argument that Wikileaks and social media played important roles.

• Responding more or less to those who might describe it as "a Wikileaks revolution," Ethan Zuckerman tweeted earlier, "Think it would be a mistake to give too much credit to Wikileaks [...] this has much more to do with unemployment, poverty, and inequality."

• Evgeny Morozov echoes this sentiment in his Foreign Policy opinion piece: "First thoughts on Tunisia and the role of the Internet"


  1. NPR has had pretty good coverage. They talked live to a correspondent–Elanor Beardsley, their usual correspondent in France–on Morning Edition earlier today. She was in Tunis; she even got tear gassed!

  2. FOX News: Teens Seeking Plastic Surgery to Combat Bullying

    CNN: “Hold the Fries,” a report on overhauling school cafeterias.

    MSNBC: Ricky Gervais Unleashed

    1. Honestly, I think those headlines, right there, sums up all that is wrong with modern American media today. This seems to be an incredibly important event unfolding right now in Tunisia, and it’s being generally ignored by all the major commercial “news” outlets. More and more, I think that Greenwald is right about the American media being the lapdogs of power. we are being hideously underserved by the 4th estate.

      NPR isn’t perfect , but 9 times out of 10, they get closer to what matters more so than these commercial entities. Al Jazeera English often gets it right, too. It’s a shame that only one cable company, in like New Hampshire, or something, carries it in the US. Glad I can watch/read it online…

    2. Odd, I see Tunisia articles at the top headline on all three sites, and can’t find any of the aforementioned articles even on the front ‘page’. Maybe personalization settings are contributing to the difference?

  3. I wouldn’t underestimate the impact of the Wikileaked cable either, if only as a catalyst.

    The assasination of that Archduke didn’t singlehandedly start WWI, but it was a catalyst. All the other stuff had to be in place or it would have been a page 10 story. Ditto Tunisia – poverty, unemployment and the rest were in place already, but the cable may well have been a catalyst.

    1. “The assasination of that Archduke didn’t singlehandedly start WWI, but it was a catalyst.”

      Indeed: a catalyst which engaged the provisions of SECRET treaties, which dragged Nation after Nation into a slaughter which none of them had wanted; and which slaughter might have been avoided, had the provisions of those SECRET treaties been known more widely than they had been.

      Having just now read that cable, after you pointed it out above, I can only add to what is found therein, that if that cable’s release has had an influence in removing a regime which apparently and in fact no longer enjoyed the support of its people, then so much the better!

      1. In the case of WWI, the various provisional plans of the region’s armies went into motion “in anticipation” of others’ armies executing their plans. Once they were all in motion, there was no stopping it.

    2. the leaks (plural!) have obviously helped the u.s. governments decision to speak out.

      it’s good to see ben ali leaving office, that is something i never thought could possibly happen. it’s not at all clear how the situation will develop and to what degree it can improve.

      please continue the coverage.


  4. Occasionally holding free fair and open elections would go a long way to seeing off these kinds of tumults before they ever have a chance to start.

    This kind of disorder is what usually happens when a population will no longer suffer a particular person holding authority over them.

  5. Finally! This story has been completely absent from US coverage. I’ve spent time in Tunisia and have been in contact with my friends there, and they are ecstatic about Ben Ali leaving. I wish them all the best.

  6. How long before this happens here in America….?

    I’m not saying I want bloodshed or violence…but the ills of government don’t seem to be fixing themselves. Or listening to the people either.

    Left/right/liberal/conservative…even an 8 year old can tell you that it’s a good idea to not spend more money than you have.

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