Social Media Go to War: Rage, Rebellion and Revolution in the Age of Twitter, Order form

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Social Media Go to War: Rage, Rebellion and Revolution in the Age of Twitter

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 1, 2013

 

 

NEW BOOK PROBES SOCIAL MEDIA USE

IN ‘RAGE, REBELLION, REVOLUTION’

 

 

SPOKANE, Washington—While social media did not cause the Arab Spring two years ago, they certainly contributed to the organization, speed and significance of the tumultuous uprisings that toppled three regimes in North Africa and the Middle East and played significant roles in other global events, including the re-election of Barack Obama.

These were some of the conclusions drawn by international scholars in a new book, Social Media Go to War: Rage, Rebellion and Revolution in the Age of Twitter, published recently by Marquette Books in Spokane.

Thirty-nine scholars contributed 29 chapters in the wide-sweeping analysis of social media use in war, insurrections, revolutions and quests for social justice in Cuba, Georgia, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Thailand, Tunisia and the United States, where President Obama’s use of social media contributed to his November victory, and mobilized protesters in the Wisconsin budget battle. The shifting the U.S. Department of Defense policies on social media use by military personnel are also analyzed.

The 524-page book also looks at the philosophy, theories and policies behind social media before launching into case studies around the world. Separate parts of the book examine the “Persian Spring” in Iran in 2009, and the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan in 2011.

The book completes a trilogy of books published by Marquette Books that examine media behavior in times of turmoil and crisis. All three were edited by Dr. Ralph D. Berenger, a mass communication professor at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Other books in the series were  the critically acclaimed Global Media Go to War: Role of News and Entertainment in the 2003 Iraq War (2004), and Cybermedia Go to War: Role of Converging Media During and After the 2003 Iraq War (2006).

“What we have been witnessing over the past decade, though the dynamics of contentious or violent events, is demassification of media across all platforms,” Berenger said. “The shift was made possible by technological innovation and growth of such Internet-based outlets such as YouTube, Weblogs, and a host of social media sites like Facebook, among others. The emergence of hand-held information and communication devices such as smartphones and tablets equipped with video cameras has resulted in technologically empowered individuals. Today, anyone can become a multi-media news reporter and analyst, and set the agenda for mass media on which issues to discuss and debate, potentially affecting millions of people. The trilogy tracks and documents that progression.”

The individual communication empowerment movement began with Weblogs and text messaging around the time of the 2003 Iraq war, Berenger said, and reached its current peak with popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where anyone can make his or her opinions known and “scoop” the mainstream media. In turn, traditional mass media act as “megaphones for unmediated information” that helps shape public opinion by adding legitimacy and credibility.

Social Media Go to War should appeal not only to media scholars but to general public concerned with how media behave—and influence them—during times of crisis and turmoil.

A resident of Boise, Idaho, Berenger has lived and worked in Africa and the Middle East for since 2000.

 

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For more information, contact:

David Demers

Marquette Books

509-290-9240

e-mail: dkdemers@cox.net

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Turkey and Iran, rivals or partners?

Ankara and Tehran have long vied, albeit quietly, for regional predominance. Key to the outcome of that struggle is Syria, writes Elizabeth Iskander

originally published in al-Ahram weekly, 21 November 2012

The Arab Spring has not only caused political shock waves in Arab countries, it has also has altered the way Turkey and Iran view Arab states. This much is clear as Turkey’s public diplomacy efforts go into overdrive in their promotion of the “Turkish model” as a guide for political transformation in Egypt. It is also evident in Iran’s insistence on defining the uprisings as an “Islamic awakening” inspired by its model of Islamic revolution.

But as well as forcing a reconsideration of Turkish and Iranian policies towards Arab nations, the events of the Arab Spring have also affected how Turkey and Iran view each other. Relations between Iran and Turkey have always defied easy categorisation and in the past have tended to be overlooked in the Arab-centric discourse of internal Middle Eastern politics. Yet Turkey and Iran have a long and chequered history in negotiating their position vis-à-vis each other that gives insights into the mechanisms that support regional stability and those factors that appear to threaten it.

