February 17 2011
An Electric Mob?
I am always irritated when people carp about blogs and the internet. That's not just because I blog. It's because I recognize that it's the internet that broke the back of the mainstream media, which is no longer our information gate keeper. I regard the internet as the enhancer of democracy.
Nevertheless I want to quote Canadian writer David Warren-one of my favorite columnists-on why our euphoria about the role of social media in the Egyptian uprising may be wrong:
The mob is now electronically summoned and enhanced, but, to return to where I started, this does not make it any easier to argue with, nor contribute to the possibilities for mature and intelligent deliberation over the path ahead. It instead creates a new and much broader field for anarchy. From anarchy to totalitarianism is one Persian step.
Warren, who grew up partly in the Middle East, argues that the army is responding to a mob with every-changing false promises. Warren is not optimistic about the possibility for a democracy to be created in this mob-driven, army-controlled atmosphere:
Democracy is itself the loudest false promise being casually offered in the Middle East. It will not be available within days or weeks, in Egypt, or Iran for that matter. It exists only arguably, and then very tenuously, in Iraq -- after nearly a decade of bloodshed. And there, only because Bush and company dwelt upon the "civil society" aspects, consciously resisting "one man, one vote, one time."
Even reduced to "free and fair multi-party elections," democracy remains unavailable for the foreseeable future, because in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Algeria, and elsewhere, only two "parties" are seriously organized, and neither is parliamentary by disposition. One would be the civilian military order behind each existing autocracy; the other the Muslim Brotherhood, or Islamist equivalents (Hamas, Hezbollah, and so on). These latter have already created their parallel welfare and regulatory agencies, their protection rackets, even a kind of judicial and legislative apparatus, operating through the mosques.
It is heartbreaking that in this volatile mix the U.S. may be on the verge of rebuking our most steadfast ally, the only true democracy in the Middle East. This is my personal opinion. I haven't run it by my colleagues this morning. But I feel it will do enormous damage to the idea of democracy in the Middle East.
I want to be optimistic, but I fear that we are led by an administration of babes in the woods.