What was behind 2011 “January 25 Revolution” in Egypt and what went wrong? To answer these questions, one needs to know about the US government’s international cyberdissident offensive and how it worked in Egypt
by Marilyn Vogt-Downey – Counterpunch
Roma, 6 dicembre 2014, Nena News - On Saturday, November 30, 2014, an Egyptian judge dropped all charges against former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak, with US government military and political support, had presided over nearly three decades of martial law and repression. His overthrow and arrest in 2011 had been considered a major achievements of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, a mass upsurge that began on January 25, 2011 and led to Mubarak’s overthrow on February 11, 2011. Mubarak, along with others also released on Saturday, had been subsequently tried and convicted of a number of corruption and criminal charges.
One activist told a US reporter that Mubarak’s release is “closing the fate of the January 25, 2011 ‘revolution.’” Another man, whose son was one of the hundreds of protesters murdered by Mubarak’s police during the uprising, put it this way: ”Mubarak’s regime is still in place. The January Revolution is over.”
Mubarak’s release came at a time when the US-backed military government has put in place a police regime so draconian that it was confident it could “suppress any backlash.” That turned out to be true. Even to speak out in the courtroom against this ruling of the judge in the military-controlled court would have meant a year in prison. The few who dared to protest Mubarak’s release faced an overwhelming police presence; at least one protester was killed and 85 were arrested.
What was behind 2011 “January 25 Revolution” in Egypt and what went wrong? To answer these questions, one needs to know about the US government’s international cyberdissident offensive and how it worked in Egypt. An indispensable source of information about all this is a recent study by Linda Herrera called Revolution in the Age of Social Media: The Egyptian Popular Insurrection and the Internet. An amazing power has been unleashed on the world’s people. And we alone can stop it.
What can “one man” do?
Revolutionary organizations probably exist almost everywhere in some form throughout the world. The problem is that they tend to be small, or small relative to other political parties. Meanwhile, the need for revolutionary organizations has never been greater. Every day the need expands, as do opportunities for them to do their work. Masses of people are disillusioned with the capitalist system but don’t see a way to a better, socialist transformation. It has only been recently that the very word “capitalism” has even crept back into the popular vocabulary–to finally replace abstract euphemisms such as “corporate control,” “the free market,” etc. Private ownership of the means of production is the cause of the problem. And workers control over the means of production is the solution. But, how can we move toward that vital socialist transformation when the revolutionary parties are so small and relatively isolated?
Being small and isolated did not bother Wael Ghonim. Ghonim was an Egyptian who had earned degrees in computer engineering and marketing in Egypt. In 2008, he joined Google Egypt to become its Middle East and North African Regional Marketing Manager. In June, 2010, sitting at his computer in Qatar, he–with two or three collaborators–designed, orchestrated, and initiated the renowned “social media” aspect of “Arab Spring” in Egypt that began January 25, 2011. As a result of it, millions of ordinary Egyptians mobilized in Tahrir Square in Cairo in a month-long occupation that led to the resignation of strongman Mubarak and the lifting of the decades old State of Emergency alone with some of the repressive, police-state measures that it entailed.
Ghonim, of course, was not really “alone” in this effort. He had behind him a vast apparatus to implement “cyberdissidence” that included the unlimited resources of two key US institutions: The US State Department and Google. Both of these two institutions had been collaborating diligently for several years to pave the way for what Ghonim was able to execute during those few months of 2010 and 2011. Ghonim’s backers included not only the US State Department and Google, but an entire roster of private companies who were more than eager to insure that such a phenomenon as cyberdissidence was crafted and harnessed to guarantee that this powerful internet resource of virtual dissent was channeled in a “pro-American, pro-free enterprise” direction.
When “A Revolution” is not a Revolution
These developments are documented in startling detail in this study by Herrera, a social anthropologist who spent seventeen years in Egypt. The information Herrera has assembled reveals the breathtaking advances toward cyber supremacy that have been achieved by the US ruling class and its government with our tax dollars in cooperation with high-tech, advertising, and marketing companies. The events in Egypt from 2010-2014 are a prime example of what this cyber supremacy can achieve and what it can destroy. Although Mubarak was overthrown by the mass protests in Tahrir Square in February 2011, the protesters were betrayed. They mistakenly greeted the army as a friend who would defend them against the police, who were reviled for their brutality.
Bourgeois democratic elections did follow Mubarak’s overthrow. However, in July 2013, the army overthrew this elected president and imposed a military government that resembles the notorious criminal regime of Augusto Pinochet who came to power through a US-backed coup d’etat in Chile in 1973. All civil rights have been eliminated except for the right to praise the military government and its officials. The courts, the media, even the universities have become nothing but tools of the regime. Any critics of the military government or its officials are arrested, imprisoned for months on end with no trial or sentenced to death in hasty mass trials. Torture, police brutality, and harsh prison conditions remain the order of the day, just as they were under Mubarak. For example, some 900 students who were arrested last year are still being held without trial. (3) The Muslim Brotherhood, a party supported by vast numbers of Egyptians, has been banned and its leadership arrested.
The Egyptian military government has become a staunch ally of the Zionist State of Israel. In November 2014, the Egyptian regime demolished the entire city of Rafah, in the Sinai on the border with Gaza and destroyed tunnels that linked Gaza with the outside world. Although this destruction was carried out in the name of “fighting terrorism,” what it really does is further isolate the Palestinians in Gaza, who are still reeling from the vast destruction inflicted on them by the Zionists’ 50-day military bludgeoning of Gaza in July and August 2014.
Furthermore, virtual dissent via cyberspace in Egypt, which played such a critical role in the “Arab Spring” uprising that overthrew Mubarak, has not reemerged to stop any of these horrors.
In the end, this so-called “revolution in Egypt” in early 2011 benefitted not the masses of Egyptians but rather the imperialist regime in Washington and its ally the Zionist State of Israel. What seemed like an incredible victory ended up a vicious trap.
Meanwhile, Ghonim and his US government facilitators–such as Jared Cohen–are off to other project. Ghonim has written a book about his experience and has been raking in hefty speaker fees promoting it.
It was, thus, not a revolution that occurred in 2011 with the overthrow of Mubarak, but a “regime change,” a frequent goal of such elaborate and well-resourced US imperialist operations. The US State Department has unlimited funds as do Google and the other capitalist collaborators, who operate as a well-integrated engine of the Pentagon and the US State Department–they are, in really, a single entity.
Furthermore, such “popular rebellions” have occurred not only in Egypt. The mechanisms have been put in place toward such high-tech “regime change” operations in many countries across the globe in recent years and have succeeded elsewhere, e.g. in Ukraine in February 2014. These regime changes do nothing to improve the lives of the masses whose mobilizations made them happen. In fact, they have disastrous results for the overwhelming majority, which is totally unprepared to cope with the dire consequences of their actions as these consequences unfold. However, these dire consequences open new avenues for the US government, capitalist owners, their collaborators, and finance capital to claim a mass following for their puppet regimes imposed on the country to allegedly further democracy.
Whence This Sinister Machine?
Herrera’s book describes the key stages of Washington’s crafting of its cyberdissident (CDD) offensive. It was rooted in the US government’s realization–especially after its 2003 attack on Iraq–that it needed to radically overhaul its outreach to youth, who comprise approximately 75% of the population in the countries of the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA). This potentially powerful political force of the youth, polls showed, tended to oppose United States policies in the region, such as support for Zionism and the State of Israel, the destruction of Iraq, support for dictatorships throughout the MENA region, etc. All this had fed widespread hatred for Washington or “anti-Americanism.” Although the US government had nurtured the rise and expansion of Muslim “extremists” during the Cold War as proxy forces against the USSR, by 2003, Washington was turning on this monster it had created: This CDD offensive, aimed at supporting “moderate Muslims” against these “extremists,” targeted the millions of youth involved in the tech revolution that had swept across the MENA region, particularly Egypt.
Egypt’s 83 million people rapidly entered into the cyber/cell phone age from 1997-2007. Video games become the favored pastime of even the poorest children. By 2009, Egypt had 160,000 bloggers. Cable television, social media, the internet, all dramatically transformed the popular consciousness. By 2012, despite poverty rates of 20-43%. 56 million Egyptians–72% of the population–had cell phones! (7.) All this brought dramatic changes in Egyptian social consciousness. Egyptians of all ages had gained their own unrestricted access to the outside world, dramatically transforming people’s attitudes, particularly those of the youth.
How the cyber offensive took shape
According to Herrera, in her chapter “Cyberdissident Diplomacy”, in 2003, former CIA, US Foreign Service, and Rand Corporation agent Graham Fuller, in a report entitled “The Youth Factor: The New demographics of the Middle East and Implications for U.S. Policy,” called for a new campaign “to contain and capture the hearts and minds of Arab and Muslim youth through ‘soft power.’” Washington should seek to convert the young people from being overwhelmingly critical of the US government, into “apostles for a new religion…a form of liberalism with a pro-American and pro-free-market bent.” He–like many colleagues–called this “the single most urgent task” to avert negative effects from this demographic shift toward a youth-dominated MENA. He asserted “the need for Arab and Muslim societies to liberalize in the image and under the supervision of West, but he was short on specifics.” The specifics were soon to follow.
Also in 2003, Colin Powell–a war criminal for his role in “Desert Storm” and “Shock and Awe, then US Secretary of State– formed the “US government Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World,” which outlined a nine-point strategy to deal with this issue. It centered on employing information and communication technologies (ICT) while regretting the fact that the US government had not maintained its “weapons of advocacy” at Cold War levels. Washington should again increase its reliance on “soft” diplomacy, aiming propaganda directly at the people of a foreign country rather than relying on diplomatic channels. Moreover, this “soft diplomacy” should replace long-standing educational exchange programs as a way to reach foreign public opinion, especially the youth.
That same year, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress pushed reliance on “soft diplomacy” still further, advocating “privatizing US public diplomacy and treating it as a ‘Marshall Plan for the hearts and minds of the world’s youth’….” [emphasis added] One Cold Warrior summed up the new goals: “We need eloquent, effective pro-American … spokespeople and organized groups to…win the war of ideas.”
To expedite this offensive, starting in 2003, the US government agencies launched several initiatives. They tried to use phone networks to promote pro-US government messages and to penetrate popular, online “chat rooms.” Both efforts failed because the new technological world– based on “horizontal” connectivity–did not readily lend itself to the State Department’s top-down style of infiltration.
In the meantime, US Agency for International Development (USAID) had been testing some initiatives of its own. In 2002, USAID’s Middle East Partner Initiative (MEPI) has been set up to “help democracy to spread, education to thrive, economies to grow, and women to be empowered.” MEPI had been taken over by the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, that was already involved in promoting the similar “‘Freedom Agenda’ of the George W. Bush Administration: voter education, youth leadership training, judicial reform, media monitoring, journalism skills workshops, and training in the newspaper business.”
With blogging and internet connectivity on the rise, MEPI entered into the arena of youth cyberjournalism and cyberactivist training. MEPI earmarked resources to support NGOs to train cyberactivists in how to use communication tools and internet platforms for citizen journalism and democracy-promotion activities. (8)
From 2002-2005, the State Department had also set up regional media hubs in Brussels, London, and Dubai to promote Washington’s story line, employing “digital outreach teams” to “correct misinformation about US policies.” However, this, approach, encountered problems because it proved difficult for Washington’s teams to remain anonymous. (9)
Alliance of Youth Movements is Born
The qualitative leap in the scope of the US government’s ICT/CDD offensive came in 2008, when James K. Glassman became Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Glassman had served as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseeing the US-government-funded international propaganda media empire. Pursuing the conclusions of Washington’s “soft power guru” Joseph S. Nye, Jr that that “In today’s information age, success is the result not merely of whose army wins but also of whose story wins,” Glassman set out to guarantee that Washington’s “story” won. Glassman expanded the ICT initiatives far beyond Washington’s traditional propaganda machine, e.g. tax-funded
overseas television and radio, such as Voice of American, Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Marti, and the Mid-East Broadcasting Network.
To do this, the policymakers followed the examples of three successful cyberdissident initiatives: 1) “6th of April Youth Movement,” an Egyptian activist group organized to support a strike by industrial workers in the Nile Delta on April 6, 2008; 2) the “No More Farc” movement, an international campaign initiated in social media against FARC, the revolutionary group in Colombia; and 3) Otpor (Serbo-Coatian for Resistance)-a public initiative in Serbia against Slobodan Milosevic. All of these initiatives had proven the capacity of social media to successfully manipulate public opinion toward specific mass actions.
The State Department’s new soft power CDD offensive was called Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) .(10)
Identifying Youth Activism with Product Branding
Otpo, in its campaigns in Serbia from 1998 – 2003, received funding from the US Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the International Republican Institute.Otpor’s orientation was summed up by Ivan Marovic, a key Otpor figure. He identified youth activism with product branding: “Our product is lifestyle…[it is] not about issues but identify, to make politics sexy.”
AYM built on this foundation. It was the brainchild of the chief ideologue of Washington’s CDD offensive, Jared Cohen. Cohen, who worked in 2008 for the US State Department. He had became convinced that the State Department could “combat the enemy” through internet initiatives that “empower youth” and “benefit business.” Like Otpor, AYM is based on the association of youth social movements with product marketing. The focus was not on issues but on “branding,” as in name brands and logos.
From December 4-5, 2008, AYM held its first international youth conference in New York City at the Columbia University Law School. Present were youth from 15 countries–none apparently from the United States. Also present–some speaking–were representatives from the US State Department and Department of Homeland Security, the Hoover Institute, Freedom House, AT&T, Google, Facebook, Howcast, Pepsi Cola, media people from Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Whoopi Goldberg. The entire event was live-streamed on MTV.
As Herrera put it, “AYM was conceptualized as an internet initiative that would combat youth extremism and empower young people while simultaneously benefiting American business.” (11)
What AYM offers Foreign Activists?
AYM took as its model the activist training wing of Otpor, “an online portal to provide resources in multiple languages to activists around the world who sought to drive out their own dictators.” It had videos such asA Force More Powerful, highlighting non-violent struggles, and translations of Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy–a tract promoting nonviolence- and a manual about how to topple a dictator in 16 languages. AYM promotes as models Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. Like Otpor, AYM provided internet access to a wide range of instruction manuals and how-to videos to help organize public on non-violent campaigns, such as its handbook, Grassroots Movements for Social Change. (12)
Glassman called these “weapons against extremism,” because the US government had to win the war of ideas in order to “maintain global hegemony.” He said: “…the fact that the battle is going on within Muslim society…makes our role so complicated and…requires that we ourselves do not do much of the fighting.” As Herrera points out, in this ideological war, Muslim and other Arab youth were to serve as Washington’s “ideological proxies” or tools of US foreign policy.
As Herrera explains, “AYM goes to great lengths to marry activism with consumerism, a prescription that essentially de-radicalizes, and even de-politicizes, politics.”
AYM is structured as a partnership between the State Department and US corporations working in high tech, advertising, youth media, and food and beverage service. AYM did not look to corporate America merely as sponsors. Rather, AYM’s very model of politics and activism derives from the corporate model of marketing youth lifestyles.(13)
Jared Cohen, then at the State Department and the architect of this entire AYM operation made clear his approach. He enlisted to the AYM project both Roman Tsunder, the founder of Access 360 Media, Inc., the largest US online shopper’s network and Jason Liebman, cofounder and CEO of Howcast Media. 360 Media, Inc. promotes itself as “a one-stop advertising agency that does all of our work in-house. We have marketing specialists, analysts, designers, writers, programmers, photographers, and editors to help.” One motto of 360 Media is “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other 85 percent would rather die than think,” a point of view attributed to Thomas Edison that could hardly inspire altruistic youth anywhere! (14)
Howcast Media describes itself as “the best source for fun, free, and useful how-to videos and guides.” The US government provided Howcast with the funding to develop hundreds of How-To on-line videos for internet activist. .
“Howcast Media, with the support of the State Department developed a line of videos for internet activists about human rights blogging, civil disobedience, and social media campaigning. A sampling of these have titles like “How to Protest Without Violence,” “How to Launch a Human Rights Blog,” and How to Be an Effective Dissident.” These videos, following the house style of Howcast, run a couple of minutes long and exude youthful energy. They are cast with attractive actors in brightly colored, casual, and trendy clothing. AYM, by packing politics in a way that’s fun, cool, and creative, tries to attract youth to adopt a brand of politics that is liberal, pro-business, and that reinforces the[existing] global system of power. (15)
These initiatives, as indicated above, also rely heavily on a stable of cooperating non-government organizations (NGOs) who receive ample US government funding to compliment the ICT training programs in each country, making available physical assistance to targeted populations in the form of tech hardware, laptops, tech staffing jobs, office furniture and supplies, etc.
As Herrera points out, for all the “alluring youth-friendly features of CDD, the policy was never altruistic.” The entire CDD project to advance “soft diplomacy” through “soft power,” is nothing more than another means for Washington to advance its “hard,” military and economic power. This has been amply demonstrated by the consequences of this US CDD offensives in Ukraine (2013-14) and in Egypt (2011-14).
A Proliferation of Initiatives
In 2010, Jared Cohen left the State Department to run a Google Ideas “think/do tank” and to work on issues of “counterterrorism and counterradicalization” at the Council of Foreign Relations. He founded Movements.org with Lieberman of Howcast and Tsunder, the online marketter, as an extension of AYM to provide a plethora of resources for cyberdissidents, including more Howcast videos (over 100,000!), such as “How to Smart Mob,” with step-by-step instructions to “empower youth activists global citizens to use twenty-first-century tools to stand up against oppression.” (16)
These websites, like Cyberdissidents.org–funded by Zionist casino mogul and billionaire Sheldon Adelson and operated by Zionist lobbyist and Washington counter-terrorism specialist Daveed Gartenstein-Ross–present themselves as neutral and “non-partisan,” representing “diverse nationalities, religions,” etc. all united by “an ardent dedication to human liberty.” They are anonymous. As Herrera explains, “…anonymity is used to disguise political actors and political interests. Many online platforms hide behind obscurities like ‘humanity’ and ‘global peace.’” (17)
What Do the Documents Reveal?
To trace the events as they unfolded in Egypt throughout 2010 and 2011, Herrera examined the Facebook pages, texts, and email messages from Ghonim and his collaborators, particularly those connected with the Facebook page that Ghonim set up called “We are All Khaled Said,” launched very carefully at precisely 9:01 pm on June 20, 2010. It was named for a young Egyptian who was publicly beaten to death by Egyptian police. Herrera reveals how Ghonim applied a multitude of marketing tricks he had learned at Google Marketing to successfully launch a model AYM cyber offensive and “sell” this new web product to Egyptian youth. The Facebook page garnered thousands then millions of followers. That is how Ghonim, a full-time employee of Google, the anonymous admin–”The Martyr”– of this site, masterminded from Qatar the January 25 mass mobilization that ultimately toppled Mubarak. By the way, Ghonim was also the admin for the website of Mubarak’s main opponent, Mohamed ElBaradei.
Ghonim’s message was carefully crafted to 1) promote nonviolence, 2) eschew politics, 3) inoculate its followers against political ideas, 4) proclaim the virtues of being leaderless (although the admin was clearly in charge!), and 5) exclude economic discussions that might challenge capitalism and “the free market”–all fundamental aspects of the ideology of AYM.
Where the AYM Ideology Ultimately Must Fail
However, as the struggle heated toward January 25, 2011, the limits of the State Department’s CDD offensive became evident. Herrera follows what happened.
Egyptian activists working through the “We Are All Khaled Said” (the KS) page realized that to carry out an effective mass mobilization they had to broaden the scope of the campaign beyond the themes of abolishing the Emergency Law and ending torture. “They needed to talk about poverty, high food prices…and unemployment, the scourge of the region. The page attempted to give a crash course on poverty and the economy. On January 16, 2011, the admin reported that 40 percent of Egyptians lived under the poverty line, a figure the admin would repeat several times.”
The KS page muddled along in those final days trying to cope by reiterating the problems but clearly “fumbled.” “As the page tried to incorporate a wider scope of social, economic, and political problems, [the KS page] lost its footing” and became “incoherent and muddled.”The best it could do was refer to the lyrics of a popular protest song by a Tunisian rapper. In the end, it could formulate only two demands: “raising the minimum wage and providing unemployment benefits to university graduates for a limited period.” (18)
As Herrera concluded, the campaigners–under Ghonim’s influence–“proved incapable of formulating ideas about how to achieve an alternative economic order and address the structural causes of poverty and skewed wealth distribution.” The best they could come up with was “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice,” not unlike the call for “ Land, Bread, and Peace” in Russia following the February 1917 revolution. However, in Egypt in 2011, there was no Bolshevik party to incorporate these slogans into a revolutionary program. As a result, the slogan was no more than abstractions going nowhere, or worse, leading directly into an abyss.
After the fall of Mubarak on February 11, 2011, the Khaled Said page lost its compass. It started to do things like lead calls for people to go out and clean the streets. A young activist commented, “We don’t need the Khaled Said page to recruit us to clean the streets. We need it to lead us to clean our system from corruption from all kinds of problems.” (19)
US imperialism’s AYM and related offensives on the web and in cyberspace –along with related activities- are up and running throughout the world and have been for some years.. Speaking on January 21, 2010, Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, in a speech advocating “internet freedom,” listed MENA, Asia, and the Pacific as regions of focus. Even then, she reported that the State Department was “actively working in over forty countries with people who are ‘silenced by oppressive governments.’” Among them were Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and China.(20)
Just imagine for a moment, how long the US State Department would allow any of those countries–or, say, Cuba, where the US had long been intervening– to make a similar “soft diplomacy” incursion into the political arena of the United States, organize mass movements for “regime change, etc. The hubris of Clinton’s announcement and the AYM offensive itself–and the plethora of such US government operations– is stunning.
As Herrera put it, if the US government sincerely wanted to improve its reputation among peoples in the MENA region and elsewhere, it could do it easily by ending its wars and starting to pay reparations for some of the vast damage it inflicted. (21)
A US Cyber Offensive That is World Wide
Since 2010, the number of countries where the US government’s CDD offensive is operating has surely expanded. As stated earlier, the “Maidan” mass protests in Kiev that led to regime change in Ukraine in 2014 was one product of this “soft diplomacy.” Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State admitted that the US government had spent more than–probably considerably more than–$5 billion to achieve this goal. Meanwhile, for all the improvements that Ukrainian working class had hoped would come with the regime change, the workers have ended up unprepared to prevent the economic devastation that the new regime–with its imperialist backers–has begun to implement or to stop the bloody fratricidal war that has ensured. And, as in Egypt, no CDD offensive has emerged to miraculously help them now.
Meanwhile, “flash mobs” of youth have sprouted up in Hungary (against, a proposed increased tax on internet usage), in Hong Kong (over a proposed change in the election law), and in the Czech Republic ( ”the red card” demonstration to protest a corrupt official) to name a few more recent manifestations of Jared Cohen’s, Google’s, Howcast’s, and the State Department’s youth CDD offensive.(22) The reliance of “Civic Passion”– the Hong Kong reform group established in 2012 by Wong Yeung-tat–on HowCast and other AYM materials is obvious. As associate of Wong Yung-tat. put it: “People think politics is dirty and boring, but through popular culture and humor we can change that.” (23)
No country in the capitalist world is immune from such imperialist disruption and interference: Entry into the ICT network is a precondition for any nation to receive aid from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) , the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Thus, to receive assistance from finance capital, countries must become vulnerable to the shenanigans of the ICT masters for finance capital. Any loans or trade agreements depend on a country’s willingness to synchronize its national economy with the knowledge economy in which the OECD holds “a clear advantage.” (24)
The AYM paradigm is very successful at creating youth movements that can disrupt an existing system, create a nuisance and embarrass a regime, and eventually lead the regime to send armed forces against the protesters, thus creating a cause celebre that will make the regime look bad, This latter is especially true if protesters are arrested, injured or killed. However, it offers no way forward to really improve the lives of the vast majority of the population.
The most that the AYM paradigm can achieve is “regime change.” The worst is a bloody and destructive civil war when anonymous masked armed men get involved. This latter quite likely happens when another Washington/State Department paradigm kicks in, one that is not based on nonviolence, as has happened in Syria and Ukraine.
Moreover, CDD is a win-win game for the US intelligence community in another way. In addition to facilitating the recruitment of local youth to help achieve a “regime change” that Washington wants, at the same, the offensive allows the US government to entrap activists who seek to “change” a repressive regime that the US may still favor. All such ICT initiatives operate as a partnership between the US embassies, high-tech companies, US-government-funded NGOs and local activists who become involved in the project because of their illusions in the “pro-American, free-market” storyline. In fact, Herrera reports that during mass mobilizations following the fall of Mubarak, Egyptian cyberdissidents were targeted for arrest, torture and assassination.
“What is to be Done?”
A crucial issue confronts revolutionaries around the world: Can these online cyber tools created by imperialist ideologues and technicians to promote capitalist interests be converted into tools to overthrow capitalism? That matter (and this book) deserve serious study. If so, the weapons of the enemy can be turned against it at no cost to us (except, of course, that our tax dollars paid for it!). Surely “Occupy” applied (or fell victim to?) some of these AYM tools, such as adopting the “Occupy” brand, rejecting politics, proclaiming the virtues of being leaderless, and insisting on advancing no specific social demands. Except for popularizing the fact that “We are the 99%,” Occupy pretty much went nowhere; but at least did not lead to a defeat, as that line of march did in Egypt, Georgia (“The Rose Revolution” of November 2003), and Ukraine (twice).
If these cyber tools are of no use to us, one thing is certain: the antidote to imperialism’s massive CDD offensive is genuine politics and organized political struggles to advance working-class control. This means building on lessons learned from the full array of past struggles and a knowledge of history. This means heading toward solutions to the economic problems facing humanity and toward a revolutionary, anti-capitalist transformation. These are things that the ideology behind AYM can never do. On this, the State Department offensive falls flat.
However, we are in a race against time. Large segments of the world’s working class have been pummeled in recent decades across the planet, afflicted by the ravages and crisis of world capitalism and multiple, murderous imperialist military assaults.
According to a recent data “consumers…now spend close to a quarter of their time on mobile phones–this excludes the time they spend actually talking on them”! (25) These instruments can be a revolutionary tool or a weapon against us. If populations can be seduced to spend most of our leisure hours playing video games and following routine social media without learning any lessons from the past, there remains a serious danger that the bourgeois “masters of war”– who hire people to spend all their waking hours and our unlimited tax dollars formulating and implementing battle plans–will lead us into defeat.
On the other hand, these cyber tools may be just the ingredient that can turn the whole thing around.
MARILYN VOGT-DOWNEY was a Russian translator for many years. She translated the writings of Leon Trotsky for the Pathfinder Press.Writings of Leon Trotsky series. She also translated Notebooks for the Grandchildren, the memoirs of a Ukrainian Trotskyist who survived the Stalin era. A collection of her writings on the former Soviet Union appeared in a volume the USSR: 1987-1991: Marxists Perspectives.