Social media and the revolution in Egypt

Originally posted at socialaxcess.com

The revolt in Egypt has shades of the Green Revolution of 2009 in Iran. Like then, the revolution has been supported and promoted by social media like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Iran cracked down hard, blocking many IP addresses and making the internet so slow that it was difficult to use, but Egypt has gone one better and shut down all internet and cell phone access in and out of the country. No doubt they want to avoid the bad international press and prevent the internet from creating another martyr like Neda.

The protests in Tunisia earlier this month were also organized through social media, to the point that the government was hacking people’s Facebook accounts to try to stop it. And it’s not only Arab countries that are worried about the impact of these Twitter Revoltionaries, in China the social media results for “egypt” are blocked entirely, to prevent any social unrest there.

President Obama has called for a lift of the ban on the internet and of social media sites in particular.

I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, with cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.

While there is much to tout about the democratizing power of Twitter, it’s hard not to also note that the government is using it to track down and punish people. While Tunisia’s dictator was forced to step down and the blogger revolutionaries are hailed as heroes, bloggers from the Green Revolution are still being hanged in Iran.

Social media is a powerful tool, no matter who is using it. The revolutionaries have the advantage of being young and therefore much more familiar with the online world and governments are quickly learning that it’s very difficult to have both the internet and restricted communications.

David Kato Slain

Since I’ve been talking about civil discourse, I think I really need to talk about the tragic death of David Kato.  David Kato was an LGBT activist in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and where a bill was introduced in 2009 suggesting the death penalty for anyone convicted of committing homosexual acts.  Much of the international community made a stand against it, and the evangelicals from America,  like Scott Lively and Rick Warren, who had pushed a very strong anti-homosexual agenda in Uganda got a lot of negative press attention because of it.

A tabloid in Uganda called “Rolling Stone” (no relation) published Kato’s picture along with other suspected homosexuals with a tagline that read “Hang Them”.  Kato and a few other’s pictured led a successful lawsuit against the magazine, but only a few weeks after that victory Kato was bludgeoned to death in his home.

Some of the LGBT activists are placing the blame on the American evangelicals for stirring up the hatred originally, some are blaming the magazine, and many are blaming Uganda for being religiously intolerant.  I can only say that this is the danger of talking about gay people as though they aren’t human.

I cannot help but see some similarities between the “Hang Them” tagline and the rifle sites on Sarah Palin’s target list.  Both Giffords and Kato noted that that rhetoric was going to lead to violence against them.  At what point does violent rhetoric become the equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre?  I’m not sure, myself.  It’s difficult, these things are so upsetting it’s almost impossible to find the rational response to them. 

Social Axcess

So, biggish news, I’m working as a staff writer at social axcess and writing about social media.  Which is just about as meta as it gets.  I don’t know that there’s much that isn’t post modern about blogging, but there you have it.

My first post went up and there’s even a little picture and bio of me.  Ashley F. Miller, professional writer and general knower of things!

Go read about @TheAcademy’s social media campaign.

Forum Network: Civil Discourse

Forum Network is a site from PBS and NPR that’s created a new series about promoting civil discourse, particularly in the wake of the shootings in Arizona.  They sent me an e-mail asking me to check out the site and promote it if I thought it was something I liked, and I do like it quite a bit.  Although I think I am genetically pre-programmed to like anything that NPR or PBS does.  According the their site, they provide:

Lectures that examine the challenges that freedom, democracy, and human nature bring to bear on reasoned political discourse and debate in our country.

While there are great issues facing our nation, American Democracy is organized around the central principal that open, fair and truthful debate, characterized by respect for opposing viewpoints is essential to a healthy democracy. We are committed to the values of respectful discourse — embracing civility and rejecting demagoguery — in government, media and our personal lives.

“There can be no high civility without a deep morality.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is as noble a mission as I can think of and the content on the site is high quality as well.  And this ties in quite closely with what I was saying in my previous post about Sarah Palin’s target list.  Again, not that Palin had anything to do with the assassination, but the level of discourse in politics right now needs to be examined.

