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The Digital New Left as Controlled Opposition, Part 3

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Part 3 of 4


Wael Ghonim

Movements.org’s Role in the North Africa Tumult

Lest it be thought that Movements.org is not much more than a bunch of nerdish armchair revolutionaries and a pass-time for CEO yuppies, the organization has been playing an important role in the North Africa upheavals. Ariel Schwartz writing for the Fast Company, writes:

File this under: Timing is still everything. Just in time to help organize Egyptian grassroots activists with restored Internet access, the Alliance for Youth Movements (AYM) has rebranded itself as Movements.org, an online hub for digital activists. . . .

The AYM has a history of creating change–in 2008, a summit organized by the AYM included leaders of Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement, a protest movement seeking political reform and a democratic government.

“Movements.org is the source for anyone who wants to keep up to date on the use of technology for achieving real social change,” said Movements.org and Howcast cofounder Jason Liebman in a statement. “We have existed for three years as a support network for grassroots activists using digital tools, and today we come out of alpha launch to make our platform and resources available to everyone.”

In other words, the revolution is now centralized.[1]

It should be recalled that the April 6 Youth Movement has been a major factor in organizing the Egyptian revolt. The link for the April 6 Youth Movement provided by Fast Company goes to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, one of the veteran globalist institutions, which describes the pivotal role “social media” played in the creation of the April 6 Youth Movement

In the spring of 2008, over 100,000 users of the social networking website Facebook joined an online group to express solidarity with workers protesting in the Delta industrial city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra. As the protests escalated into a nationwide strike, the Facebook group gained momentum and eventually coalesced into a political movement known as the April 6 Youth Movement.

In 2009, the group still claimed a membership of around 70,000 young Egyptians, most of whom are well-educated and politically unaffiliated. Like Egypt’s other protest movements, the April 6 Youth Movement is not a formal political party, but it nonetheless provides an outlet for a new generation of politically conscious Egyptians.[2]

Google’s Ghonim

One of the first leaders of the riots in Egypt to be detained was Google’s Egyptian executive Wael Ghonim, arrested on January 8, and freed ten days later. “Wael was also active on Facebook and Twitter regarding the Revolution.”[3] Newsweek credits Ghonim with a major role in the Egyptian revolt, with the subheading: “Wael Ghonim’s day job was at Google. But at night he was organizing a revolution.”[4] Although based in Dubai as Google’s head of marketing for North Africa, Ghonim “volunteered to run the Facebook fan page of Mohamed ElBaradei,[5] the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner who had emerged as a key opposition leader.”[6] According to Newsweek it was Ghonim’s broadcast that actually instigated the revolt that toppled Mubarak:

On Jan. 14, protests in Tunisia felled that country’s longstanding dictator, and Ghonim was inspired to announce, on Facebook, a revolution of Egypt’s own. Each of the page’s 350,000-plus fans was cordially invited to a protest on Jan. 25. They could click “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” to signal whether they’d like to attend.[7]

Interestingly, it is claimed that Ghonim undiplomatically rejected offers by an “American NGO” to fund him. The claim seems disingenuous, given that Google is a US corporation with close contact with the US State Department, sundry NGOs and think tanks, and a pivotal part of AYM. The question arises as to whether this is posturing by Ghonim given his comment that he would like to resume his job with Google if he’s not “fired” for his role in “sparking the Egyptian revolution.”[8] The quip is pure cant, as it seems unlikely that Ghonim is ignorant of the role Google and Facebook have played with AYM and the “velvet revolutions.” The following nonsense is supposed to have taken place between Ghonim and Google head office:

On the record, Google’s not talking about Ghonim or the question of employee activism. For his part, Ghonim told CBS’s Katie Couric in an interview on Friday that his participation in the protests had no connection with his employer.

“They did not know anything about this and actually when I took the time off and I went to Cairo, they did not know I was going to the protest,” he said. “But when everything became public, I talked with the company and they suggested that I take a leave of absence and I also suggested that to them and I think it was a good decision for that. Google has nothing to do with this.”[9]

Columnist Charles Cooper is also writing drivel when he questions whether Ghonim is “one off for Silicon Valley” (sic). Ghonim is “one of” tens of thousands of yuppies around the world being agitated, trained, and directed towards revolutionary purposes by an array of think tanks, NGOs, and US Government agencies. Cooper continues:

Maybe that was meant as a tongue-in-cheek comment. But there’s a larger truth behind his quip. The key role played by one of Google’s key executives in the Middle East revived a decades-old dilemma that many other technology companies face when it comes to the question of political activism: Where should they draw the line?

