Can a military coup ever be a good thing? Well, until Wednesday, I didn’t think so. Now, I think that there is one and only one set of circumstances where a country’s armed forces ousting a democratically elected government is both positive and democratic change: when those forces are following the will of the people.

No one can tell what the future will bring in Egypt, so I’d like to clarify that my opinion is based on my current understanding of the situation. My perhaps oversimplified understanding breaks down like this:

1. Fed up with decades of oppression, the people of Egypt rise up and demand dictator Hosni Mubarak step down. The military eventually backs the protesters. Mubarak resigns.

2. The people vote in Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in the country’s first democratic elections ever.

3. The people are unhappy with Morsi’s performance and even less so with his restrictions on their personal freedoms, despite promises that he wouldn’t restrict freedom of expression (best summation of this I’ve heard comes from The Daily Show).

4. They rise up en masse. Some call it the largest protest in human history, while others deny that claim, they all admit it was damn big.

5. The military backs the people and removes Morsi from office, temporarily putting Adly Mansour, the head of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, in charge until new elections can be held.

Basically, the people elect someone, they’re not happy with his performance, they want him removed and he gets removed and there will be new elections. I don’t have a problem with that.


Barack Obama has a problem with it, he says he is “deeply concerned.” So do some Republicans in Congress. Some are even urging him to withhold the aid the U.S. sends Egypt every year.

The American response is expected. They were already rattled when the people forced their close ally Mubarak out and now the new guy they also don’t mind working with is gone as well. No one knows who they’ll have to deal with next.

Their response is also quite hypocritical given the number of times they have looked the other way when democratically elected governments fell to armies. There’s also all those times the states engineered coups themselves through the CIA.

Rhetoric aside, this isn’t really about whether or not it’s okay for the military to take power, something that should never be acceptable. Egypt’s military didn’t seize control and install a dictator, they followed the wishes of the masses, removed a leader from office and made way for new elections.

True, Morsi hadn’t served his full term. But Egyptian democracy is still a work in progress, the details will come with time. We just got one procedure of democracy in Egypt.

In some countries, there are highly bureaucratic ways to remove an elected official who has broken the public trust and become autocratic before their term is up. In Egypt the process is simple: get enough people into the streets.

This is an experiment in instant democracy. It sets a precedent and that’s why western leaders are scared.

Say a politician in the west gets elected on the promise of more jobs, but neglects to mention that those jobs will all be prison guards ’cause he’s gonna build more jails and throw a bunch of people in them. Now imagine this is a parliamentary democracy like Canada and this leader has a majority government and can’t be removed for four years.

By then, the damage might be done. What if there was a way to call bullshit and force a new election?

You’d better believe that politicians would think twice about doing something that may cost them their job sooner rather than later. They’d also think twice about gerrymandering or caving to lobbyists, because they can be fired by their real bosses, the electorate, in an instant.

Stephen Harper isn’t afraid of a robocall scandal, Toronto can’t even get Rob Ford out of office. But if what just happened in Egypt inspires a form of instant democracy in the west, minus the military aspect (I don’t for a second believe our armies or police work for the people), then we could be in for some real change.

If political office ceases to be long term contract work and democracy can happen in an instant, politics will change forever. The most important democratic movement yet may have been made possible by a military coup.


There’s reason to believe that the fledgling democracy in the largest Arabic country in the world is in grave peril. Sadly, more than a year after the Egyptian people rose up in revolt and overthrew the kleptocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak, in a relatively peaceful revolution, the remnants of the old deeply corrupt establishment are coming back to haunt them.

In a highly suspect decision last week, the Constitutional Court of Egypt, packed with cronies of the former dictator, found that the current election law to be unconstitutional (based on which constitution?), ipso facto, making the entire election invalid and dissolving parliament. In a double whammy for the Muslim Brotherhood, who had previously held the majority, the court also ruled that Ahmed Shafiq, presidential candidate who had served as Prime Minister, among other things, under the Mubarak administration, was eligible for the office of president. As a result, new elections for the parliament will have to be organized.

Most troubling of all, amidst all this uncertainty, on Sunday Egyptians went to the polls yet again to elect their first president democratically. The dissolution of Parliament so hastily means that he could take office without any checks on his executive power. He would presumably still wield the tyrannical powers afforded the President under the old Republican constitution and have no independent and legitimate judiciary or functioning parliament to challenge his authority. As one respected elder statesman and dissident Mohamed El Baradei was quoted as saying: “The election of a president in the absence of a constitution and a parliament is the election of a president with powers that not even the most entrenched dictatorships have known.”

