In February of 2011, thousands of Egyptian protesters used social media to organize rallies to oppose their government.
In February of 2009, thousands of American protesters used social media to organize rallies to oppose their government.
That is where the similarities end.
When Egyptians used social media to connect with each other and organize rallies, they were called “forward-looking,” and “cutting edge.” They were cast as “the spearhead of a very modern uprising,” “enabled by Facebook and Twitter” as Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times gushed, “to feel the energy and pride of a people taking back the keys to their country and their future.”
When American Tea Partiers used social media two years ago to connect with each other and organize rallies, they were cast as a violent racist mob bent on “march[ing] this nation as far backward as they can get; backward to Jim Crow [and] backward to the bread lines of the 30’s.” Or, they were painted as too stupid to drag their knuckles off the ground long enough to type 140 characters into Twitter.
The New York Times reported that the Egyptian protesters were “completely non-violent,” even though The Times reported -- just days earlier -- that when “a police officer cursed protesters standing by a local coffee shop, [the protesters] replied by throwing stones at a police vehicle.” The situation escalated, and the “completely non-violent” Egyptian protesters “replied by throwing Molotov cocktails at the police station [and] protesters set fire to the nearby courthouse, the Traffic Regulation Authority building and the ruling National Democratic Party headquarters.”
When non-violent Tea Party protesters showed their non-violence by not throwing rocks at police officers, not throwing Molotov cocktails at police stations, and not setting fire to courthouses, traffic buildings or the Democratic National Party headquarters, they left the media with no ammunition to cast the Tea Party as violent. So the media took an unrelated act of violence (Jared Lee Loughner’s Tucson shooting spree) and worked overtime to hang it around the necks of non-violent Tea Partiers.
The media tells us that the Egyptian protests “drew on every segment of the Egyptian population,” while the same media tells us that Tea Party protests are racist, homogenous, and not a welcome place for black people. The media seems obsessed with counting black people at protests. So how could they miss the rather glaring fact that there are more black people at an average Tea Party than there were in the protests in Egypt?
NPR, of all places, is not blind to the color barrier in Egypt. NPR’s “The Root” filed a report about the “Race And Racism Divide in Egypt,” where blacks are “routinely the targets of verbal public abuse” from light-skinned Egyptians who view dark-skinned Africans as “poor, starving and black-skinned savages.” As one dark-skinned graduate student at the American University in Cairo said, “I thought [the Arabs] were our brothers in Islam, but they don’t bother about that when you’re black. Egyptians ask you if you live in trees. Or, ‘Why are you black?’ ‘Is your country hot?’” Or they ask those with dark skin ‘What time is it?’” so they would “look down and be reminded of their dark-skinned wrists, where their watches might be.” “So, this is how we know that there is something called racism here.”
And, since three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas L. Friedman is on the ground in Egypt, breathlessly reporting that “every segment of the Egyptian population,” is represented in their protests, would it be too much for Friedman to focus his award-winning journalistic eye on Tahrir Square and tell us how many protesters are women? Friedman wrote of “the overwhelming sense of personal empowerment” over there, so tell us: How many women in Egypt are empowered to not have their genitals mutilated in the name of Islam? Or did the fact that recent studies, according to the BBC, showing that as many as 90% of Egyptian women have suffered genital mutilation escape Friedman’s keen journalistic eye?
If you want to see women who are empowered, check out the Tea Party, where women are the backbone of the movement—especially among the ranks of organizers and leaders.
And if you want to “feel the energy and pride of a people taking back the keys to their country and their future,” save the airfare to Cairo and look right here in America, where the modern-day Tea Party movement will celebrate its second anniversary on February 27, 2011.
Michael Prell is a writer and strategist for the Tea Party Patriots, and the author of “Underdogma: How America’s Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power.” To learn more about the book, visit www.under-dogma.com