“It’s one of those things that companies don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole,” a tech public relations exec told me on background.

The obvious truth du jour is that tech companies don’t want to take political positions — even when regimes use their products to oppress their own people.[10]

Cooper is writing unadulterated crap. The only question is whether Cooper is a liar or a half-wit. If he has never heard of AYM, he must surely know about the role long played by the digi-twits in the velvet revolutions in Serbia and elsewhere? Movements.org identifies Ghonim on its timeline for the Egyptian revolt as being the Google executive who instigated the revolt and who was in contact with the April 6 Youth Movement:

. . . Spring 2010 A group of activists, including Google executive Wael Ghonim and April 6 leader Ahmed Maher, begin meeting once a week to discuss plans for a protest against the government.

. . . February 8 — Massive protests continue, with many people—inspired by Wael Ghonim —taking to the streets for the first time. Wael speaks to the crowds at Tahrir Square. [11]

Feburary 11 – Wael tells CNN: If you want to liberate a government, give them the internet. http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/11/wael-ghonim-if-you-want-to-liberate-a-government-give-them-the-internet/ [2] [12]

TechCrunch writes of Ghonim and the role that is played by the “digital activists”:

Ghonim, who has been a figurehead for the movement against the Egyptian government, told [CNN’s Wolf] Blitzer “If you want to liberate a government, give them the internet.”

Ghonim, is of course, referring to the fact much of this revolution was organized on Twitter and Facebook (similar to the Tunisian protests). Ghonim was believed to have hosted the first Facebook page that organized the January 25th protests. When Blitzer asked “Tunisia, then Egypt, what’s next?,” Ghonim replied succinctly “Ask Facebook.”

He went on to personally thank Mark Zuckerberg, and said he’d love to meet Facebook’s CEO. Ghonim says that he’s looking forward to getting back to his work at Google but he plans to write a book, “Revolution 2.0? about the role of social media and the internet in political demonstration. There’s no doubt that social media has changed political activism irrevocably, and this moment will surely be a historic moment for Facebook and Twitter.[13]

There is no meaningless rhetoric here about possibly being “fired” by Google, but confidence that Ghonim will return to his job – and I’m sure a promotion – for being what amounts to the epitome of the very “digital activist” who is sponsored by Google, Facebook, Howcast, and the erstwhile social-revolutionaries from AT&T, Pepsi, US State Department, MTV, International Republican Institute, Freedom House, etc.


1. A. Schwartz, “More Tech Tools for Egypt’s Protesters: Movements.org, an Online Hub for Grassroots Activists,” Fast Company, February 3, 2011, http://www.fastcompany.com/1723468/movementsorg-an-online-hub-for-grassroots-activists [3]

2. “ The April 6 Youth Movement,” Carnegie Endowment, http://egyptelections.carnegieendowment.org/2010/09/22/the-april-6-youth-movement [4]

3. “Google Executive Freed in Egypt,” February 8, 2011, http://www.politicolnews.com/google-executive-freed-in-egypt/ [5]

4. “The Facebook Freedom Fighter,” Newsweek, February 13, 2011, http://www.newsweek.com/2011/02/13/the-facebook-freedom-fighter.html [6]

5. It should also be recalled that El Baradei emerged from the bowels of the International Crisis Group, where he sits with George Soros, to be the man of the hour in Egypt. See: K. R. Bolton, “What’s Behind the Tumult in Egypt?,” Foreign Policy Journal, February 1, 2011, http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2011/02/01/whats-behind-the-tumult-in-egypt/all/1 [7]

6. “The Facebook Freedom Fighter.” 

7. “The Facebook Freedom Fighter.”

8. Charles Cooper, “Wael Ghonim: A ‘One-Off’ for Silicon Valley?,” CBS News, Tech Talk, February 11, 2011, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-20031608-501465.html [8]

9. “Wael Ghonim: A ‘One-Off’ for Silicon Valley?”

10. “Wael Ghonim: A ‘One-Off’ for Silicon Valley?”

11. “Timeline of the January 25 Revolution in Egypt,” AYM, February 14, 2011, http://www.movements.org/blog/entry/timeline-of-the-january-25-revolution-in-egypt [9]

12. “Timeline of the January 25 Revolution in Egypt.”

13. Leen Rao, TechCrunch, February 11, 2011, http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/11/wael-ghonim-if-you-want-to-liberate-a-government-give-them-the-internet/ [2]