We seem to feel the need to turn every protest, march and demonstration into a “facebook revolution,” but I’m not sure I buy that. No question new forms of social media played at least some part in the Egyptian uprising (the government didn’t just shut down the internet for a laugh), but even after the net went down in that country people were still communicating and gathering.
I think that once the mood of the country reaches a certain point, this uprising would have happened whether or not facebook groups calling for it existed. Once people were actually out in the streets, however, the story of the Egyptian protest made it around the world in a very significant way.
I’m not just talking about the sort of instantaneous twitter news updates. I think the way people outside of Egypt have experienced this revolution is truly unique and extraordinary. For myself, at least, this was the first time that I have ever felt so connected to people who were so far away from me – both physically and culturally – and so moved by their struggle.
I have spent countless hours watching videos of protesters online. I’ve watched singing, chanting, fighting, screaming and just about everything in between. Most of the time I’m watching people talking and chanting in Arabic and I don’t even understand what they are saying. But I’m seeing these videos raw, they feel like they’re streaming to me straight from the streets. I feel the peoples’ tears and laughter with an intensity that I never would watching them as part of a newscast.
That’s what makes raw video so interesting, both from a journalistic as well as personal perspective. It allows me almost to experience things exactly as they are happening. We are so used to consuming images of protests and conflicts with the authoritative voice of a reporter over them, telling us what we are seeing, drawing conclusions for us. But with raw video we can very literally draw our own conclusions – we are free to experience the protests on a much more personal level.
As a journalist I am acutely aware of how my own perspective and narrative of a story affects the way people perceive it. I also know that it is impossible for any journalist to completely remove their own bias from a story – and honestly doing that would likely lead to pretty bad journalism anyway. So the fact that these raw images and videos are so easily accessible online is encouraging to me.
I still think that bringing perspective to a story is very important, and so of course I will continue to tune into newscasts. But I like the idea that there is this pure expression of the Egyptian peoples’ struggle out there that has not been tainted by analysis and speculation.