The Revolution of Jokes

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The Revolution of Jokes
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Egyptian memes are very telling of the reality Egyptians are living while also functioning as a collective coping mechanism. Humor during times of crisis is not unique to Egypt. However, the extent to which it has become integral to the culture and language of Egypt's changing identity through digital tools and social media is. What, if anything, do these memes tell us about contemporary Egyptian culture and what can they predict about Egypt's uncertain future? Media coverage of the 'Arab Spring' often credited social media for inciting the uprisings and helping topple regimes. While many skeptics argued the claim, technological tools undoubtedly played significant roles not only in spreading information at an uncontrollable speed, but also in providing the Arab youth with a voice they never had. Social networking, however, is not new to the region. Middle Eastern youth have been using the Internet, and Facebook in particular, as a publishing platform for news and information far before the uprising started.
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change the OK where comebacks there where count but those who stay at and let me
introduce you around here back I mean I know I'm from the tried to use and adapt to new media actors and scholar who is specifically interested in the mapping collective um memory and in that context she's going to talk to you about means specific in chip in uh context and I have I was always so eating you we add at the University of Applied Sciences you're in Berlin for those ranges that you the walmart malice through their dope
chief the right so that was an excellent introduction into kind of a more specific look at Egyptian means a thank you for that and in fact means are indeed really find but there also are kind of a serious business you and so I want to start by sharing this particular image and which to me really represents the spirit of the Egyptian revolution and it's a sort of mentor mean it works on many levels and you see this kind of ultimate use of appropriation of protective headgear and and in reckon fashionable ways them in ways that probably are ridiculous and don't even work I'm an are quite humorous and and this image at images also
then perpetuated online became viral and cyberspace as well so it kind of and establish this function as a metonym both in physical space and also in some in cyberspace and making a kind of the perfect image and the perfect medium to talk about as an introduction to this lecture so media coverage of the arab spring is often credited social media for inciting uprisings in helping topple regimes why many skeptics argued this claim technological tools undoubtedly played significant roles not only in spreading information at an uncontrollable speed but also in providing their views with the voice they never had the as a result the world had front row seats an opportunity to engage a revolution regardless of nationality and geographic location this is truly what made the addition of revolution unique it's it's the fact that involve the world in a way that was unprecedented it went beyond television broadcasting and allowed for a dialog and engagement across borders across oceans and what better way than through humor social networking however is not new to the region as we all know Middle Eastern have been using the Internet and physical particular as a publishing platform for news and information far before the uprising started and at the time the the
right here in the problem the with too much jewelry if it had been killed the and
so it so you for using Facebook in particular and as a publishing platform for news and information far before the uprising started groups like the April 6 move youth movement and we are all offended side Facebook group which is often credited for starting the uprising gained mass media attention for call to eating a new wave of Egyptian activists they however emerged from an already established movement of activists and bloggers who had been active online for many years what changed however with the sudden absence of fear years of government threats detainment and torture became insignificant as the anti-government sentiment expressed by sex select few grew enormously overnight the political realm suddenly became personal as more use confronted by a bleak future express their anger in hopes of instigating change in a region where state-controlled perspectives have dominated the airwaves and more intimate voice surfaced on a much larger scale than ever before and this really was due to social media kind of enabled this very personal perspective that had been kind of impossible before this this point in time interestingly in the midst of uprising widespread fear Egyptians were not only using social media to mobilize opposition but also for spreading images the dubbed it the revolution of jokes as you see with this particular image the
online activities of them into the daily protests with some online jokes eventually finding their way into signage and chance at the his square and back online again people find it within themselves to express humor publicly in a time of crisis revealing a lot about how the Egyptian people have coped with decades of repression were political opposition or criticism was usually meant by arrest and torture and fortunately it still