The provisional constitution (if it can be called that?) imposed by SCAF (the name of the military junta) basically gives the junta complete control over the institutions of government as well as power to nominate the Constituent Assembly tasked with writing the new democratic constitution and veto power over any provisions that it deems unconstitutional.

Why the architects of the revolution didn’t look to the South African model for making the transition democracy with a strong set of checks and balances, is beyond me. That country had no tradition of democracy either, and was forced to create all of its institutions from scratch, after the collapse of Apartheid in South Africa. The first lesson of South Africa is this: the framing of a democratic constitution should come first. And that this document will, in turn, serve as the basis for regulating all the other institutions that come afterward (i.e. parliament, judiciary, etc.).

In South Africa’s case, after the racist Apartheid regime was declared dead by the ruling government of the day, a bunch of political parties, including those that participated in the maintenance of the apartheid system, were invited to a constitutional negotiation in which they hammered out a temporary compromise constitution which would be binding on all parties until a permanent constitution could be enacted.

Subsequently, elections were held and the Constitutional Assembly that came to power were called upon to draw up another constitution that would respect and expand on the principles enshrined in the provisional constitution. As yet another precaution against dictatorship, the new constitution would have to be ratified by both the legislature and the constitutional court before coming into force. In 1996, it did just that, and then President Nelson Mandela signed the bill into law thus marking the beginning of a new era in South African politics based on the rule of law. The rest, as they say, is now history.

With democracy hanging in the balance, we’ve entered a critical phase of Egypt’s post-Mubarak history. It now seem all but certain that Muhammad Mursi, the moderate Islamist, will be declared the winner of Sundays presidential elections, despite his rival Shafiq’s claims to the contrary. But will he have the legal tools he needs to take on the power of the junta? It’s a pity that Egyptians put the cart before the horse, by electing an assembly before establishing the constitutional parameters of their new government.

Nelson Mandela photo courtesy South Africa The Good News, via Flickr

American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently cited Al Jazeera for fine news coverage while at the same time criticizing the American media. She claimed that the United States was losing the information war by not reporting the real news, while Al Jazeera was “changing peoples’ minds and attitudes” by reporting on important issues. For example; on the same day her comments were made, 24/HR news networks such as CNN, MSNBC and FOX News were concentrating more on the ramblings of actor Charlie Sheen than on the situation in Libya.

In the fifteen years since its inception, Al Jazeera has grown to rival BBC World News with about 40 -50 million viewers and an English channel which can be viewed in a hundred million households. Since the Arab unrest started in Tunisia and Egypt, its English website viewership has grown by more 2500%. Experts believe that the Arab unrest will be as positive for Al Jazeera as the first Gulf War was for CNN.

The Arab news network has of course seen its share of growing pains, largely due to censorship attempts by the United States. In November of 2001, during the US invasion of Afghanistan, a U.S. missile strike destroyed Al Jazeera’s office in Kabul. When Al Jazeera went on to report very graphic footage from inside Iraq, US officials decried Al Jazeera as anti-American. In April of 2003, Al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad was hit by a U.S. missile, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub and wounding another.

Hillary Clinton says is Al Jazeera is fine news

In 2005, a leaked memo from Britain claimed that U.S. President George W. Bush had considered bombing Al Jazeera’s Doha headquarters a year earlier. At times it seemed the Bush administration was at war with Al Jazeera as much as it was with Al Qaeda. In fact, one Al Jazeera cameraman spent seven years at Guantánamo, and was repeatedly interrogated by US operatives attempting to falsely link Al Jazeera to Al Qaeda.

Luckily for George Bush, the American media was much more compliant. The unrest and subsequent revolutions in the Arab world were made possible with the help of Al Jazeera opening the eyes of the people by televising the revolution. In contrast, Fox News and CNN helped make the Iraq war possible by closing the eyes of the American people and blindly reporting whatever the government told them.

Unfortunately not much has changed today. While Al Jazeera reports from the front-lines of major stories and sticks with them, the American networks are content to give their opinions on stories they barely cover. It seems if it isn’t “breaking news”, it’s not worth following up on.

One of the major American news channels last week decided to break from coverage of the Libyan uprising in order to show a “breaking news” story of Lindsey Lohan’s latest arrest. It’s just as sad to see CNN try new gimmicks to attract viewers; such as asking them to vote via text message on which of three stories they should report on, when all three are equally important.

