Three reasons to pay attention to Tunisia

Tunisia Protest

Here are three reasons you should pay attention to Tunisia:

1. First, a popular uprising — sparked by the dramatic suicide of an abused man — has succeeded in ousting a corrupt dictator. Such uprisings don’t happen that often, and they usually don’t succeed.

This story by Kristen Chick for the Christian Science Monitor is a nice, narrative summary.

2. Secondly, the mainstream media (in the U.S. anyway) generally paid little attention to this until quite late in the game. Instead, young people engaging in “social media” — Twitter, Facebook and the like — spread the word, fueling the uprising and reporting the news.

The UW’s new media expert Hanson Hosein provides a great overview of reports/opinions on the role of social media in Tunisia’s revolution. Also, a freelance journalist writing for Huffington Post says the story of Tunisia is the story of how powerful social media can be in situations where traditional media fail or are constrained.

3. Third, however this shakes out in the Tunisian Republic (its official name), the people’s revolt in this tiny, north African Arabic country appears to be causing all sorts of reverberations across the Arab world.

Already, as NPR reports, students in neighboring Algeria have engaged in similar protests — against corruption, for freedom. And Richard Engel, NBC’s chief foreign affairs reporter, suggests other repressive leaders in the regions should maybe “pack a bag” given what’s happened in Tunisia.

So, there are the three reasons you should be paying attention. There are plenty more, of course, but my point is what’s happening in Tunisia appears to be quite historic on a number of fronts — it may be one of those tipping points.

Oh, and for those of you wondering why this “Jasmine Revolution” appears to have worked while the so-called Twitter Revolution in Iran didn’t, here’s an interesting perspective by author Mahmood Delkhasteh on HuffPo.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.