is the regime's fear tactics worked for the most part and in fact the same oppressive structures were ready set in place before the melodic machine Egyptians have become accustomed to living in fear of the government that have been using humor to not only get around censorship but also to cope with the dire situation this coping mechanisms developed over 3 regimes dating back to 1952 and before that under the monarchy and the British Empire and before that such a such a so it's not surprising that humor was or is still used as a revolutionary tactics humor as 1 of the oldest and most subversive political tools there is it breaks the fear barrier and it works today's activists have turned to satire shifting protest tactics away from anger by using laughter this them laughter them is the word I particularly like it was coined by Serbian political activists city separable Popovich in active in wing which explains it's an activity that is designed to put the authorities in a position so that no matter how they respond they cannot win so the governments can either crackdown on human and risking the backlash and for making themselves look humorless or they can ignore it and risk as strengthening political opposition to either way it's a lose-lose situation acts of laughter there's a move beyond pranks they help break down the very essence of what keeps most dictators in place which is fear humor makes it cool to be an activist and this was very clear in Egyptian revolution and a lot of views in particular and were motivated and encouraged to participate because of the humor that existed online and at square and then there was a kind of an excitement about it humor also in the heart of the international community and this is what I found particularly interesting is that beyond the media broadcasting the gray overly politicized image of Egypt and the Middle East in particular the and the rest of the world had access to inside jokes and not only do they have access to it but they could also
participate and so a lot of means are a lot of slogans and posters that appeared in the square were then appropriated and used in other protests around the world and so the jokes kind of continued and from country to country and lastly humor is infectious stimulus this is quite obvious and it's much easier
to engage and through jokes but this is certainly not unique to Egypt and this has happened in many many revolutions it's been used as a revolutionary tactics and but again what what makes it unique is this the use of social media and the fact that it was accessible and to people around the world so during the initial days of the uprising and the moment the robotic regime denounced protesters for serving foreign agendas activist successfully use robots culture of fear against him in the early days of and water protest activists took to the his squared caring ordinary notebooks and an ingenious complaints they'd left the foreign agenda the home this kind of sets the tone for the Revolution so I don't realize that he asks
the with the mean that like existed in other places but and this is a really great mean that occurred so this is an image of more bought up as clonal Sanders from here and under the logo policy it says but tidy which means that in Arabic the so the Mubarak regime attempted to stick to the 4 game and so became the platform for the West vs. East argument the Kinsey means spread rapidly and became significant in its political implications during the 1st days of the revolution state media went to lengths to the legitimized protesters attacked you
square by port portraying them as drug dealers and prostitutes this is true they further accused here see the American fast-food restaurant located on the square of bribing protesters with chicken and so I don't think there could be anything more absurd than this this was the regime's transparent attempt at winning over the people by pinning Western powers which gives the against the country naturally the protesters lofted often turned it into rich material for jokes and chance about eating of the the local cushion the restaurant and the had even donated bold of questioning the traditional Egyptian dish labeled Kentucky as a joke in support of the protesters so here for
example you have a protest poster that states new from Kentucky combo used we and
Kentucky Fried Chicken kind of became a very central points of of the Revolution it kind of became uh a place of defiance and so this is the actual clear the at the square underneath it says no to move out of and it became kind of a place for people to stand up against the melodic regime yeah 1 of the most prominent means and that surface during additional days the Revolution was 1 that began with the word and Holland which means leave and so this is kind of a more serious uh image and with the word and on but it was often the mean itself was often followed by tongue-in-cheek statement for 1 what if needed to step down these means went viral in a matter of minutes of being posted here such examples so this 1 for example says
leave maybe you understand with hieroglyphics Pharaoh and and what was often referred to as a hero this
1 says leave me maybe you understand it backwards and the word error file is written backwards at the top
this 1 state leave already my hands hurt and you couldn't identify with the simple leave my hands were hurt the as the days wore on leave I want to shower leave I want to see my wife or leave my shoulders hurt as in this case the 1 says leave my shoulders hurt the son says leave I want to get married this 1 says leave I miss my wife we've only been married 20 days this 1
says leave the woman wants to give birth and that the boy doesn't want to see you the
and lastly this 1 says leave before the air runs out and so there are many many means of this nature that started with the word leave and then you know um some a message that really is a similar sentiment of people in various locations with various often absurd reasons for a