It’s a shame that Al Jazeera English can only be seen in four of the fifty states in the Union (while in Canada it has been available since 2009). I find it more shameful to see that the most trusted name in news in America today comes not from FOX, CNN or from NBC, but from Comedy Central’s Daily Show.

This being the age of information it’s more important than ever to get the right facts, but more importantly it’s important that we learn from them. After all, knowledge is power and right now Al Jazeera has both.

“Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.” –Noam Chomsky

American 24/7 Media channels have only minutes of new information per day and restrict themselves to covering mainly U.S. issues and America's point of view

They say that the young shall inherit the earth and it appears they have no desire to follow in their fathers’ economic, social and political footsteps and who can blame them. The youth in revolt, already tired of life without employment prospects, decent food and freedom are taking to the streets in northern Africa, the Middle East and around the world.

The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia could never have been successful without the resourcefulness of their countries’ kids. With their love of modern technology, they were able to organize massive rallies and protests using Facebook (even their CEO is a youth!), Twitter and cell phones. They were the main reason why decades of oppression and autocratic rule came to end in these two countries.

Knowing they should not have to settle for anything less than what most adults strive for; peace, justice, liberty and a means to live a healthy and happy life, the fires in their eyes have now spread to other parts of the world. The children of Libya, Bahrain, Iran, Morocco, Yemen and Wisconsin (really, Wisconsin?) have all seen their brothers and sisters take to the streets in recent weeks to vent their anger.

While the youth of the Middle East and Africa are fighting for the freedom that even their fathers have never known, the kids of Wisconsin are fighting for something that their fathers have always taken for granted, the right for government workers to collectively bargain.

Youth on the streets of Wisconsin

Much can be argued about the usefulness of the unions for public workers with the seemingly limitless wallets of the government. The fact is, why should teachers, policemen and firemen have less rights then the plumbers or steel workers? Politicians give out handouts to banks and car companies, build sports stadiums and give out tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy and then they have the nerve to say that not only will you not be getting that annual inflation raise, but we’re going to take away your right to try and do something about it. I digress.

Kids today, just when you’ve witnessed them speak their first words, you turn around and they’re staring down a tank while screaming for freedom. Dissent will always be the realm of the young and I’m happy to see it’s not always about the size of their allowance.

Photo courtesy AFP

Amidst a “day of rage” which dwarfed previous protests, and following  Mubarak’s defiant refusal to cede power in a televised statement last night, the Egyptian strongman has finally resigned.

At this point details are scarce. We know that earlier today Mubarak left Cairo headed for Sharm-Al-Sheikh (an upscale resort city on Egypt’s coast), and only moments ago Vice-President Omar Suleiman appeared on national television and delivered a terse statement announcing that Mubarak had resigned and transferred power to the Supreme Council of the armed forces.

It appears to be a military coup of some sort, one fully supported by the people of Egypt.

At this point specifics are scarce but one thing is crystal clear: the Egyptian people have won. After 18 days of mass protest and revolutionary fervour the old man is gone and the people have won.

No matter what happens next, and the people must be watchful lest their revolution be coopted, the Egyptian people will never forget this victory, or their newfound ability to effect massive change.

Across Egypt the streets are filled with protesters who only hours ago were howling in rage and now are weeping with euphoria. There really is no way to describe the scenes coming across Al-Jazeera English right now. The happiness and ecstasy in the streets represents all those feelings and emotions which have been so brutally repressed for 30 years, exploding in joyful celebration.

Everyone is weeping, speaking of history, of their disbelief that this would happen in their lifetimes. “people power” is the oft repeated word on the street and nothing is stronger than the pride of all Egyptians right now. Pride in their success, in the courage of their countrymen and in a country which has finally found it’s voice.

We will see what the implications are in the coming days and hours and much remains to be seen. But right now, the only word to describe these developments is victory. Total victory.

Stay tuned to forgethebox as we continue to update you on new developments and provide commentary and coverage in the days ahead.

Shortly after the uprising in Tunisia, the people of Egypt began to rise up, having had enough of the thirty plus years of President Hosni Mubarak’s military rule. The protests are now in their third week, with no real end in sight. The protesters have had everything thrown at them from rocks to Molotov cocktails to whip wielding Mubarak thugs on camels, and still the demonstrators refuse to budge an inch.

