Rebel Like an Egyptian: How Youth, Facebook, and Apple Inc. Toppled a Regime

Youthful civil disobedience will never be the same again. Thanks to their superior knowledge of modern technology, it will conquer. Think of it as the Ice Age Theory as opposed to the sudden Meteor Theory; a freeze which slowly but inevitably prevailed over the unsuspecting and unprepared Tyrannosaurus Rex. Used to being a force of terror, drunk on its own power, Mr. T. Rex just didn’t notice how chilly it was getting.  Today, we are the dinosaurs compared to those who not only simply utilize the convenience and entertainment value of Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and iPhone, but know how they work. On this premise, governments will rise or fall, revolutions will succeed or fail, based on the skills of either side’s best hackers.

Nothing illustrates this more vividly than the recent uprisings in Egypt, which overthrew the Mubarak government in only 18 days. Much has been written about the “whys” of the protests, and the “what happens now” after the protests, but little has been said about the “how”. And that’s because the fossils still think they’re in charge; the fossils in this case being old school dictatorships, and mainstream media. In their heyday, uprisings could be quickly quelled and protesters killed or jailed in any country that was not completely first world by the time the rest of us even heard about it. When we did learn of it, it was through the print and broadcast press, which was able to put its own spin upon it, aided of course, by whatever each of our individual country’s government did or did not want us to know.

However, the following is proof positive that this is no longer the case. Taken verbatim from my own Facebook feed are communications from several students, all under the age of 25, some of whom were based in The United States, some based in Egypt, and some based in Europe. These communications all took place, publicly, for the entire world to see and read, while the Egyptian rebellion was happening. Get your ear warmers and your mittens, on, Mr. T. Rex ─ it looks like it’s getting cold again:


From a 23-year-old male student based on the West Coast of the United States about his communication with an Egyptian friend:

“Just got off the phone with my friend _______.  I say ‘phone’ because halfway through our Skype conversation, the [Egyptian] government presumably pulled the plug on the last working network. He chuckles at the absurdity of it all, while showing me the taser he keeps on his person, one of the weapons against the looters directly outside his house. That is one of the last things he does in our pixilated, jittery exchange before he gets cut off.  So we used our cell phones after and he gives me the rundown of the events that took place when he and his mates marched in a peaceful protest. In short, he was tear-gassed, beaten with police batons, and narrowly avoided getting shot with a rubber bullet by a cop who was directly aiming at him. Most of this occurs after the police decide to cease firing warning shots, and instead begin shooting directly into the crowd at random. (For those who think rubber bullets can’t kill, try receiving one in the head). In a safe, regrouping area, many off-duty cops are actually sympathetic to the wheezing and beaten protesters and offer them onions and carbonated beverages to counteract the effects of the gas, which _________describes as one of the worst sensations he’s ever felt. …….He ends up spending the night at a friend’s across town from his worried parents’ house, as he can’t return home due to the curfew imposed.”

From the 21 year-old Egyptian student about whom the first student writes:

“So, tear gas is really. F*cking. Unpleasant. For that matter, so’s a police baton to the back. Who says the Egyptian government can’t teach its citizens anything? What they can’t seem to do, though, is recognize a peaceful protest when it comes marching down the streets, holding up signs and shouting “Silmiya!” (Peaceful). Also, they can’t quite grasp the concept of a nationwide communication blockage.”

Commentary to 21 year-old Egyptian from Facebook friends and family. (Names have been deleted and locations changed for privacy):

‘Canada’: Bro….I require a daily update (Can be short:P) on everyone’s well being, pleasssse. Texts don’t seem to be going through to mom or dad.

‘New York’: I tell all my friends about you and what you are doing. We are all very proud of you. You are in our prayers and please, please stay safe!

‘San Francisco’: It’s surreal to me that several weeks ago you were here in school, and now you’re having to guard your home with makeshift weapons. I take it firearms have been outlawed there?

Reply from Egyptian to the above:

@’San Francisco’ Yeah, it’s all quite surreal _______. Firearms have never been easy to get a hold of here, but the Army is urging everyone to protect their homes by any means possible.

@’Canada’   Sorry sis, internet was out for the past two days. Let’s talk tonight if you’re free.

From a Greek youth, informing the Egyptian protesters how to get past the internet lockdown imposed by the Egyptian government:

Egyptians, to get pass the internet blockages use the following IPs:
Twitter: “”
Facebook: “”
Google: “”

And then, a notification from France:
A French ISP is offering free access to the telephone line +33 1 72 89 01 50 encoded ‘toto.’