One of the more interesting things I watched over on this site was a video discussing all the wrong reporting from the MSM during the afternoon of the shooting.  There was a big question of whether it was more important to be the one who got there first or who was right — I think it’s difficult.  With blogging I think it’s easier to present facts as tentative, and they don’t do that as much on Cable News.  Still, when everyone wants instant information is it your duty to get the right information while people wait, or to give the best information you can so that people aren’t guessing the wrong thing?

In any event, go watch some of the videos.  Tell me if any are really good.

Woman Jailed and Fined for Sending Kids to Wrong School

A woman lied about her address so that her kids could go to a different school.  This happens all the time.  I know, because my parents did it.  They said I lived at rental property they owned so that I could go to the best public school in town.  Is it legal?  Not really.  Is it criminal?  I wouldn’t have really thought so.  More of a, “You know you can’t do that, right?” sort of thing.

Apparently, it is a felony in Ohio.  Well, only for this one mother, who was after all poor and black, but you know, it’s the law.

http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2011/01/25/mother-jailed-for-sending-kids-to-a-good-school/

Shocked and appalled is sort of an understatement here, but I am certainly those.  Why would you send someone to jail for this?  She was just trying to help her kids.  The motives and need are so clear and so understandable, to call it a felony is absurd on the face of it.

Academy Award Noms: Lee Smith Snubbed

Last year I listed who I thought was going to win, but this year I think I’m going to list who I want to win.

Let me start with something that you’ll find running through all this commentary, Lee Smith edited the most technically impressive film of the year, Inception. You’ll find that he did not even get nominated for it. This is a travesty. I will probably use all caps and exclamation points to extremes, my apologies.

Best Picture:
I know a lot of people are feeling Inception, but I didn’t actually like that movie, and I did love The King’s Speech, so I’m choosing that one. I think The Social Network is the other big contender, and I’d be happy for that to win as well. I don’t think that there’s a bad film on the list, which makes it a much more successful one than last year. I also like the 10 noms — I think I’m the only one.

Best Leading Actor:
I was torn on this, but I actually think that Jesse Eisenberg gave the most impressive performance here. I love Colin Firth, but I wasn’t terribly impressed by his acting in the movie, not nearly as much as I was with Guy Pearce and Geoffrey Rush. Again, though, they all gave great performances and there’s not a one that I’d be sad to walk away with the gold.

Supporting Actor:
I am biased, I will always choose Geoffrey Rush if he is named, and so he is. I want him to win. I’ve heard Christian Bale is really amazing, but as I haven’t seen it I can’t say.

Best Leading Actress:
I confess that I am not really drawn to any of these as a pick. I’m going to go with Natalie Portman, but you could sell me on any of them. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence?

Supporting Actress:
I almost want Helena Bonham Carter to win just because it would prove to her that she is allowed to be in movies where she doesn’t play a totally over the top crazy person. I think that Hailee Steinfeld is also quite deserving, although it’s kind of BS that she was nominated as a supporting actress despite being, you know, the main character of the whole damn movie.

Best animated feature:
Um… Where are Tangled and Despicable Me? Toy Story 3 is going to win, but I quite liked How to Train Your Dragon.

Art Direction:
This is really tough, and I know it tends to go to either the most period or most extravagant choice, but I think Inception was really impressive on the art direction side of things. In terms of craft, I’ve never seen a better executed film.

Cinematography:
Inception. I can’t even imagine the others would compete.

Costume Design:
I am actually fairly indifferent here. I know Ms. Atwood always wins, but I wasn’t that impressed with the costumes in Alice. They were fine, mind you. Same with The King’s Speech. I cannot pick a favorite.

Directing:
The Social Network. I am biased in this case by an article I read about David Fincher written by Aaron Sorkin. I have a writer’s crush on Aaron Sorkin and he loved working with Fincher, so I cannot help but vicariously love as well.

Documentary Feature:
We’re venturing into territory where I’m choosing based as much on hearsay as actual knowledge, but I’m going to choose Exit through the Gift Shop because I like Banksy.

