The Egyptian Revolution Will not Be Tweeted: A First-Hand Report from Cairo
American television networks and an endless parade of mostly white male pundits (brought out and dusted off with their cobwebs) should take lessons from Al-Jazeera in live reportage, in not having pundits talk over the chants of a mass of humanity, in having Arab reporters covering what they know best, in remarkably evocative and courageous camerawork and in just being able to cover history like no other television network has ever been able to do before. And yes, I also mean that CNN during the first Gulf War was not as good as this.
It is so important to remember that the vast MAJORITY of those on the streets around the country do not have the time, the ability, the resources (including smartphones) and certainly no access to working mobile phone service. This revolution is JUST NOT BEING TWITTERED by the people who are actually protesting.
The only people tweeting are either reporters with huge bureaus and live cameras to back them or people like me reporting from the cyber-frontlines talking to the few friends in Cairo we can reach on their landlines.
To tweet this revolution and Egypt’s complex back-story in 140 characters or less is impossible.
Interestingly Al-Jazeera which is doing a stellar job is also more interested in covering the revolution (amazingly) in what is essentially wide-shots to show the extent of the chaos. Ayman’s camera is focused on the thousands in Tahrir. Not many correspondents are able to get to neighborhoods like Rihab, Mohandasin, Zamalek, Maadi—which cyber-reporters/tweeters like me are able to do by talking only on landlines (mobiles are not working) to our friends—ordinary citizens. Hopefully this below, is an example of that.
I must mention that some amazing independent reporters like Ahmed Moor (who is writing for Mondoweiss and sometimes Al-Jazeera English) and Sharif Koudouss (of Democracy Now—who just flew into Cairo) are doing remarkable reportage, even though they are not necessarily backed by major news bureaus
My friend Fouad was able to get on the landline again. His body and soul are still bruised and yet he has never been more hopeful. His severe anger at Hosni Mubarak’s speech full of lies and his ambivalence about the appointment of Omar Soliman, the head of intelligence as the new vice president.
It a fragmented conversation on a still functioning landline. And as bullets do rain all around him, here are his bullet points. The thoughts and experiences of an ordinary citizen, not a reporter.
Mohandaseen is burning—we are surrounded by looters, and the army is just watching
- They are looting houses and we have no idea who these looters are
- My parents asked army tank guys and they said we cannot intervene!
- Everyone here is saying that Mubarak is being spiteful-he wants looters so that he can say-Look I gave you calm for 30 years? OK now you want to get rid of me? Well see the chaos my going can bring-Enjoy the unrest and the looting. Only I could have protected all of you!
- I was driving and 3 men with knives attacked me near Sudan street—I had to sort of run them over
- Big rumor that Mubarak is releasing prisoners and arming them so that they can infiltrate neighbourhoods and loot them
- Maadi, Street number nine-huge vandalism happening—There is looting everywhere in Rihab city, in Mohandasin, in Shubra. In Heliopolis there are plainsclothes police
- My parents are organizing all the baobabs in our street and making blockades to stop the looters
- There are Balkageyah (thugs) everywhere—all rich neighborhoods are being attacked
- I think he is fucked up yaani--He didnt resign---his speech instigated the violence---now looters and the poor think that when you know there is no hope you might as well get as much as you can as long as the chaos lasts--people were hopeful that he would go
- Maybe in other governates--people are more organized and closer to each other as community members...so they will organize better, perhaps—In Cairo it is difficult to control the chaos and disorder—there are 19 million people in this city who often don’t talk to each other and are so separated by class and money—I am wondering how they can organize together?
- The people in Cairo are fighting two things--they are fighting police forces but also now fighting looters
- People prayed the Salat ul Genaza, the funeral prayer after the evening prayers in Tahrir—we carried a body through the crush of thousands—I was crying, so many of us were crying