Two-Handed NYT Coverage Of Social Media In Egypt

Sunday’s New York Times is its own compare-and-contrast exercise regarding the power of social media to “[fuel] the fires of the Egyptian protests.”

In the news pages, there’s this report:

Anger and a Facebook Page That Gave It Voice

It started with Khaled Said being beaten to death by Egyptian police, reportedly because he had evidence of police corruption. From the Times piece:

Within five days of his death, an anonymous human rights activist created a Facebook page — We Are All Khaled Said— that posted cellphone photos from the morgue of his battered and bloodied face, and YouTube videos played up contrasting pictures of him happy and smiling with the graphic images from the morgue. By mid-June, 130,000 people joined the page to get and share updates about the case.

It became and remains the biggest dissident Facebook page in Egypt, even as protests continue to sweep the country, with more than 473,000 users, and it has helped spread the word about the demonstrations in Egypt, which were ignited after a revolt in neighboring Tunisia toppled the government there.

Here, on the other hand, is what Frank Rich has to say in his Sunday column:

Among cyber-intellectuals in America, a fascinating debate has broken out about whether social media can do as much harm as good in totalitarian states like Egypt.


This provocative debate isn’t even being acknowledged in most American coverage of the Internet’s role in the current uprisings. The talking-head invocations of Twitter and Facebook instead take the form of implicit, simplistic Western chauvinism. How fabulous that two great American digital innovations can rescue the downtrodden, unwashed masses. That is indeed impressive if no one points out that, even in the case of the young and relatively wired populace of Egypt, only some 20 percent of those masses have Internet access.

Rich says elsewhere that social media “do play a role in organizing, publicizing and empowering participants in political movements in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

Just not a very important one.

This compare-and-contrast is not to call for a one-handed Times. Just interesting to observe occasions where the right hand doesn’t agree with what the left hand is saying.

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1 Response to Two-Handed NYT Coverage Of Social Media In Egypt

  1. CAvard says:

    Argh…. This is what aggravates me. What’s happening in Egypt is NOT a Twitter revolution. Can the media stop saying this? This is an Egyptian democratic uprising. A revolution? Not yet. I don’t think it’s reached that capacity. But here’s a good explanation why Twitter and Facebook is an activist tool, not a revolution.

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