Each Friday has climaxed after prayers with hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy advocates crowding Tahrir Square, each one of them holding their breathe for that moment when President Mubarak steps down. Mubarak has promised to step down at the end of his term in September, but most Egyptians aren’t buying his delay tactics. They say he is just buying his time, riding out the present storm in order to cling to power and possibly extract his revenge on the dissidents at a later date. So the time is now, as they say.

With all the strain on Mubarak coming from the inside (the same people he has repressed) and virtually none coming from the outside, it’s hard to say just how much pressure he feels. In fact, it would not be absurd to think that there are outside powers telling him to stay on at least until September. It is not unheard of for western powers to support military dictatorships as long as it is in their interest to do so, the United States especially.

During the Iranian revolution of the late seventies, the U.S. opposed the overthrow of the Shaw, a brutal dictator the U.S. and British helped to install over Mohammed Mossadegh, who had tried to nationalize Iran’s oil industry (The coup was the first time the U.S. had openly overthrown an elected, civilian government). Ayatollah Khomeini had publicly criticized the United States government prior to his exile in the sixties, and if the U.S. had decided to support the Iranian people in what became their Islamic Revolution, Khomeini might not have come to power.

Made with pride in the USA

The United States right now is playing with that same double-edged sword in Egypt. An allied dictator whose main support now rests on the west, not his subjects. The Americans of course fear an Islamic revolution similar to that of Iran (I wonder why). In fact, most of the media coverage in the United States is concentrating not on the protests or Mubarak, but the fear of what might follow it.

The masses in North America seem to panic at the slightest mention of the Muslim Brotherhood, a multi-national religious conservative political movement comparable to the tea party in the United States. The Muslim Brotherhood has been around since the 1930s, has no central leadership and has not supported violence since a few of their members broke away to found Hamas. Its roots in Egypt might go deep, but even though they make up the largest opposition party, only twenty percent of the population support them. While some of them might harbour anti-American sentiments (no different than I) I refuse to believe they could become an anti-Israeli or anti-American state like Iran has become… unless provoked.

The longer the U.S. (and Canada for that matter) waits on the sidelines without supporting the people of Egypt, the worse things will be for both sides in the future; the Egyptians will be stuck with a brutal dictator and the Americans will be forced to deal with more anti-Americanism. The Egyptians aren’t blind enough to not see the “Made in the U.S.A.” markings on those tear gas canisters. They’re also not dumb enough not to know that Mubarak’s family fortune is estimated at $60 billion; they know as well that American aid to Egypt has been about $2 billion annually for the last 32 years… It would seem someone has been on Uncle Sam’s payroll.

If I were Barack Obama or Stephen Harper I would be doing everything I could to force Mubarak’s hand and make him resign. By not directly supporting the protesters we are in a sense supporting their master and the longer that goes on, the more the likelihood we see someone come to power who doesn’t see eye to eye with America, Canada or Israel. We seem to advocate democracy to the rest of the world with the exception of the people who really want it. It’s about time we practiced what we preach.

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves - Abraham Lincoln

On December 20, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor tired of having his produce regularly confiscated and with no money to bribe municipal officials decided to burn himself alive in protest.   Little did Bouazizi know at the time, his brave act of defiance would spread through Tunisia in a matter of days following his death on January 4th.

The Tunisian people in the town of Sidi Bouzid where the self-immolation of Bouazizi occurred took up his fight armed only with rocks and cell phones. Social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook helped protesters spread the word by posting videos and comments from Sidi Bouzid to the rest of Tunisia. On January 14th, Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ended his 24 year reign.

In the month that followed Bouazizi’s sacrifice, at least a dozen others have burned themselves in protest in other countries; five from Algeria, five from Egypt, one each from Mauritania and Saudi Arabia. No ever knows what the trickle down effects of one’s actions might be, but I don’t think anyone saw coming what followed Ben Ali’s ouster.

Protests erupted in Syria, Jordan, Yemen and especially Egypt. Jordan’s King Abdullah dissolved his government and appointed a new prime minister. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh increased wages and cut income taxes and of course in Egypt protesters are calling for nothing less than Mubarak’s departure.

President Mubarak of Egypt

President Mubarak learned very quickly from Iran’s massive protests in 2009 and Tunisia’s revolution a couple weeks earlier. When the malcontents in his country got serious he pulled the plug on Egypt’s internet and text messaging services, an internet blackout never seen on such a scale. Much to Mubarak’s displeasure, his stunt may have actually backfired as tens of thousands of demonstrators still pack the streets.

