Friday, February 11, 2011


'Egypt is Free,' crowds chant after Mubarak quits - Yahoo! News: "The protests were started by a small core of secular, liberal youth activists organizing on the Internet who only a few months earlier struggled to gather more than 100 demonstrators at a time. But their work through Facebook and other social network sites over the past few years built greater awareness and bitterness among Egyptians over issues like police abuse and corruption.

'Facebook brought down the regime,' said Sally Toma, one of the main protest organizers.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

This Associated Press report is hard to believe. How can anyone be so naive?

Let's see what they are saying: A bunch of children on Facebook enlightened their elders (who rarely use social networks) and the poor (who are rarely, if ever) connected as to what was going on in their own country, such was the secret efficiency with which the regime had been operating. Of course, before these kids used Tweeter and Facebook, the average Egyptian lived in complete ignorance of what was happening: they knew Mubarak to be a nice guy, and then suddenly they see on Facebook (which they rarely use, remember) that that was not true. A people's coup takes place in Tunisia, the kids (left alone by the hideous regime to do their missionary work, remember) congregate people, and, well, the rest is contemporary history.

Anyone who swallows this should stop taking hashish.

There has been a persistent pattern of anti-government protests by the 'mob' (a French innovation) since the Berlin Wall collapsed. In Bangladesh, a democratically elected government was brought down after three months of intense street agitation amounting nearly to civil war - one in which the people had no interest whatsoever. In the Philippines, the democratically elected government of Joseph Estrada, the people's darling, was brought down by the middle- and upper-classes (it was dubbed a 'cell phone' revolution; the people lost because at the time sell phones were too expensive!). In Indonesia, thanks to IMF mismanagement, a mob overthrew General Suharto (and investment has never recovered while corruption has remained the same). In Kyrgyzstan, an autocratic government was overthrown by a mob of a couple of thousand, an event repeated a few years later against a democratically elected government. In Tunisia, a mob overthrows a dictator; a bigger mob overthrows the president of Egypt. In China, a mob had tried something similar, but not comparable (see J.M.Roberts' History of the 20th Century). In Iran, a mob tried to overthrow the regime.

Rule by the mob - ochlocracy - is here.

Mind you, the mob has always been there, wherever cities had sprung up. We remember the Roman mob that had to be appeased with 'panim et circenses'. And Lisan al-Din Ibn Khatib's (1313 - 75) advice to the Caliph Harun al-Rashid was this: "The common people may be simple, but they are quite powerful, especially when they act collectively. If the king is faced by them as a rioting crowd, he should be diplomatic with them and stick firmly to his position until they disperse." And then? "The king should strike hard at them and leave no room for mercy towards them."

But what is new is that the mob is no longer seen as illegitimate: a rabble is held to be legitimate just because it is a disgruntled group, as opposed to an individual. The mob, and mobocracy, is here to stay, thanks to the French Revolution, and western ideology. The Americans have been caught on the back foot, but it was their ideology of democracy and people power and mobocracy that has unleashed the mob.

How long will it be before the mob becomes illegitimate again? For that we have to await the decline of western civilisation itself. What these Egyptians have done, is to betray the values of their own, benign civilisation by espousing western ideas of freedom and equality - values observed in the breach, as we have seen.

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