In Wael Ghonim’s Revolution 2.0, he writes about the importance of mass amounts of people in protest and on social media. Using the Egyptian revolution as a case study he writes:
This was the Revolution 2.0 model: no one was the hero because everyone was a hero. We shall never forget all those who sacrificed their lives on our path to freedom [. . .]. [I]t was their courage, determination, and grace that reminded us and the rest of humanity of a universal truth that many seemed to have forgotten: the power of the people will always be stronger than the people in power (294).
Ghonim shows that everyone is significant in a revolution, even if they are the leader or poster-child of the revolution. As he believes, everyone involved in a revolution is important and their sacrifices helped to rebuild Egypt.
Comparing this to contemporary American protests, what is the significance of masses of people. In our class, we’ve discussed the role of various protesters, often claiming that certain protesters are only taking part to put it on their snapchat story, for social currency, or “prove” that they’re not racist. What would Ghonim think of this discourse? Can people interpret various social movements in different ways, or must a singular thread of motivation to protest exist for each protester?
Ghonim also rejected the idea of a single hero of a revolution being more significant to social change than everyone involved in it (“the hero”). What I think Ghonim means is that it is dangerous to deify a political character. For example, Martin Luther King Jr. is seen as a saint in mainstream American discourse. I would agree that this is dangerous because in doing that, we are able to make heros like MLK fit to any discourse we wish. For example, he is often MISused to vilify protesters who are violent or engage violence for self-defense by saying that MLK would condemn their behavior. In a similar vein as Ghonim, Maya Angelou, an iconic civil rights leader, author, and friend of MLK (as one is…) states:
It’s dangerous to make anybody seem larger than life. Because a young person coming up sees this larger than life figure, this outrageously gigantic personality — and has to say I can never be that, I can never do that, you see. When the truth is, those men, and those women, were in the right place at the right time and got hold of something — and something got hold of them (Hayward, 2014).