The age of information that we live in definitely makes it easier for us to organize, protest and rebel, but on the other hand it can just as easily go the other way with Facebook and Twitter acting as eyes for Big Brother. Most people in Tunisia were reluctant to post news, videos and other information in fear of government reprisals.

The Iranian government following protests against what many saw as unfair elections hunted down individuals responsible for organizing protests by way of the same social media sites. The lucky people were arrested, the unlucky ones were executed. Fortunately for them, you can kill a man, but you can’t kill his words once he’s said them and I believe it won’t be long before Iranians start to shout even louder.

I think technology and the spread of the internet will be far more instrumental in the removal of unwanted autocrats and the spread of democracy in the future as it is also much more peaceful than waging a full blown war in order to remove a tyrant. Given enough time and motivation (and followers on Twitter), even one man can start a revolution.

Rest in Peace Tarek al-Tayyib Muhammad ibn Bouazizi

Part two of Viva La Muslim Revolution! will be posted soon and will concentrate   on the ongoing Egyptian revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood and the western democracies that fear change.

In Egypt, two million people marched for an end to the regime of Hosni Mubarak yesterday. Meanwhile, in the United States, Glen Beck railed against the “coordinated plot” that began in Tunisia (which he compared to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand) and will end in the violent Islamo-Marxist takeover of the U.S.

According to Beck the “coming insurrection” will spread from the Middle East to England before jumping the pond.   Oh, and the Russians are coming (no, seriously, he said that too). All hail the universal caliphate! Well now that we’re even, and you’ve been as enervated by that lunatic as I was after I made the mistake of watching a facebook video of his sputum, we can get down to brass tacks. Wither Egypt? And perhaps more importantly, wither the protest movement that has brought an aging dictator to his knees?

Yesterday was a day like no other in Egypt and around the world as news of the people’s success spread. A call for a “million man march” against Mubarak had been circulated since the weekend, but many in the outside world saw it in the same light as similar calls in western countries. If the protesters could assemble a quarter of that number it would be near enough. And they did, and then some.

Rather than a fraction of a million, more than double that number poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square alone. Two million people is a rather inconceivable number for protest organizers in the west, sort of like talking to an autoworker about the number of zeros attached to their CEO’s bonus. But in Egypt it became a reality today. And in the moment of the protesters greatest triumph also came the possibility of their greatest division. Mubarak is a canny bastard, and no one has ever accused him of being stupid, but he has seemed a little dense between the ears when it came to figuring out the glaringly self-evident truth that his time was up.

Yesterday he came on state TV again to make a pitch for what is likely his last, and best, hope to save what remains of his presidency. He promised not to run again in Presidential elections scheduled for the fall, and made the rather laughable assertion that that had been his plan all along. He also used the words “security” “safeguard” and “peaceful” so many times that I’m pretty sure he cleaned out the word store. Finally, he spoke of his great pride in his years of service to Egypt and it’s people, and declared that he would die on its soil, and be judged by history. As the people in Tahrir square chanted “Leave, Leave” in response to his statement, elsewhere in the country Al-Jazeera reported many citizens questioning whether this promise shouldn’t be enough to quell the protest movement. After all they had gained something, and perhaps they should quit while they’re ahead? Avoid any further deaths or injuries? In the coming days this will be the greatest threat to the true self-determination of the Egyptian people. Not the fighter planes buzzing overhead, or the police who have returned from their sojourn as looters and pillagers, but the uncertainty of the population itself. Popular movements have a tendency of undermining themselves, and I truly hope that the Egyptian people will not be baited by the promise of stability and security dangled by the man behind their curtain. I trust and I hope that they will hold to the goals that brought them to the streets in the first place, but it will certainly be the thing to watch as events unfold this week.

Update 10:30 AM: This morning the crowds in Tahrir Square who continue to cry out for Mubarak’s departure have been attacked by roving gangs of plainclothes policemen and Baltagiya, the thugs in the employ of the police. Claiming to be pro-Mubarak demonstrators, these thugs have converged on Tahrir Square in a coordinated manner and are throwing rocks and fighting pitched street battles with the people for control of the square. Hundreds have been injured and the pro-Mubarak forces continue to try to storm the square. “Every time they try to come in we push them back, but at the cost of tens and tens of our people” according to Mona, a woman interviewed on Al-Jazeera who spoke through tears and fear to promise that the people would continue to hold the square. She reported dozens of injuries in her vicinity with the victims blocked off from help and no ambulances in sight. An Al-Jazeera journalist was beaten, and many protestors have been dragged off by these thugs, who are also throwing cement blocks and other debris from roofs surrounding the square. Meanwhile the army stands by and refuses to intervene. The dictatorship is in its death throes, but as with all cornered bullies, it will lash out as it topples. Now is the moment of greatest hope and promise for the people, but also one of great danger. If you pray, pray for these people, if you don’t, then think of them. Their courage will live on, no matter what happens.

