Diffusion of Revolution: Lessons Learnt and Taught by Egypt's Social Movement against the Mubarak Regime
The popular uprisings against long-standing regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have resulted in the toppling of the Tunisian president Ben Ali, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and the Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi. Other regimes in the region including Jordan, Yemen and Syria have been forced to make socio-political concessions and reforms. At the time of writing, the regime of Bahrain, Syria and Yemen are responding to ongoing peaceful protests with lethal force. These uprisings have generated a huge amount of discussion concerning the potential of social media to impact upon political reform and regime change. The toppling of the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt has even been referred to as 'Twitter' and 'Facebook revolutions'. A process of diffusing ideas about political change evolved into social movements for freedom and democracy. Using diffusion theory and social movement theory, this paper examines the impact of the Tunisian revolution on the corresponding movements for freedom and democracy in Egypt, and subsequently, Egypt's impact on other countries in the region. Our research is based on analysis of social media including blogs, facebook, twitter, and comments on mass media sources posted by online activists in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria. In its examination of the lessons Egyptian online activists learnt from those in Tunisia and subsequently taught to others in the region this paper will focus on the transmission of ideas concerning freedom, democracy, Islamism, national unity, the use of nonviolence, and the reactions of Western political leaders. It argues that while a high level of identification between the social movements in the various countries selected for analysis is present, the extent to which ideas are adopted and are successful depends on domestic as well as broader geopolitical contexts.
Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting 2011