The rivalry between Turkey and Iran is part of the region’s history; repeated conflicts were waged between the Ottoman and Persian empires as they struggled for regional hegemony and supremacy. In 1639, the Treaty of Zuhab (also known as the Treaty of Qasr-e Shireen) led to the establishment of a border but not the end of conflict, and tensions along the border region led to repeated outbreaks of violence. A second Treaty of Erzurum was eventually signed in 1847 that stabilised the situation but it did not eradicate the long standing rivalry for spheres of influence.

This has not ruled out strategic alignment. During the Cold War period, both Turkey and Iran adopted a pro-Western stance and, as founding members of the Baghdad Pact in 1955, they even became allies in the region. Economic cooperation has also been a feature of bilateral relations and often a mechanism to contain political mistrust. Iran and Turkey are traditional trading partners and according to recent Press TV reports in November, Iran is now Turkey’s third largest trade partner with the level of trade in the first eight months of 2012 standing at $17.52 billion. Turkish and Iranian authorities have confirmed their intention to increase levels of trade to $30 billion by 2015.

This growing trade relationship has been consolidated despite political and ideological clashes. After Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, the harmony in foreign policy and regional strategic alliances broke down. In particular, revolutionary Iran’s stance vis-à-vis America and Israel destabilised Turco-Iranian relations. This was further complicated by security concerns, especially regarding the Kurdish issue, which led to a series of disputes in the late 1990s in which Turkey saw Iran as a supporter of Kurdish groups.

Security has not been the only cause of suspicion. During the 1980s and 1990s, Turkish and Iranian rhetoric suggested that the two nations saw themselves on opposite sides of an ideological struggle as well. Iran viewed Turkey as aggressively secular, which was inevitable with Turkey representing a radical secularist world view and Iran a radically Islamist one. Yet Realpolitik seemed to ensure that rhetoric did not boil over into armed conflict. This mutual awareness that good relations between Turkey and Iran were crucial for economic growth and stability eventually evolved and led to stronger ties with Iran in the late 2000s.

The rise of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (JDP) and its “zero problems with neighbours” strategy undoubtedly facilitated this rapprochement between Iran and Turkey. In October, Fatemeh Zolfaqariyan wrote in Mardom Salari, the official daily newspaper of the Iranian pro-reform party of the same name, that: “Turkey will have better political and economic relations with Iran compared to when it was secular.” Zolfaqariyan went on to describe the JDP’s strategy as the implementation of “civil Islam”, which is apparently more acceptable for Iran. Yet Turkey is still a secular state, as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasised during his visit to Egypt in September 2011.

Indeed the Arab Spring has introduced yet another phase in complicated Turco-Iranian relations because it has been shown that the Turkish “zero problems with neighbours” foreign policy strategy is difficult to maintain, particularly in light of the ongoing conflict in Syria, an ally of Iran. It will also become more complex as Turkey seeks to claim a larger and more visible role in regional affairs. Both Iran and Turkey have put themselves forward as models for political transformation in the post-Arab Spring Middle East.

In recent years, Turkey has been able to inspire confidence in its model among Arab states and peoples. As a result, it is likely that Turkey will outflank Iran in terms of gaining soft power in the post-Arab Spring Middle East. But it cannot go too far in this because of the need to balance relations with Iran to ensure domestic stability and prosperity, as well as stability for the entire region. In fact, increased influence for Ankara means increased responsibility, a greater weight of expectation and more strident competition with other regional powers.

Consequently, political relations between Iran and Turkey are likely to become more complicated but security and economic concerns will support continued bilateral relations, as they have for decades if not centuries. This is inevitable since Turco-Iranian relations are influenced by events and trends in the political and strategic environment of the Middle East and have a major role to play in return. In addition, it is noteworthy that Turco-Iranian relations are not only played out in the theatre of the Middle East, but their competition over spheres of influence also extends into Central Asia. This adds a further layer of complexity to potential rivalries between the two nations.