For live coverage of developments check Al-Jazeera English:

When an invading army or the leaders of a coup want to assert their control over a country, the first stop is usually the local TV station. Take control of the airwaves and the rest will follow. It’s a tried and true tactic that is now changing.

Thanks to the internet, the power of controlling the traditional media is waning fast and oppressors are taking note of where the real threat lies. When the Mubarak regime in Egypt realized that the population they controlled was using the web to mobilize against them, their first move, days before their dumbass blocking of Al-Jazeera, was to cut off the internet.

While the protest movement in Egypt has blossomed into a full-blown revolution, net or no net (gotta love those guys), there is a very important issues that goes beyond this conflict. No government, corporation or any individual should be able to shut down the internet. The internet started as a person-to-person medium, a media of, for and by the people and it should always remain that way.

You know what else started that way? Radio. When it got big, it got commodified, it got taken over and it got regulated. This lead, eventually, to pirate radio. People taking over the airwaves and getting their message and music out however they could.

Remember Pump Up The Volume? You know, that early 90s movie with Christian Slater as a high school student who took on the FCC. I always found it inspirational, but lately it has seems kind of quaint. What’s the point of pirating a signal when you can pretty much put out anything you want for free?

With the internet, you control your own media, you don’t need funding, you don’t need permission. That is until your own personal Mubarak comes along and shuts you down. If this trend continues, with dictators far away and corporations closer to home, using their power to silence whomever they please, then the time has come to seriously start thinking about pirating the internet. We all hope this will never happen as the things at stake go much further then funny Youtube clips and online sudoku. The things at stake are our freedoms of speech and our principals of democracy.

Last week when Egypt pressed the off switch, they did so by ordering the ISPs under their control to cut everyone off. They didn’t touch the infrastructure. The fiber optic cables that run through the country are still in fine working condition (neighbouring countries that use those cables have full web access).

If people found a way to tap into those cables and get the net up and running again, foregoing the ISPs, then they would have found a way to pirate the web. That’s something we all may have to think about real soon.

When a medium of the masses falls under the control of the few, it may be time to Pump Up The Bandwidth.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with the goings on in Egypt you’ll know that the Egyptian government, with President Hosni Mubarak still technically in power, gave the order to shut off the internet for the entire country on Thursday. He hoped that this would quell protesters and decrease their power to assemble. What emerged instead was a renewed zeal among the protesters in a fight for their freedoms following a 30 year rule by President Hosni Mubarak. Protesters rallied together using grass roots campaigns to mobilize, such as this pamphlet describing techniques and things every protester should know.

Unsuccessful in daunting the protesters efforts the Egyptian government on Sunday also took steps to kick out leading middle-eastern news network Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera currently has the most reporters on the streets of Egypt covering the conflict and the protests. They’re fighting to keep the stream of information from Egypt flowing and to keep the world updated on the evolving conflict. The latest development is that Al Jazeera is licensing all of it’s information & video coming out of Egypt under a creative commons license, thus allowing any News Network to carry their information without permission but with attribution.

Watch this amazing video of protesters bravely standing up to police and retaking a bridge in Cairo!

Photo & video from of Al Jazeera english

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this rant do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Forget the Box Media Collective, or any of it’s members. Having said that, on with the rant.

Good morning everyone, I hope this cold Monday finds you in good spirits. There is spirited rioting going on in a few dictatorships in the Arab world, where it seems that many of the residents have been trying to subvert and topple the governments due to being exhausted by the tyranny thereof. As a result, they have blocked the internet and cell-phone communications in Egypt, leading to a fiery, bloody protest and a battle against the people by their own dictatorial government.

Speaking of dictatorial governments and the internet, the CRTC has recently announced that they will allow a metered usage for internet users, limiting severely the level of access by way of very high and stiff charges for “Overuse.” Considering that the major internet providers in Canada are also the major Cable/Satellite TV providers, and more people are watching online instead of watching cable, and using cellular telephones instead of land-line telephones, this is a way for the rich CEOs to stick it to the little guy all over again, protecting their obese incomes while making the general population pay through the nose for basic services.

