Tag Archives: Egypt

From my #Jan25 #Egypt notebook

There are two specific moments, or passages, in the Robert Fisk interview I linked to in my last post that, to my mind, constitute the beginnings of a materialist historiography of the uprising in Egypt.  These are as close to dialectical images, in Walter Benjamin’s sense, as anything that has passed before or under my eyes in the past eventful week.  I transcribe them below; you can read the full transcript at http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/3/robert_fisk_obama_administration_has_been

 “The key that I’ve seen over the last few days has been the way in which the army on Friday [28/1/2011] was told by Mubarak to clear the square, and the individual tank officers refused.  I actually saw them tearing off their tank helmets, where they were receiving orders on their own military net, and using their mobile phones.  And in many cases, they were phoning home, because they come from military families.  They wanted to know from their fathers what they should do.  And, of course, they were told, ‘You must not shoot on your fellow citizens.’  And that, I think, was the moment when the Mubarak regime broke.  Or if we look back historically, that’s what we’ll believe.  So I think it is broken, it’s finished, whatever Mr. Mubarak may dream about in his pantomime world.  And I think that was a very critical moment.”

“And it’s been interesting watching the behaviour.  I mean, I’m right up right next to the tanks and, you know, where stones are falling and so on.  Yesterday, for example, a young soldier was standing in tears as the stones went in both directions past him.  And he was obviously torn apart by what he should do between his duty as a soldier and his duty as an Egyptian.  And in the end, he jumped down from the tank, crying and throwing his arms around one of the protesters.  And that – you know, that was a very significant moment, I thought, in this.  You know, if big history is made on the streets, this was a little tiny microcosm of what was actually going over.”

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Toward a historiography of #Jan25 #Egypt

After days and nights of monitoring coverage of the events in Egypt, I finally encountered something that surpassed even the best journalism to gesture toward a historiography of this moment.  Listen to Robert Fisk in Cairo, speaking to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Robert Fisk: Obama Administration Has Been Gutless and Cowardly in Dealing with the Mubarak Regime.

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Detox and a return to Twitter

In the aftermath of several days in the intellectual sauna, so to speak, with Benjamin, followed by a figural plunge into the wintry waters with Berger, I feel refreshed and ready to attempt some timely reflections on Twitter.  I’m on the verge of a coin toss to decide whether, in light of the various opportunity costs, to devote several hours to a book by Dom Sagolla, 140 Characters:  A Style Guide for the Short Form, whose foreword is by Jack Dorsey, “Creator, Co-founder, & Chairman, Twitter, Inc.”  According to the brief bio on the back cover, @Dom “helped create Twitter with Jack Dorsey and a team of entrepreneurs in San Francisco.  He also helped engineer Macromedia Studio, Odeo, and Adobe Creative Suite, and now produces iPhone applications with his company, Dollar App.”

Here is part of what @Jack has to say about Twitter in his foreword:

The amazing thing about this particular protocol is that it’s being defined daily.  By you.  Twitter was inspired by the concepts of immediacy, transparency, and approachability, and created by the guiding principles of simplicity, constraint, and craftsmanshipWe started small.  We built something out of love and a desire to see it flourish throughout the world.  We defined a mere 1 percent of what Twitter is today.  The remaining 99 percent has been, and will continue to be, created by the millions of people who make this medium their own, tweet by tweet. (xiii)

As I’ve written before, I can’t fathom how they work out those percentages.  In any event, @Dom’s introduction provides a concise account of Twitter’s origins and early history, including an incident of which I was previously unaware:

James Black, a photojournalist from Oakland, California, was on a trip to Egypt.  On April 16, 2008, he was detained by Egyptian law enforcement over a simple misunderstanding.  As he was thrown in the police car, he wrote one word:  “Arrested.” [http://twitter.com/#!/jamesbuck/status/786571964 ]  This Twitter post was picked up by U.S. authorities and resulted in his release from jail the following day.  Twitter received nationwide news coverage that day, a true sign that one could have a large impact with only a few characters of text. (xxiv-xxv)

The intro closes with a “recap” of Twitter’s brief history in the “short form” that the books seeks to analyze, promote, and exemplify:

Odeo @Jack @Ev @Biz & SMS 2006.  @SxSW @MTV 2007.  @FailWhale then @BarackObama 2008.  Mumbai.  Hudson.  @Oprah.  #Iran


@Dom’s exemplification of the short form that he is writing about is perhaps a sign that he practices what he preaches.  I’ll be updating on the experience of reading 140 Characters as time allows.

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