I recently wrote a post title: The Great Twitter/Facebook Revolution Fallacy. This post noted that:
For some strange reason, the American media has always been obsessed with Twitter and Facebook…
This applies to foreign affairs as well. In the context of the events occurring in the Middle East, the Western media loves to argue that Twitter and Facebook constitute catalysts for revolution in the modern era. Indeed, some articles called the 2009 Iranian protests the “Twitter Revolution.”
It then went on to argue that, in fact, Twitter and Facebook played a negligible role in the Arab revolutions, given the very very few individuals in those countries who use Twitter or Facebook (let alone have access to the Internet in the first place).
In fact, given that the Internet was blocked for much of the Egyptian protests, it’s safe to say that Twitter and Facebook had absolutely no role in the Egyptian revolution during its most crucial period. Neverthess, many still insist that the revolution could not have happened without sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Let’s add Youtube to the list.
America’s media has always exaggerated the role that Youtube plays in spreading political change and unrest. A few days ago, the New York Times wrote an article titled Qaddafi Youtube Spoof By Israeli Gets Arab Fans. This article was an inspiring story about how:
A YouTube clip mocking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s megalomania is fast becoming a popular token of the Libya uprising across the Middle East. And in an added affront to Colonel Qaddafi, it was created by an Israeli living in Tel Aviv…
Mr. Alooshe, who at first did not identify himself on the clip as an Israeli, started receiving enthusiastic messages from all around the Arab world. Web surfers soon discovered that he was a Jewish Israeli from his Facebook profile — Mr. Alooshe plays in a band called Hovevey Zion, or the Lovers of Zion — and some of the accolades turned to curses. A few also found the video distasteful.
But the reactions have largely been positive, including a message Mr. Alooshe said he received from someone he assumed to be from the Libyan opposition saying that if and when the Qaddafi regime fell, “We will dance to ‘Zenga-Zenga’ in the square.”
It sounds great. Isreali-Arab friendship. Fun being made of Libya’s dictator. And most importantly, the rising influence of the new media.
There’s just one thing wrong with this picture.
Notice how, in the comments section of the video, everything is in English. At the moment this post was being written, this individual scrolled through eleven pages before seeing one comment in Arabic.
If this Youtube video is so popular with Arab fans (as the article’s title implies), how come there are no comments in, you know, Arabic?
Perhaps the number of viewers from the English world swamped the Arab world after the Times published the article. But the earliest comments, made article was published, are largely English. Of the first 100 comments, only 15 were written in Arabic.
It doesn’t take much searching to find a video with a mainly Arabic-speaking audience. Here is one example, of an apparently popular musician. About 90% of the comments are written in Arabic. Contrast that with the Zenga Zenga video, in which the amount of Arabic in the most recent commentary approaches zero percent.
One wonders how the Times journalist came upon this video and concluded that it was a hit amongst Arabs. Perhaps the author saw the video and thought it was cool. Maybe the author had an urgent deadline and needed to bullshit an article.
But whatever the truth, it is almost certain that the Zenga Zenga video is far more popular in America than it is in the Middle East.