Monday, January 31, 2011

Shameless Commerce Department

Coming in April 2011...or there abouts. More on this later.

Okay, it's later. Horses, historical malfunctions & cannibal recipes.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Taking Over the Radio Station

The Mummy Dons a Beret

It seems the Revolutionary's Handbook is still a viable guideline for popular (political) revolts. Down in sub-section 12, paragraph 14 is rule number 7: take over the radio stations first. Or in this case, Facebook, e-mail, tweets, and the various cell providers. Once you control communication on a vast (really, national) scale, you control the flow of information -- your idea of what constitutes necessary information. Oddly, the same strategy (intentional or not) played a very large role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, albeit, the tools were a little less sophisticated: the early internet and satellite television. I, like others, probably gave Reagan a little too much credit for downsizing the Red Menace. He certainly upped the ante on the price of financing a continued Cold War, but in the end it seemed more like a case of access to information by a population starved of the truth -- well, bananas too. Which brings us back to the old Manual.

Section 1, about the fourth paragraph offers this bit of wisdom: "Revolutions never begin when the boot of oppression is stamped firmly on your face." They actually start when that small crack of light peers from under the door. The light is called 'expectations.' In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev was that glimmer of light, his policy of Glasnost amounting to the first crack in the ideological cement of that 40-year old monstrosity known as the Iron Curtain. I doubt that he fully understood the ramifications of what he unleashed at that particular moment -- a revolution that ultimately swept away the USSR, and almost cost him his life. Boris Yeltsin completed the transition, but only after certain segments of the old Soviet military establishment, including Gen. Alexander Lebed's 14th Army stood down, thus allowing for a fairly non-violent restructuring. Other cicumstances, and perhaps other leadership could have resulted in almost apocolyptic results. The showdown in Moscow had an immediate effect for millions of Russians, but a very edgy West was far more interested in just who was in control of the nuclear codes -- not to mention the strategic nuclear forces now in de facto foreign hands -- far from Moscow's central control. So as Russia's future lie in flux in the fall of 1993, virtually at the whim of the military, so lies Egypt's revolutionary ambitions today. While the stakes are not as high for the world at large, they are of paramount importance for the future of the Egyptian people -- and ultimately the stability of a volatile region.

Egypt had probably been at the 'tipping point' for at least a decade, though like many oppressive regimes nothing internal (or probably external) offered the sort of incindiary spark to break a rather marginal status quo. Then Tunisia exploded. While the overthrow of the Tunisian government did offer certain triggers for the social unrest that had been brewing in Egypt, the most powerful message to come out of Tunis was, "Yes, we can and here's how!"

Communication. From the seemingly ancient days of Radio Free Europe and the ever-tenacious BBC to somebody's wall on Facebook saying, "I'm not going to take it anymore!" In some ways the message has finally merged with the messenger, which should probably be a fairly harsh warning for the despots and barn burners of the world. Yet couched in this ominous signal is a warning for all governments, democratic or not. When mass communication meets mass anger on an open line, negotiation may cede its perceived civilty to the power of those shaking fists. It is a process that bears watching.