Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" and the internet: Xeni on The Madeleine Brand Show


[ LISTEN: Direct MP3 link, and embedded audio. ]

On today's episode of the Southern California Public Radio program The Madeleine Brand Show, I joined host Madeleine Brand for a discussion of the role technology and social media played in the recent political upheaval in Tunisia.

16lede_libya-blog480.jpg Tunisia's interim leaders announced a new government today after a surge of violent demonstrations toppled autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Many reporters and bloggers (and now, uh, Muammar Qadaffi) have been quick to credit Wikileaks, Twitter, and Facebook with fomenting unrest in the country. But is it accurate to describe what is unfolding in Tunisia as "a Twitter revolution"?

Some related reading today:

Tunisia: That 'WikiLeaks Revolution' meme (CSM)
The brutal truth about Tunisia (The Independent)
Qaddafi Sees WikiLeaks Plot in Tunisia (NY Times / The Lede)
Tunisia: Fears of Insecurity Overshadow the Joys of Freedom
Arab World: Where is Ben Ali Headed to? (Global Voices)
Tunisia: How the US got it wrong (Al Jazeera / opinion)
Tunisia invades, censors Facebook, other accounts (CPJ)
Wikileaks - US embassy cables: Tunisia - a US foreign policy conundrum (Guardian)
The 2010-2011 Tunisian protests (Wikipedia)
First thoughts on Tunisia and the role of the Internet (Foreign Policy)

(PHOTO at top of post: Students hold placards and flowers during a sit-in protest in Beirut January 17, 2011, organized by Lebanese activists Tunisians living in Lebanon to show solidarity and support for the people in Tunisia. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)


  1. I wonder if we’re already working to undermine this. Let’s face it, we don’t like democratically elected stable Arab governments because they tend to threaten Israel. Takes for example the sign being held up, which is a Mahmoud Darwish quote mentioning,

    “…meeting tomorrow on the soil of your sister, Palestine.”

    But don’t accuse me of being a cynic before I have the chance to declare it openly.

  2. Ah but he was *our* dictator, which is why his killing of 60+ didn’t get quite the MSM time as Neda did.

  3. And in Hati we have the possible return of a dictator with Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s return….

  4. From the Internet in Tunisia Wikipedia page:
    Government-brokered “free Internet” programs provide web access for the price of a local telephone call and increased competition among ISPs have significantly reduced the economic barriers to Internet access. Those Tunisians for whom personal computers remain prohibitively expensive may also access the internet from more than 300 cybercafés set up by the authorities.

    I bet Ben Ali is regretting that now!

    1. Ah, but you know what’s important in preventing tyranny in this country? Forget net neutrality: Guns. Especially guns that are easily concealed, those are the only thing that can deter an overenthusiastic highly mechanized military.

      1. Hmmm… I wonder about that myself. Do you really think the average American gun owner could successfully stand up to the US military (if it was deployed against the population)?

        That may be an irrelevant question. Perhaps it is better to ask if they would?

  5. Oh oh can I be the one who just see black clouds on the horizon? The IMF consideres the country in debt and all debts from one leader, toppled or not, goes on to the other. So to be able to survive (since much of Tunisias money has “gone missing”) they will have to agree to the very interesting IMF agreements.

  6. Freedom brought to that country? What proof of there is that? I think cooler heads need to prevail. It may be a very good thing that Tunisia’s government it getting changed, but be careful what you wish for, we have yet to see what will come from the ashes.

    The Middle East is a very complex place. Just because a group of revolutionaries used social media to organize doesn’t mean that their own aims are just as freedom loving. There are plenty of religious factions in Tunisia that would love nothing more than to turn that country into theocracy with very heavy religious law.

    It would not be the first time an bad government was replaced by an even worse one. Iran anyone?

    I pray that won’t happen.

    And “without a single bomb dropping” is very wrong. This revolution was not without violence. In fact, there has been a lot of violence and the blood shed may not be over.

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