If Turkey is to boost its claim to being a regional model on the basis of deep liberalisation and democracy and secular government, there will be rhetorical clashes with Iran that seeks to be a model of revolutionary Islamic government for Arab states experiencing post-uprising transformations. The outcome in Syria is the main factor in determining the extent of rivalry or partnership between Iran and Turkey in the short term. If no understanding can be reached, rivalry over regional leadership will be the major feature in Turco-Iranian relations, even while economic partnership continues.

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Why Iran cannot compromise on its nuclear programme

Ahram Online, Elizabeth Iskander , Tuesday 16 Oct 2012

 

While a war with Iran would be disastrous, it is also naive to keep relying on the same old ‘carrot and/or stick’ diplomacy to pressure Iran to concede the right to continue its nuclear programme.  For Iran, it is not only a case of ‘will not’ but also of ‘cannot’ compromise. Its programme is not only about acquiring a nuclear capability, regardless of whether that is for peaceful or military purposes. Holding onto the programme and taking it forward to success is rooted in the Iranian national project.

The programme, and its success or failure, have come to represent another battle between the ‘just’ and the ‘unjust’, which is a dynamic that was manifested in the 1979 Islamic revolution and in the speech of the Iranian government ever since. Iran considers itself a revolutionary state, pioneering a vision at odds with the powers that dominate the international political system.

As such, Tehran expects to face opposition to its revolutionary system and ideas.  Chief among these enduring enemies, as we know, are America and Israel.  The opposition of America and Israel to Iran’s nuclear programme simply confirms Iran’s expectations and sets up the dispute as a confirmation of Iran’s belief in its role of defending the marginalized (mostaz’ afin) against the ‘arrogant forces’ (mostakberin). Consequently, threats reinforce the Iranian government’s worldview, while appeasement is seized on as weakness, which for Iran is but further evidence of the success and ‘rightness’ of that same worldview.

Click here to read the full article on al-Ahram website.

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Book Review: Sectarian Conflict in Egypt: Coptic Media, Identity and Representation

first published 3 September 2012, by Africa at LSE

LSE alumna Heba Elsayed reviews Sectarian Conflict in Egypt: Coptic Media, Identity and Representation by LSE Visiting Fellow, Elizabeth Iskander.

Through its in-depth and thought-provoking analysis, this book provides an important contribution towards understanding the complex religious, political, historical and cultural nuances that shape the construction of identities outside a western context. In wake of the recent uprising that has shaken the Arab world to its core, Iskander brings forth a timely examination of Coptic Christian Egyptians; a religious group integral to the fabric of Egyptian national culture, yet largely neglected in academic research. The author usefully examines how Copts are not only a religious denomination or “minority” that currently inhabit Egypt, but they have a deep-rooted national and cultural heritage that long predates the Arab and Islamic invasion of Egypt in the seventh century.

By focusing on the relations of power between Egyptian citizens based on their Islamic and Christian faith, Iskander demonstrates the many complex interpretations of identity that navigate between elements of ethnicity, nationalism and religion. The author uses examples drawn from both qualitative and quantitative fieldwork to illustrate how issues of religious belonging (Copticness) and national unity (Egyptianness) are both intertwined and constructed particularly through the media. Through the use of a survey highlighting the most popular websites used by members of Egypt’s Christian community, and through a detailed content analysis of these sites, Iskander argues how Coptic cyberspace is rooted in an imagined recreation of a physical space as homeland (Egypt). Through the use of imagery and symbolism of Egyptianness – such as the Egyptian flag and the pyramids – these online sites act as powerful tools for the construction and remembrance of this homeland, thus reinforcing the notion that Coptic identity is strongly equated with an Egyptian national identity.

Qualitative interviews and observations illustrate how the Internet allows members of this Egyptian Coptic community − who feel marginalised and persecuted in their own homeland – to forge an alternative virtual presence that gives them the representation and belonging they consider missing in the context of physical national experience. Furthermore, the Internet often functions as the only media space where criticism of the church and the Pope’s political and religious policies can be voiced. Nevertheless, within the complex dynamics of Coptic community – church − state relations, Iskander brings to the fore how mediated representations of belonging and identity are highly imbued within established relations of power.  Thus, she maintains an important balance, which guards against an overly celebratory tone that could exaggerate the potentials of new media for challenging the authority and control of religious establishments.