Since the main benefactors are TV providers, I believe that the corporations behind it are truthfully trying to get people to remember the box. I’d very much prefer to forget the box entirely, as thinking outside the box just simply is not enough. There is a group called Open Media where you can sign a petition against this bill online. Also flooding the CRTC Complaint department with complaints might help block this bill from passing.

Sign the petition here!

A colleague of mine at Forget the Box wrote an article about the current problems protesters are facing, including the cutoff of all internet and cellular telephone services in Egypt, and I couldn’t access Forget The Box until another article was posted. I’m not entirely convinced that this was coincidental.

I’m also not sure if the Egyptian government does get toppled, that the replacement government will be any better than the current administration that the people are currently trying to overthrow. Democracy might be a nice concept, but I strongly suspect that there will be another dictatorship, this one worse than the current one, to replace the current government. Tunisia was taken back by the people, and what will probably become another dictatorship with rigged “democratic” elections.

Maybe I’m wrong, I hope I am, but it seems to me that very seldom is a dictatorship ever replaced with any form of true democracy. I also believe in communalism, communitarianism, but not communism. I do believe in free enterprise, but I also think that the playing field is quite unfair. It tends to slide towards those who have money, in a rather biased fashion. Because of this, along with increasing cost of living, unemployment, and increasing poverty, the crime rate is on the rise.

Having said all that, I have noticed a lot of pre-season for-sale signs in some of the wealthier areas of Montreal.

Thousands of protesters defying curfew (image Al Jazeera)

Five days of protest. At least 100 dead. Thousands injured. One sacked government. A new Prime Minister and Vice President. An army, and a country, in the balance. And the rage continues…

We woke up this morning to find that hundreds of thousands remained on the street in the face of a renewed curfew and promises of violence for those who disobeyed it. Soldiers so far have either not been ordered to use force to subdue the populist movement, or have refused to do so.

On Al-Jazeera, talk has shifted from if to when President Hosni Mubarak will depart and U.S. rhetoric has ping ponged wildly as President Obama strives to pick the winning side, seemingly changing his mind by the hour yesterday.

Internet and cellular service remains down, a barn door closed long after the horses have fled. Wikileaks provides insight, courtesy of diplomatic cables, into the favourable U.S. view of new Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Mubarak appears on Egyptian TV to appoint a new Prime Minister

The overwhelming picture emerging from the scattered and disparate images of popular anger beaming to the rest of the world is that of a seismic shift. Nothing will ever be the same in Egypt, and Mubarak’s vain struggles to reverse the inevitable seem more comical by the hour. Fear has been the glue of his regime for thirty years, and now that grip of fear has been irreversibly broken. In a matter of days the iron fist of Egypt has turned into a caricature of himself.

And what of the chaos, the lawlessness, the inevitable disintegration of social order once the police had been driven from the streets?   There have indeed been cases of looting, reports from Cairo suggesting that many looters are released prisoners, and that looting is being supervised by plainclothes members of the police forces, trying to sow fear and division. But everywhere they were driven back by autonomously organized brigades of citizens.

At the famed Egyptian Museum in Cairo, citizens and soldiers joined together to fight the fire which threatened to spread from the torched HQ of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Hours later, groups of citizens fought off looters at the same museum.

The Cairo headquarters of Mubarak's party on fire (image Al Jazeera)

From rich neighbourhoods to poor, people have organized themselves into community defence militias. They are no longer afraid: of thugs, of police, of informers or of each other. The people have replaced the police across the nation and as one Cairo resident put it to Al-Jazeera, even in his rich neighbourhood every single resident is united in calling for the “old man” to leave.

Some army officers have stripped off their uniforms and joined the protests. The people in turn have greeted them as protectors and, so far, the army has done nothing to disabuse the people of their trust.

The people are in control of Egypt tonight. To have suggested as much even a week ago would have gotten one committed. And yet here we are. The people have seized control of their destiny and they have no intention of giving it back.

So now the question shifts. If the reign of Mubarak is indeed running out the clock on borrowed time, if it is indeed true that the military will not use force of arms to quell the protests and if the people continue to show no signs of yielding, then what comes next?

Many in the West fear the replacement of Mubarak, because the most well-known opposition force in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamic movement.