while but it should go and this was limited to the highest where I mean this happened around the world and the people had the kind of different excuses as to why we want to believe they were posted on facebook they were sent via e-mail and they just became viral instantaneous instantaneously and I think what's interesting about this means is that appeared to relate people's involvement and solidarity with the uprising was adding amusement to to a particularly unpredictable time so sharing a laugh often in real time created a sense of camaraderie among those who supported the call so even if you weren't able to be at the square protesting you could still have a sense of being involved by publishing your own leave mean but 1 of my favorite means and probably many people's favorite means is is this kind of hilarious incident and that's really the most memorable viral from a phenomenon called the guy behind almost and probably the most dramatic moment during the initial days of the Egyptian revolution Egyptians were glued to their TV screens anticipating a lot of bad that are Muslim and delivered the historic speech that ended the dictator's regime he was a vise president at the time for a very temporary time period and lurking in the background was this guy could and no 1 knew who he was he had a strange expression you he was unknown and people found him so peculiar that it calls into question who is this guy behind our statement and in
no time at Facebook group emerged called the guy behind mostly men and it became the hosting site for jokes about the unknown figure images of him Photoshop's into other historical and significant historical events a song a Twitter account and a YouTube video all poking fun of his seemingly unnecessary and absurd presence eventually the group was put to a stop however because people develop a conscience about the privacy of this particular man and his family and in fact his son stepped up and wrote onto the face with book group asking people to stop making fun of him he turned out to be an Egyptian Army lieutenant commander of the
Egyptians special forces and so out of respect he asked people to shut down the group but before it shut down some hilarious means ensued and this 1 in particular is my favorite and so as you can see this man has a very is all strange expression and uh and it's hard not to laugh at this 1 think so here he is
again behind the Pharaoh yeah he here's behind Tunisian then I'll to hear his
behind some dump a scene the here
his behind bush and
here is mine the Queen of England and there are many many more and in fact and there are also many platforms that were created where you can post your own picture with the guy behind almost
Silliman behind you so I'd like to show the video of this phenomenon good check it to you hit a wall and link TVs views supported watch more at Link TV guy work the high costs of these days each it is preoccupied with finding out the identity of the man standing behind the listener who has become the star of
post-revolutionary little not only
is how much of the President Mohammad pursue melodic decided to stand down from that it isn't in C n designated the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Act administrative affairs in the country Maegaard God notice that 1 of the more fort quarters that a lot of automatic teller
dylanologists only months amounts of Mubarak's resignation was followed by celebrations that lasted for days as the revolution achieved its main
goal ability that meanwhile a store
emerged in the days that followed the revolution in Egypt The man standing behind on
Suliman of popular scene in Egypt today go to the fruits of the Revolution including toppling the president stopping the corruption of and a man standing behind
more ones will be the man behind a mask of the mind has captivated Egypt's media in online communities all because this for a
short child has become omnipresent and people
are calling for the revelation of the identity of a
mysterious man went on Facebook the number of fan pages were created for the man behind on our Salima that he
appeared behind other master his resignation announced which he appeared behind Saddam and his
speech attacking Bush for you was
also put on the picture of Sayyid also half all he was also a star wars
and will be coaching Socrates he would this
phase was also placed on photos of all
significant political moments and even those in ancient history I've is that some people call for replacing the storage of
flat with the man behind all mossily it is
said that more Soliman denied knowing the
identity of the man behind on of an official
source of the man behind almost always mind was the owner of the microphone and was waiting for
the in the announcement so we could take his equipment and we would know Mubarak is living in the home of the man behind on our solution on
novel FC is canceled its contract Baltimore hospital or and signed the man
behind almost mossily what on call from
saying I wanna go back to the old days you talk to me all man behind or more so we'll
all the man behind or so 1 is also Chief of Staff essentially the the leader of the
Egyptian army special unit but of if several
Facebook groups emerge asking people to stop using his picture here while others apologized to him and his family for the photoshopped images and that is the same as a
mercenary due to their today homes have indicating
the most famous 3 things in images water here
square while gone in the and the man
behind almost to among yeah this program is brought to you by link to the for educational and noncommercial use only link to B is the only US network dedicated to global and national news uncompromising documentaries and diverse culture In the case of course a big part of that
is the parody thank you and so back to this original meaning that I have started with that the different helmets my hat is spread your government is invalid I wanna talk a little bit more about about means and and what they mean really and since you had already mentioned the origin of the name but ever since Richard Dawkins coined the term in 1976 to describe gene like units of culture that spread from person to person means have been subjects that have been the subject of constant academic
