We only care for Tunisians if they validate our techno-fetish

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It’s not a Twitter, Facebook or YouTube revolution. It’s a revolution of hungry oppressed people who had enough. They didn’t need Wikileaks to tell them how corrupt their government is. It was a burning man, burnt by his misery and oppression that got people out to the streets.

Through the past three weeks the coverage of the popular uprising in Tunisia was completely neglected by western media and was far from being a “Twitter trend”. Why? Because it wasn’t a Western interest. Some papers argue the fall of the Ben Ali regime is actually contradicting Western interests, claiming Arabs cannot be trusted with democracy, as they cannot be trusted to choose “the right leaders”.

But now it has happened, despite our lack of attention, sympathy or solidarity. Without the West noticing, the Ben Ali regime has fallen and the self-centered new media elite has awoken to the news—a totalitarian regime has fallen. So how can we digest it? How can we be made to even care? Oh… right, there was something about Tunisia on one of the cables released by Wikileaks. Oh and a bunch of these activists are using Twitter and Facebook, oh and I think I saw something on YouTube too. Let the appropriation begin!

Beyond being very disrespectful of the people in the streets putting their lives on the line. This narcissistic reading of global events does not help us understand the true meaning and affect these tools hold over global events. We tweet the latest political blog post we read or update the status with our cleverly articulated social critique. How nice would it be to believe these are the butterfly wings that bring down regimes somewhere in some remote country we could not even find on the map.

Activists in Tunis and Iran are risking their lives. Sometimes they use networked communication tools, but their sacrifice is still very physical and is not something we can just easily retweet.

Projects: ShiftSpace, The Upgrade!, youarenothere
People: Mushon Zer-Aviv
Research: Middle East, Open Culture
Tags: in English, activism, politics, social media, tunisia, honorary resident