But they will not rise to power now, not on the shoulders of this mass uprising of the Egyptian people. In fact, they come by their renown simply due to the fact that prior to this week’s events, few other Egyptians were willing to speak up. All of that has changed now and the Muslim Brotherhood, which refused to participate in the demonstrations until Friday, has been left in the dust of history.

Their support is confined to a small minority of the Egyptian people. The brave protesters who have found their voices on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria and Suez this week will not so soon have them subsumed by a theocratic dictatorship to replace that of the hated Mubarak.

The word on the street, if it is not always expressed as such, is pluralism. These newly awakened citizens will not stop until a new political system takes over, one that will have room for all Egypt’s citizens, from Islamists to Communists and everything in between.

A thirst has been awakened in the people, and nothing but complete and total change will sate it. We saw it in Tunisia and now we see it in Egypt. Protests have erupted in Jordan and Yemen as well, as the peoples of the Middle East have rediscovered their voices. How quickly people come together when they see that their actions can create real change.

In Washington, Obama speaks of “reforms” but refuses to use the word democracy. American presidents love to speak of democracy so long as there is no actual chance of it being implemented.   Once the prospect of real change looms, they forget how to pronounce the word.

But this time there will be no reprieve for America’s longstanding and erstwhile ally, no reforms or half-measures will save him. Now is the time for America to get behind the people of Egypt and stop protecting a dictator, not out of some real concern for democracy or the will of the people but out of the blind self-interest that drives almost all American actions.

Now that this fire has been set, not even the almighty U.S., whose money bought the weapons used on protestors this week, can put it out.

The only question that remains is whether the people will settle for slight improvements and a new leader, or push for real and wholesale change, truly revolutionary change.

I hope and dare to believe that it will be the latter, but only time will tell.

Al-Jazeera is a news source like no other, I’ve been watching their coverage virtually non-stop since yesterday morning on my computer and my phone, and it really is indispensible. watch their live stream of developments in Egypt at:

Protesters in Cairo (photo Adam Markay, courtesy of Al Jazeera)

For us dozy and docile westerners, for whom a protest means anything from a couple hundred to a couple thousand people chanting for an hour or two before going home, this past week has been startling in the extreme.

First, a wave of popular anger unseated a seemingly stable government in Tunisia in a matter of days. Then, while the shock waves from that event were still sinking in, today’s news out of Egypt came like a lightning bolt.

A population written off for years, if not decades, as too afraid, too weak, too cowed, to challenge the thirty-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak, rose like zombies from the grave and spent the better part of the day demonstrating that the emperor was indeed pulling a full monty.

As this is written there is no clear resolution. Mubarak has sacked his government but refused the central demand of demonstrators, that he himself resign. Saturday seems likely to be a repeat of the widespread protests that occurred today and a key question remains: if they have to pick, which side will the army fall on?

But no matter what happens, it is clear that something fundamental has changed. For Mubarak, and hopefully other dictators in the region, there is no putting this genie back in the bottle.

“Speaking truth to power” is an old Quaker saying, and I think nothing better represents the courage of the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt tonight. So many lies, so much fear, and yet through it all the people of Egypt and Tunisia have found the one truth that matters: that the power belongs to the people.

No matter what soldiers, what tanks, what obstacles those who would usurp our sovereign power throw at us, if we stand together and reject fear, there is truly nothing that can stop us.

This principle is as true here as it is in the Middle East; we just seem to have forgotten it. Coddled in our apathy, we do nothing about anything because “it won’t make any difference anyway.” Tell that to the Egyptians tonight, to the Tunisians. I don’t think they’re buying it anymore.

They spoke truth to power, and half the world’s Jefe’s are quaking in their booties. Listen to the statements from world leaders and notice one common thread. Far more serious, to listen to them, than the violence of the security forces, is the terrifying prospect of “chaos”, which must be avoided at all costs.

But what is happening in Egypt is not chaos; it’s freedom, messy bits and all.   The streets are not bloody free-for-alls, the people have not turned on each other, they have come together. What our leaders are terrified of, and rightly so from their perspective, is that we should learn these lessons.

That somehow through the static of our consumer societies, and the endless mess of advertising and TV meant to pacify us, we would seize the truths that our courageous brothers and sisters across an ocean made startlingly clear today.

That the people, together, can achieve anything, and that each and every one of us can change the world, all we need to do is try.

Please check this space tomorrow, I have some thoughts on the shifting U.S. response as the day went on, and the possibilities for change in Egypt that I’ll be exploring in more detail as we see how day two plays out.

For the latest, you can watch the Al Jazeera live stream here