Documentary Short:
No Idea.

Film Editing:
WHAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!! How is Inception not on this list?!!??!! I didn’t even like the movie and I can say that it is some of the best editing I’ve ever seen. WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT?! They all should lose. *deep breath* I guess The Social Network. Whatever, I don’t care, this is an offense against man and God.

Foreign Language:
Biutiful

Makeup:
Rick Baker

Original Score:
Inception, though I don’t feel strongly about this. Unlike the EDITING!

Original Song:
We Belong Together from Toy Story 3.

Animated Short:
No Idea, I love them though, so I can’t wait to get to see them.

Live Action Short:
No Idea

Sound Editing:
Inception. WHICH SHOULD ALSO HAVE WON EDITING

Sound Mixing:
Inception.

Visual Effects:
Inception

Adapted Screenplay:
The Social Network, no question. It should win twice.

Original Screenplay:
Not Inception. Anything but Inception. Maybe The King’s Speech.

Keith Olbermann: WTF

He was fired? Doesn’t he have the best ratings on MSNBC?

I mean, I’m no particular fan of Olbermann, and he has a tendency to be histrionic, but he occasionally says things very well. Fired just like that… Was it Comcast?

Anderson Cooper, you silver fox, you must get on the news and tell us what is happening? Will MSNBC keep Maddow on air, because she is necessary!

Go watch his goodbye: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/vp/41201922#41201922

Assassination Attempt on Giffords: Religion Enters the Picture

You know, it’s never good when religion gets involved with these things.

The Westboro Baptist Church (aka We’re Bugfuck Crazy) is hailing Jared Lee Loughner as a hero and going to picket at the funerals of the shooting victims.

Your federal judge is dead and your (fag-promoting, baby-killing, proud-sinner) Congresswoman fights for her life. God is avenging Himself on this rebellious house! WBC prays for your destruction–more shooters, more dead carcasses piling up, young, old, leader and commoner–all. Your doom is upon you!

So yeah, just to be clear, murdering innocents is what God does to make you like him. If the WBC turns out to be correct about God, does anyone want anything to do with that guy? I think I’d be even less likely to go to church. Could hell possibly be any worse than a god so capricious and evil?

And, of course, that’s not where religion’s involvement ends in this case. There are now reports that Jared Lee Loughner was linked to an anti-semitic group called American Renaissance — Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish.

The group subscribes to an ideology that is “anti-government, anti-immigration, anti -ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic,” according to the DHS memo.

Giffords “is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate,” the note said.

I’m not totally sure it matters who he was associated with unless they sent him to do this, which I have no reason to think they did.  It’s just disturbing all round.  The WBC is just horrible, so they’re easy to ignore, but I hope that this was just the act of one crazy person and that no one knew ahead of time what he was planning.  He seems very much to be someone who had had a psychotic break, but the rumors of connections to groups and another suspect can’t but make you wonder.

Are The New Viewers Gone Yet?

My website exploded yesterday.  I’ve had some big days, thanks to links from PZ, but I actually went viral all on my own yesterday.  I mean, nothing like Afro Ninja, but I was a top ten post on WordPress with 20k hits in 12 hours.  The hits have already become relatively anemic compared to that, but there are still plenty of new eyeballs coming in my direction.  My hopes that one of them is a Hollywood Producer who wants to make my scripts haven’t been fulfilled, but the day is young.

Also, nominations for the bloggies are still going on, if you kind stoppers by would be willing to put me up for best kept secret or best writing.

I matter! Briefly...

Sarah Palin’s Target List and the Assassination of Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords is a Democratic representative from Arizona, who was reportedly shot in the head today at a political event in her hometown of Tucson. There are rumors, but no official word on whether she has survived yet.

What I’d like to point people to is something that is in incredibly bad taste, and was in incredibly bad taste before this shooting. It is a list of targets, all marked with gunsights, that Sarah Palin released recently calling for Americans to “Take a Stand”.

