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Posted at 5:26 PM ET, 01/15/2011

Tunisia's uprising and the social media

By James Buck and Melissa Bell
Tunisia Twitter
Demonstrators shout slogans in front of the Interior Ministry in Tunis. (Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the past four weeks, cities across Tunisia have witnessed protests and riots as citizens, including many young people, rose up against the authoritarian regime of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In a flurry of activity in recent days, Ben Ali initially attempted to appease the crowds with promises of reform and then abruptly fled the country.

Some observers contend that it might have been a U.S State Department cable leaked by WikiLeaks that served as the metaphorical last straw. The cable detailed the lavish lifestyle of ruling party members, while unemployment, rising food prices and corruption took their toll on the country. Others attribute the outbreak of unrest to Mohamed Bouazizi, a computer science graduate who could find no job but selling vegetables without a permit and had set himself on fire after allegedly being beaten by the police. Many rallied around his name.

Social media tracked the story, helped protesters organize rallies and also helped bring the world's attention to the tumult. Here's just part of the story told via Twitter:

By James Buck and Melissa Bell  | January 15, 2011; 5:26 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tunisia, texting advice and pandas: four videos for the weekend
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It is an insult to human intelligence and the people of Tunisia to credit U.S. diplomatic cabled information or WikiLeaks for the unraveling of the corrupt regime in Tunisia. Does anyone in their right mind believe that the Tunisians who have lived the lies for many years first-hand needed either source to tell them the truth?

Only an ego-centric media could invent this lie.

Posted by: TomMiller1 | January 15, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Ironically, and over time, Ben Ali helped provide an opening for high tech communications tools to help transform society in Tunisia. But US intransigence allowed the leader, who received substantial security and intelligence training from the US government before being foisted onto the world stage 30 years ago, to get a bit long in the tooth. The anti-democracy repression existed long before Twitter came on the scene at a time when Washington didn't want no f*#kin change and, that considered, there is an unfortunate pompositiy among the Twitterati to take credit for what is at best an uncertain regime change that lack stable institutions, which social tools like Twitter can only erode, and interrupt. The net net might drive up a few tech toy stocks, but it doesn't provide any sort of solid foundation for democracy and nation building to reconcile with a culture with strong Islamic traditions.

Do we need Van Morrison to tell us when the other dominoes fall in the Land of Ooh-blah-dee? Kaddafy's crew is having internal struggles and some major dress code problems, and Mubarak is a train wreck waiting happen.

Posted by: dongonzo | January 16, 2011 7:30 AM | Report abuse

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