Call out the instigators
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here,
and you know it’s right.

- Thunderclap Newman

Whether Mubarak really couldn’t see the writing on the wall or if throughout these last days he was negotiating his surrender, getting assurances or perhaps buying guarantees for his safety, arranging to shore up his money, is something we may never know for sure. It struck me today that Mubarak could have been a sort of hostage, maybe the money men behind him who had a lot to lose if he stepped down, wouldn’t let him go . . . well, that is the past now.

The hardest part of a revolution is often the aftermath. We’ve seen it before: the French Revolution was followed by the Reign of Terror; the Russian Revolution was followed by Bolshevik tyranny; the 1949 Chinese Revolution led to modernization but also state-sponsored terrorism and starvation for between 20 and 43 million people in the Great Leap Forward. Revolutions can be hijacked, the glorious ideals that sparked them can be betrayed, and freedom can be fleeting.

There are hard revolutions, where violence plays a key part, and there are soft, mostly non-violent revolutions. The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 belongs to the latter category, like Gandhi’s movement and Poland’s “Solidarity” in the 1980s. Yet, in many ways, I think it was truly unprecedented. It seemed to have transformation as it cornerstone. The peaceful, ground-level approach the protester’s took belied the idea that there was something covert and sinister going on. It may have had a transforming effect on the military, and from reports I’ve read, it has begun to transform the Muslim Brotherhood, the group so many fear may the primary hijackers of this revolution – it certainly transformed Egypt and its people.

We can also say that Revolution 2.0 changed revolution itself. It started with a Facebook page that quickly attracted over than 70,000 friends. It’s called We are All Khaled Said, named after an Egyptian businessman beaten to death by police officers in Alexandria on June 6, 2010. The young man who made the Facebook page is Google’s Middle East and North Africa marketing manager, Wael Ghonim. It was through this page that word was first spread about plans for the Jan 25th protest. On January 27, Ghonim disappeared – picked up and held by the police until February 6, when Amnesty International demanded that the Egyptian authorities disclose Ghonim’s whereabouts and release him.

That’s just a synopsis of the story. It’s a remarkable one, and I urge you to doing some searching on Google and learn the rest of it. I wrote about this “new” revolution on Jan. 31. but I didn’t know at the time it was Revolution 2.0.

You can read about the “film directors, protest organizers and computer whiz kids dressed in J. Crew and Ralph Lauren, men in their 20s and 30s who had come to embody Egypt’s restive, tech-savvy youth” and who have called themselves Revolution 2.0. in this Los Angeles Times article.

One member of the group says, “This isn’t like any revolution in history.” I don’t think that’s overstating it too much. Last night on CNN, Wael Ghonim gave a telephone interview and had this to say, “You know, I always said that if you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet. If you want to have a free society, give them the Internet.” Ghonim, who shrugs off the notion that he is a hero, is 31 years old.

Technology has been the tool of revolution before, but never as powerfully.  For many Egyptian protesters, social media provided their first chance to be heard, to say what they wanted and needed to say – it gave them a voice and it fed their hunger for freedom.

Now, there’s something in the air . . .  the Egyptian people’s victory is being celebrated throughout the Middle East . . . Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Yemen have announced reforms in an attempt to stave off dissent . . . anti-government protests are scheduled over the coming days in Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, Iran and Morocco . . .

BLITZER: Wael, this is Wolf Blitzer in Washington. So first Tunisia, now Egypt. What’s next?

GHONIM: Ask Facebook.

It’s been over two months since Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. It dawned on me that I hadn’t heard much about how she was faring, which I interpret as a good sign, and so I decided to check the world wide web and see.

According to the BBC, Suu Kyi “has obtained internet access . . . Technicians set up wireless broadband at her home after the military government authorised an internet connection.” Suu Kyi’s assistant has reported that she had not yet used her connection because the signal is too weak, and additionally, she has also been feeling a little too unwell to try the internet. Apparently, Aung San Suu Kyi has never been online.

The military dictatorship in Burma, strictly controls internet connections and those who apply for internet service must not be involved in politics. The Indo-Asian news service reports that “Soon after her release from house arrest, the 65-year-old leader said that although she would apply for the internet permit, she would fill in the form saying that she would participate in politics.”

The Mizzima news agency has this: ‘The connection is a communication technology called McWill. But, the telephone has not been installed. With this connection, she will not be able to use voice (internet telephony). Only an internet connection has been installed. Although they told us to provide 1 MB, currently she has received 512 KB. They said they would extend the bandwidth later.  The internet installation cost at 560,000 kyat (about $560). Suu Kyi will apply for a mail4you e-mail account, which is a product of Yatanarpon Teleport and the only officially authorised e-mail account in Burma. The authorities have access to all passwords for mail4you e-mail accounts.”

In the United States, the internet is pretty much unrestricted. In this country, we do have a dictatorship, though, but it is not the government, despite what some would like to claim, it is “big business.” And for some time now, our unrestricted use of the internet has been threatened. What’s at stake is a principle called “net neutrality”, a principle applied to users access to the internet. Basically, it means that internet service providers should not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It’s meant to provide a level playing field for all web sites, users and providers.

But cable and telephone companies want to charge money for easy and smooth access to Web sites, speed to run applications and download files, and permission to plug in devices. If you have a fairly fast connection presently, once these companies have their way, to keep it you will need to fork over more of your hard-earned cash or be left in the slow lane.

It’s all rather complicated. If you are unfamiliar with net neutrality or if you want to get up to speed with the latest developments, I suggest you take a look here, here and here.

Last week U.S. Senator Al Franken and Rep. Dennis Kucinich both warned of what the former describes as “a growing threat of corporate control on the flow of information in our country.”

We who live in “free” countries are  fortunate not to have the kind of restrictions on the internet that Aung San Suu Kyi is saddled with in Burma. Most of us, myself included, have a tendency to take it for granted. We should not.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke