Remember the North African revolutions? Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, all within the space of a few months, threw off decades of dictatorship. Every one of the protest movements would, in a normal year, have warranted intense analysis, documentaries and books. So widespread and momentous were the events in North Africa that the minor details are in danger of getting lost.
Never fear. Wael Ghonim, whose Facebook page became a meeting place for Egyptan dissenters, has written down his part in the mass protests that erupted in Tahrir Square and eventually toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Speaking at the London School of Economics, he said that the book’s name, Revolution 2.0, ‘is not to do with technology, it’s about a new kind of revolution – a leaderless one. There is no Gandhi, no Martin Luther King’. Ghonim, a Google employee, described himself simply as ‘no more than a guy with some marketing experience who started a Facebook page’.
Speaking with an easy-going charm, he related how the Facebook page grew and grew, picking up thousands of followers a day until he and the other page administrator decided to create an event. ‘I wrote, that if 100,000 of us turn up, there’s nothing they can do.’ said Ghonim.
Despite Ghonim’s insistence that technology isn’t the focal point of his book, to many the interest lies in the power of social media to garner popular support at breakneck speed and, as Ghonim himself says, bridge ‘the communication gap’ between activists and the mainstream.
The only flash of annoyance to cross Ghonim’s face came during the question-and-answer session. Someone asked if there was any truth to the conspiracy theories that claim Egyptian dissidents had been trained in the US. ‘It’s a shame when Egyptians ask me about Mossad and the CIA being behind the revolution,’ he replied. ‘It’s a shame that Egyptians think the people couldn’t organise a miracle, because a miracle did happen.’
Revolution 2.0 by Wael Ghonim (4th Estate) £14.99