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Panel: Social media helps spur revolution in Middle East

In a panel with three political science professors, students discussed the use and necessity of social media outlets to cause and to help continue the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen.

Each panelist gave a 25-minute lecture, which presented the uprisings in the Middle East from the point of view of their specialty. After all three panelists finished, they opened the floor to the audience for questions.

Manochehr Dorraj specializes in the studies of Middle Eastern politics, Ralph Carter specializes in the analysis of U.S. foreign policy and Michael Dodson specializes in political thought and democratic theory.

The departments of political science, history, international studies and the AddRan College of Liberal Arts worked to organize the panel. Dodson said the goal of the panel was to provide analysis of the events in the Middle East to students, explaining the reasons behind the uprisings instead of just a timeline of events.

Dorraj introduced social media into the conversation and said the youth took use of the new tool to organize and to protest peacefully in a way that had never been seen before.

“The younger generation is very tech savvy,” he said. “So they see all these democratic rights in the world and they want them. If it was not for this technology there would be no revolution.”

Senior political science major Kensey Gilbert said the use of social media was the most interesting theme in the panel.

“I didn’t realize how much social media came into play,” she said. “I have heard clips about it on the news, but the panelist put it into words really well.”

Gilbert said she never made the connection between the lack of violence in the Middle East uprisings and social media until this panel.

Junior political science major Katharine Dewar said she also noticed the mention of the importance of social media outlets, like Twitter, in the uprisings.

“In the United States we just use social media all the time,” she said. “Over in the Middle East it is really changing things.”

Another thing Dewar said was interesting to her was the dictators being overthrown in the countries in the Middle East did not know how to use social media, so the youth stayed ahead of the opposition.

Dorraj mentioned in the panel that social media could bring about a domino effect and spread the uprisings to other countries and even continents such as Africa and Asia. The younger generation now has resources to learn about revolution and re-enact it in their own countries, he said.

Carter said the peaceful nature of many of the uprisings complicated U.S. foreign policy. He said because the uprisings are classified as “democratic uprisings,” the U.S. will be pressured to support the resulting government.

“If we don’t support the government that comes out of these events, we [the U.S.] will be seen as hypocrites,” he said.

Sophomore supply and value chain management major Katie Horton came into the panel expecting to learn the underlying causes of the uprisings. She said she felt more knowledgeable about the events occurring overseas.

“I feel like after this, I know what is going on over there and why,” she said. “I never realized how youth-driven the uprising was.”

Horton also said seeing three different perspectives from the panelists made the event interesting.

Dewar said she had never thought of the uprisings from a purely democratic standpoint, which was the angle Dodson took.

Dodson said the Middle Eastern countries had failed to be accountable to their people and that social media allowed people to communicate effectively enough to hold their own governments accountable.

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