Published: Friday 6 January 2012
“In surveys, 84% of Egyptians and 66% of Lebanese regarded democracy and economic prosperity as the Arab Spring’s goal.”

The self-immolation a year ago of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi triggered a wave of popular protests that spread across the Arab world, forcing out dictators in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Now, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, too, seems near the end of his rule.

Together, these movements for change have come to be known as the Arab Spring. But what values are driving these movements, and what kind of change do their adherents want? A series of surveys in the Arab world last summer highlights some significant shifts in public opinion.

In surveys, 84% of Egyptians and 66% of Lebanese regarded democracy and economic prosperity as the Arab Spring’s goal. In both countries, only about 9% believed that these movements aimed to establish an Islamic government.

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For Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, where trend data are available, the Arab Spring reflected a significant shift in people’s values concerning national identity. In 2001, only 8% of Egyptians defined themselves as Egyptians above all, while 81% defined themselves as Muslims. In 2007, the results were roughly the same.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, however, these numbers changed dramatically: those defining themselves as Egyptians rose to 50%, 2% more than those who defined themselves as Muslims.  Among Iraqis, primary self-identification in national terms jumped from 23% of respondents in 2004 to 57% in 2011. Among Saudis, the figure jumped from 17% in 2003 to 46% in 2011, while the share of those claiming a primary Muslim identity dropped from 75% to 44%.

There has also been a shift toward secular politics ...

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“The two top stories for the three networks during the year included the NATO-backed uprising in Libya and the killing of its long-time leader Col. Moammar Gaddafi, and the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and its aftermath.”

The so-called "Arab Spring" led U.S. network television evening news coverage during 2011, comprising a total of about 10 percent of all the news coverage provided by the three major commercial networks during 2011, according to the latest annual review by the authoritative Tyndall Report.

Indeed, the two top stories - of both foreign and domestic news - for the three networks during the year included the NATO-backed uprising in Libya and the killing of its long-time leader Col. Moammar Gaddafi, and the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and its aftermath.

The Libya story garnered a combined total of nearly 700 minutes of network coverage - or roughly five percent of total coverage - on the evening news programs of ABC, CBS and NBC, while events in Egypt received nearly 500 minutes.

Much less time, however, was devoted to the uprisings in Syria (143 minutes), Bahrain (34 minutes), and Yemen (29 minutes), as well as to general overviews of what some experts have called the "Arab Awakening" (42 minutes) that has been roiling the countries of North Africa and the Middle East since last winter.

"Normally, the networks rev up foreign coverage only when the U.S. is embroiled in military action abroad," noted the report's founder and editor, Andrew Tyndall. "But this year, they provided more international news in which the U.S. troops were not directly involved on the ground than in any other since 1991."

While U.S. airpower was used as part of the NATO campaign to oust Gaddafi, no U.S. ground troops were deployed to Libya.

"Simply put, the type of foreign policy that attracts the most attention is war – the use of military force. Diplomacy is much less newsworthy and leaves room for more of the international angle in covering global hotspots," he told IPS in an email exchange.

The two ...

Published: Monday 19 December 2011
If “we exist” is the signature statement of 2011, the name of the year would have to be “Occupy Wall Street.”

On the streets of Moscow in the tens of thousands, the protesters chanted: “We exist!”  Taking into account the comments of statesmen, scientists, politicians, military officials, bankers, artists, all the important and attended to figures on this planet, nothing caught the year more strikingly than those two words shouted by massed Russian demonstrators.

“We exist!”  Think of it as a simple statement of fact, an implicit demand to be taken seriously (or else), and undoubtedly an expression of wonder, verging on a question: “We exist?”

And who could blame them for shouting it?  Or for the wonder?  How miraculous it was.  Yet another country long immersed in a kind of popular silence suddenly finds voice, and the demonstrators promptly declare themselves not about to leave  the stage when the day -- and the demonstration -- ends.  Who guessed beforehand that perhaps 50,000 Muscovites would turn out to protest a rigged electoral process in a suddenly restive country, along with crowds in St. Petersburg, Tomsk, and elsewhere from the south to Siberia?

In Tahrir Square in Cairo, they swore: “This time we’re here to stay!”  Everywhere this year, it seemed that they -- “we” -- were here to stay.  In New York City, when forced out of Zuccotti Park by the police, protesters returned carrying signs that said, “You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.”

And so it seems, globally speaking.  Tunis, Cairo, Madrid, Madison, ...

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