Like many Americans, up until this point Egypt was a country on the peripheral of my imagination. It was a country in which I remember in adventure films. Indiana Jones, The Mummy. Camels, sand and the pyramids. That’s it. Even in this post-9/11 age, Egypt was in the background. It was always portrait in the media as “the stable state”, “the Peace Holder” more because its peace treaty and diplomatic relations with Irael.
In fact any real deep knowledge I have at all about Egypt was an Audiobook I purchased online entitled Dreams and Shadows : The Future of the Middle East by Robin Wright. In Dreams and Shadows Write gives a comprehensive and dense overview of every country in the middle east. It was an exciting read listen. What I remember about Egypt was that it was the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood and of the 30 year long state of “Emergency Law”. Once again a quick look into Wikipedia gave me a good recap on Egypt and Emergency Law.
Egyptians have been living under an Emergency Law (Law No. 162 of 1958) since 1967, except for an 18-month break in 1980. The emergency was imposed during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and reimposed following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.
I also looked into what happened in Tunisia, which pretty much was the inspiration for the Egyptian mass protests. I went back to reliable Wikipedia for that info (2010-2011 Tunisia uprising). Since what going on now in Egypt is going on now (at least at the time of this posting), there is alot, A LOT of real-time information out there, particularly on social networks. The mass media in this country latched on to the successful use of twitter and facebook in organizing the uprising, and this is true. However, as an outside observer, you’ll be accessing this information as a complete consumer, and there is a river of updates coming out, especially on twitter. Observing the hashtag #Egypt or #jan25 is pretty much is useless in realtime. When I searched for #Egypt on my Tweetdeck chrome webapp, it crashed my browser tab. I had to move to the desktop version in order too handle the load. Even with that it’s a stream of updates, like 10 a second. Now I’m a fast reader, but not that fast. If you intend on following the #Egypt hastag I suggess finding a client that can handle the load, particular a desktop based client. I suggest however to stick to single twitter sources for these updates, or lists.
When it comes to news coverage, I can’t stress this enough, Al Jazeera English! I’ve been having the stream on for days (and although I join Jeff Jarvis in his call for cable companies to add the Al Jazeera English channel, I’m fine with just watching it online, I hate cable). Although I am a progressive I don’t think Al Jazeera is a progressive station, or a station trying push an Islamic agenda as some folks on the right think they do. It reminds me more of like a BBC, but with a more international scope. They are like the only agencies that have consistently had people on the ground in Egypt during all this, US outlets have been using Al Jezeera’s footage as a base of their own coverage. The channel is smart, modern, and strangely tempered. I guess I’m just used to hearing talking heads and anchors scream at me on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. I remember an segment on NPR’s On the Media about the start of the English Al Jazeera channel.
As I lay sick on my couch (bit of a head cold), writing this it is midmorning in Cairo. I watching the Al Jazeera stream and reading the rapid popups of twitter posts ending with #Egypt and #Jan25. I think personally what captivates me about this drama is that I want people to feel and live a life with justice in it. I suppose that hope is embedded in my DNA. As an American, I think the story of people sticking up for themselves after a long period of repression is a universal theme in each of us.