From USA-based 23-year-old, reporting on Facebook again the next day:

“When he is at home at night, the neighborhood watch keeps the looters out, who have practically become an army of their own, assault rifles and all. However, contrary to a lot of what has been reported, many of the neighborhood watch are armed with guns of their own, aside from the makeshift, ‘household’ weapons they brandish, so the looters have yet to pose an actual threat as the ‘apartment complex militia’ are doing a great job holding them off.  _______ and his friends stay up all night by campfire outside their home turned trench, making the best out of the situation, immediately responsive to any potential threat via sound signals they’ve created to communicate with one another across long distances. The following are the important updates ______ gives me that need to be reported, as most of the media is doing a fairly half-assed and inconclusive job ─ ”


‘Mercenaries-for-hire have broken at least 25 convicts out of local prisons. One would think that, given the reports of the Muslim Brotherhood doing the same with a select few of their own, that there is some political motive behind this. However, many of these prisoners have proven to just be random, average criminals, some serving mere six month sentences. This being proven by the fact that a few of these guys have actually gone to police stations to turn themselves back in, stating that they were forced to break out and simply wish to serve the remainder of their sentence and avoid future prosecution. As a result, many speculate the mercenaries themselves have been hired by the government to commit the prison raids, all part of Mubarak and Co.’s strategy to let chaos ensue in order to prove that only they can restore order to the nation. Ironically, many of these mercenaries have been hired by citizens themselves to protect their respective neighborhoods. Apparently, ‘a gig’s a gig’ for these guys.’


“─ Many off-duty cops are looters themselves; _________ has seen this with his own eyes. Aside from this far from subtle display of gross hypocrisy, police have been setting their own vehicles on fire, framing the protesters and making a peaceful protest appear to be a violent one in order to have a ready excuse to use force.  Also, part of the death toll that isn’t being reported on in main stream media includes civilians killing looters.

On the plus side, there is an ‘army hotline’ ─ (the army, thus far, has still remained a symbol of peacekeeping in the eyes of most citizens) ─ for people to call for help if they capture and tie up a looter, which many have done. However, the common knowledge is that many thieves have simply been executed by those defending their families and property.”

From the 21-year old Egyptian:

“Sporadic gunfire nearby…curfew’s about four hours in. Got our own ragtag neighborhood watch standing outside the building (essentially a group of twenty-something’s with sticks, knives, knives taped on the end of sticks…you get the drift). They light campfires at night, just in case anyone thought this wasn’t enough like Mad Max. Do your worst, looters.”

From the 23-year old USA-based student:

“Tomorrow, February 1st, marks the one-week anniversary of the uprising, and a nationwide strike is planned. With the majority of the civilians protesting in even greater numbers than before, the reaction of the police and the resulting bloodshed in the past week can only indicate that the death toll tomorrow will undoubtedly skyrocket. My friend will be there; I certainly can’t blame him. This is a gruesome, horrendous, yet incredibly significant time in Egyptian history, and I cannot hate on anyone who would want to witness or take part. But the police do not distinguish between the rioter and the observer/historian, they just f*cking shoot anyone who’s there. All I can do is call him tomorrow and see how the day went, as any cliché wish of “be safe” is beyond pointless.”

From the 21-year-old Egyptian, in response to a friend based in New York’s questions about the politics behind the uprising and the Egyptian government’s tactics:

“So although Mubarak’s divide and conquer strategy is apparent to anyone with a TV or a router (or a pulse), it’s still a shade away from being fact. Unfortunately, that means that all the suggestions you made (embargo/UN) won’t fly, because there are all types of theories floating around about who’s behind all the chaos. …This whole shebang has only been happening for just over a week, remember, so it’ll take a lot more time and a lot more destruction for any kind of decisive international action. That being said, we’re quite a territorial and emotional people, and outside intervention would definitely stir up the more extremist elements of the country. People feel as if they have the power to change things for the first time, and having foreign intervention might stop the sectarian violence temporarily but it’ll only make people unite against a common enemy, which is never a good foundation for a new democracy…. Most Egyptians would rather keep the chaos going, at least for a while, or solve it themselves instead of having the U.S. lead any kind of peacekeeping effort.  Welcome to my world.”


Summary of situation immediately prior to the resignation of Mubarak by 23-year-old USA-based student:

“….The Muslim Brotherhood, Army of Islam, etc.,  seek to topple Mubarak for the complete opposite reasons of the civilian protesters, and that is an important distinction that I don’t think the media is focusing on enough. The average protester doesn’t want Mubarak out because he’s part of “the West” and a “US ally” and pro-negotiations with Israel and all that usual fundamentalist lingo; they want him out because his administration allowed the imprisonment of teenage protesters without trial, the police murder of Khaled Mohamed Saeed, government scandals, and for all around being a totalitarian, civil-rights violating douchebag. But a potential coup by the extremists would implement a ‘government’ that would make Mubarak’s Egypt seem like a utopia. I would rather see an imperialist U.S. puppet dictator put in than see Egypt be consumed and destroyed by a bunch of fanatic psychos as it was with Iran in the 70’s. But that’s one of the worse case scenarios, we just have to wait and see.”

From a friend in New York, to the Egyptian, after the fall of the Egyptian government:

So, what now?

From the Egyptian in reply to the friend in New York:

“I’m wondering the same thing…”

*** ***

And there you have it. Unless all governments and/or Rupert Murdoch decide to outlaw cell phones, computers, and independent media outlets, this is the future. Rest assured that whatever does happen in Egypt next, the youth around the world will be watching, and reporting.



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