Iskander successfully draws our attention to how Coptic media in Egypt, controlled mainly by the church, are used as platforms to preserve the legitimacy and power of church leaders thus reproducing and normalising their ideologies. Through a range of engaging examples, Iskander argues that even though the media have provided spaces for dissent and opposition to the church, these have usually been very limited opportunities that have operated from within the established boundaries of religious authority, rather than overcoming them completely….

for the full review click here.

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Religion and politics in Egypt today: Ideological Trends and Future Prospects

 

Religion and politics in Egypt today:Ideological Trends and Future Prospects

Elizabeth Iskander for the Institute Francais des Relations Internationales.

Introduction:

The sudden opening up of political space since the uprising of 25 January 2011 began has given visibility to the range of political and religious streams of thought that exist in the Arab world’s most populous country. Although Egypt’s uprising was largely about reclaiming political agency and social justice for the Egyptian people, religion has contributed to the shape of Egypt’s struggle to redefine itself since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011. Under Mubarak the political scene was often presented in black and white terms as being divided between religious extremists (then normally represented by the Muslim
Brotherhood) and Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. The latter was represented as the only force preventing Egypt from becoming a radical theocracy. This covered over the diversity that is now apparent. It is clear that
Islamists are a powerful political force, yet they also face broad and varied opposition and do not represent the only ideological trend to emerge. Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood did not have an easy victory in
Egypt’s presidential election in June 2012 and continues to face open and direct criticism. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power has caused alarm among sections of the Egyptian population and the international community. Evidently, the effect of religion on the political transition in Egypt cannot be ignored if the dynamics of the social and political changes are to be understood.

Click here to download the full report

 

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Calme Renenvue a Dashour?

First published on Nouvelles du Caire, 10 August 2012

by Sophie Anmuth

En juillet après des violences suite à une querelle au sujet d’une chemise abîmée par le teinturier copte, des Coptes avaient fui le village de Dahshour, en banlieue du Caire. La plupart des familles sont aujourd’hui revenues, mais l’insécurité demeure. Le problème n’a pas été traité de manière différente que sous Moubarak: pour les autorités, il n’y a pas de problème d’intolérance religieuse en Egypte.

Le président Mohamed Morsi avait déclaré qu’il ferait respecter la loi pour protéger les Coptes. « J’appelle mes frères musulmans et coptes à se rassembler et mes frères musulmans à faire en sorte que les Coptes soient en sécurité. Personne ne peut accepter des attaques contre son frère. »

Au cours des violences,  une personne est morte,  six blessées, et plusieurs maisons brûlées.

D’après MCN, certains voisins musulmans ont en effet tenté de protéger leurs voisins coptes contre les attaques.

Lundi 13,  l’Union des jeunes de Maspero (MYU, organisation pro-révolution qui se charge de mettre l’accent sur les problèmes rencontrés par les Coptes) et les socialistes révolutionnaires ont organisé une manifestation devant la Haute Cour égyptienne, pour protester contre la manière dont a été traitée l’affaire par une police indifférente et qui n’a pas été tenue responsable des violences ou de la fuite des familles coptes, et contre le dédommagement insuffisant.

Le gouvernement a indiqué compenser chaque famille ou commerçant (52 en tout) touché par une somme de 10 000 livres égyptiennes (un peu plus de 1500 dollars). D’après MCN, tous les résidents n’ont pas accepté cette offre, certains la jugeant insuffisante.

Mina Magdy, porte-parole de MYU, a déclaré que les sommes devraient plutôt atteindre 30 millions de livres que 520 000.

Il a aussi indiqué que toutes les 120 familles ne sont pas revenues, car certaines craignent que les tensions continuent et ne font pas confiance à la police pour les protéger.

Elizabeth Iskander,spécialiste de la question copte, estime que « la police est en général lente à réagir depuis le soulèvement de 2011 (en réaction contre l’hostilité à laquelle elle est en butte) mais de toute façon, elle n’était guère plus réactive auparavant par exemple pour les problèmes d’hostilité confessionnelle. »

Click here for full text.

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