debate memetics is a scientific discipline that attempts to represent an evolutionary model of culture but is not yet an exact science there are many theories and approaches to the study of memetics the word meme was invented to describe cultural phenomenon through the same structures of biological evolution it attempts to address culture which shapes the minds of human beings as an evolutionary process that can be studied and understood and however poses a lot of questions like what can be a mean where does it start and where does it end does it exist inside our brains are not what role does human consciousness play in the process of memetics Dr. Susan Blackmore author of the mean machine suggests that memetics provides a completely different way of thinking about human evolution from other theories the fundamental difference is that culture is seen not as an annotation of benefit to early hominids and their genes but as a parasitic second-level replicator that appeared when our ancestors became capable of imitation In other words this definition implies a profound shift in how we
address our creative brains it implies that the function as a result of the human capacity to store and imitate rather than from this rather than from some special creative spark or power of consciousness
many of course would prefer to not acknowledge this perspective that the bit of the bleak outlook he well some academics go as far as to say that the study of memes will revolutionize psychology cultural anthropology political science and religious Studies others outright dismissed semantics as a science there is no doubt so that the study of memes is gaining momentum among Internet users with the Internet meme is now itself a mean and commonly used in the vernacular discourse of Internet users is used to describe the proliferation of images videos jokes etc from person to person via the Internet and has become such a common discourse in our daily life everybody has the means and has dealt with means the
internet meme has become 1 of the most multifaceted digital artifacts of rage investigating Internet memes can reveal a lot about our contemporary culture instead of C means as only mindless entertainment like this 1 for example Our research seems to be shifting words regarding means as essential parts of modern culture so how can we look at this particular image and how does it say how can we extract something from it what does it say about our contemporary culture furthermore on mining culture has seen a continuous increase in more localized Internet means the blending of global and local allow people to talk about their local topics closer in time and space and often language alongside the more universal themes and this I think was particularly important for the Egyptian
revolution because they were using a lot of means that were popular in the western world but with their own language over their own contacts and as such it became a kind of a a comparible entities you know the other countries that have a better understanding of the for what was going on in Egypt so 1 can argue that it allows for bridging of cultural understanding
that was my last page at this was unique uh this is the point in Egypt's not not that they were using humor for say a revolution is before Egypt used humor but the fact that everything was expressed online and made accessible on such a scale to the outside world world was unprecedented so not only were people exposed to the events broadcast media but through means and a much more personal insight to the events unfolding in the country means gained a sort of momentum not only in cyberspace but also in public space creating an inclusive dialog particularly in a country where not everybody has access to the internet it was interesting to watch the fluidity between the 2 realms remains would appear on social media and then appear out his where they would be
documented and then they would appear back again into the Sybase uh cyber sphere Sybase here and that each time with a slight alteration so somehow provided motivation excitement for people to not only take part in the dialog and share the fun but also witnessed the transformations of jokes from the Internet to public space and vice versa it also allows people like me who were abroad during the initial days of the revolution to participate and take part in the humorous discourse during a time of heightened then a concentrated moment of time the Egyptian revolution showed us that means helped shape the mind-set forms of behavior and actions of social groups in a significant way in Egypt and Internet meme became a way of communication as well as a form of action with humor at its center and also lighten the mood and continues to during very difficult times here it seems to be the default response to everything in Egypt 1 blogger state interestingly the tougher circumstances gets the more the jokes increased which explains why the here square was essentially a comedy explosion while another says not only can I not imagine a revolution in Egypt without jokes I cannot imagine anything into without jokes the date Egyptians stop joking are laughing as the day they have nothing to worry about these initial days of the revolution set the tone for how Egyptians have been expressing themselves in dealing with the political uncertainty that has ensued since humorous renditions open way to a visual culture of political mockery there was almost non-existent under the water regime and it was necessary that it was nonexistent exists it wasn't visible it wasn't apparent In an interview with CNN's Christiane poor Bisson Yousef who is now that means Egypt's John Stuart and he was uh has become famous even in the media recently 4 have been arrested for his parody show at the naming he says basically we're the drama queen of the world with everything happening we're kind of the International Political soap opera so it's a great time an error to have a political satire to comment on everything that's happening indeed Egyptian humor has existed before any revolution began but it has now been unleashed through alternative platforms that put it front and center the jobs of course have since changed due to to the transfer of power but luckily for another jokers have not been silence so what he means tell us about its future well that humor works and we can't stop being funny and
also there's a very long and hilarious road ahead and finally I can and the talk about means without having included that means you know and then you if you think you thank
if the I'm a