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February 22, 2011 / Political Fluency

The Middle East Revolution – Freedom or Fire

I’m on the threshold of revolution
I’d rather burn than be held down, forced down
Freedom or fire

-Fear Factory

Context of the news and political debate is paramount.

A news story from November 2010 featured Donald Trump teasing a run for President in 2012 which goes on to state he will take on Sarah Palin. This story lacks context. Donald Trump is not going to run for President and he would lose very badly if he tried. Sarah Palin has not even declared her candidacy officially yet and will not for several months if she even does.

While most media organizations have given the correct context to Egypt as a major part of an entire revolution throughout the Middle East, it’s amazing when major news organizations commit a glaring sin of omission.

This is the beginning of Al Jazeera’s timeline of the Egyptian protests. They are the foremost news organization of the Middle East.

January 2011: Activists in Egypt call for an uprising in their own country, to protest against poverty, unemployment, government corruption and the rule of president Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for three decades.

Perhaps worse is National Public Radio’s timeline for 2011 that makes it seem like the bombing of a Christian church was responsible for the Egyptian uprising.

The New York Daily News unfortunately doesn’t have a link to their news site, but their physical newspaper also included a timeline that began on January 25th when the first Egyptian protests began.

Here is an example of a correct timeline:

The Spark: Dec. 17, 2010
Ordinary Egyptians have many reasons to hate Mubarak: His regime was corrupt, brutal and squandered the wealth and talent of this proud nation. But they were only inspired to take to the street and demand change after the very public suicide of a street trader in another North African country.

In mid-December, Mohamed Bouazizi — a 26-year-old university graduate without a steady job — sets himself on fire outside the governor’s palace in central Tunisia. His self-immolation is a desperate act of protest against the authorities. Police had confiscated his only means of income, a fruit and vegetable stand, saying he didn’t have the right permit. Many Tunisians believe he was punished for not paying a bribe.

News of Bouazizi’s death on Jan. 4 cause protests to break out. At first, Tunisians demand economic reform, lower food and fuel prices, and more opportunities for the nation’s well-educated but woefully underemployed young people. (More than 50 percent of under-30s are jobless). But when police begin to violently crack down on rallies, the protesters start to make more radical demands.

They call for President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali — who had ruled the country for 23 years and whose cronies and family members controlled almost every aspect of the economy — to step down and be replaced by a truly democratic government. The revolution had started.

All timelines need to begin with Mohammed Bouazizi – a man who was rightfully given a much-deserved 60 Minutes segment on Sunday. 

Self-immolation as a form of protest can be very powerful in certain parts of the world. Even in America it’s powerful enough to influence heavy metal bands to write awesome songs.


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