I’m not saying that Sarah Palin called for the murder of this woman and we don’t know if the assassination was politically motivated — I am saying that the militant right wing of this country uses some very violent and dangerous rhetoric. I’m saying that using the word “solution” and showing a picture of rifle crosshairs with a list of “Targets” is a horrible idea.

Will the right wing learn its lesson and stop using such militant language? I hope so. I imagine a shit storm is about to fall on Sarah Palin and I almost feel bad for her. And I really hope that Gabrielle Giffords survives, that this wasn’t politically motivated, and there are no copycats.

EDIT: NPR is now reporting that she has not survived. Not good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assassinated_American_politicians

EDIT 2: She was the only member of Congress with a spouse in the military, her husband is an astronaut.

EDIT 3: @mattyglesias posts this image, a campaign event:

EDIT 4: NPR now reporting Giffords may be alive.

EDIT 5: Giffords office was broken into and vandalized earlier this year and there was also a man with a gun at one of her earlier campaign rallies.

EDIT 6: Andrew Sullivan posts in response to the event, which I will pretend had anything to do with the email I sent him.

For a public figure who has appeared on a national ticket and who commands a cult-like following, the irresponsibility is even more profound. And so one reads the following sentences from the Arizona Wildcat last September with the blood draining from one’s face.

Palin Reloads; Aims For Giffords

Earlier this year, Palin drew sharp criticism for featuring a map on her web page riddled with crosshairs targeting Democrats in vulnerable congressional districts. Tucson’s Gabrielle Giffords is among the 20 Democratic incumbents whom Palin intends to use for target practice.

And we get a screenshot from Sarah Palin’s Twitter feed:

EDIT 7: Sarah Palin has removed both the target list and the above tweet from her accounts and website.  There you have it — what’s that law of the internet that says when you try to remove something from the internet it only gets bigger? (The Streisand Effect)

EDIT 8: The congresswoman is out of surgery, they are optimistic as they can be under the circumstances, she was shot “through and through” on one side of her head.  I hope she makes it, it is truly horrifying.

EDIT 9: Accused shooter is being named as both Jared Laughner and Jared Lee Loughner.  The second name has youtube and myspace accounts, which reveal him to be a very strange guy who is obsessed with grammar, it has anti-government stuff, ramblings about the gold standard, revolution, atheism or antitheism or just not liking God (not clear) and major paranoia about mind control.

EDIT 10: News confirming it’s Jared Loughner, the owner of previously linked youtube account.

EDIT 11: I just want to be clear here, even if the shooter pointed to that hit list or tweet or whatever and said that he was doing this for Sarah Palin, it would not be Sarah Palin’s fault.  He’s a nutcase, a crazy person, who did a crazy thing, and that is all on him.  I just think that politicians and public figures should be looking at their violent language and question if it’s in good taste or terribly wise to say things like the things she has said.

EDIT 12: ‎(202) 747-1812 is the number for SarahPac. If you believe it was wrong for Sarah Palin to put crosshairs over Giffords’ district given the situation that occurred today, dial the number and let Sarah know your thoughts.

EDIT 13: According to @maddow “Pima County Sheriff says department is “actively in pursuit” of a second suspect — 2nd man not a shooter.”  And “Pima County Sheriff says AZ shooting suspect is “unstable”.” Describes second man being sought as “a person of interest”.

EDIT 14: Bomb squad called in to investigate suspicious package at vigil at Giffords office.  The gunman’s gun was bought legally in AZ a few weeks ago.  Tucson Tea Party Leader has no intention of changing the tone of their rhetoric.  The Sheriff thinks that this is the result of violent rhetoric, and they are looking for a second suspect.  And the MSM in Tucson is covering the SarahPAC target list.

EDIT 15: Witness Joe Zamudio says he helped bystanders subdue the Arizona gunman as he was trying to reload.  Holy crap.  It could have been worse.

EDIT 16: KSAZ-TV is reporting Congresswoman Giffords is awake, recognized her husband and spoke to people in her hospital room.

EDIT 17: Last post of the evening. Sheriff on Giffords.