Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, June 05, 2008

All Atwitter Over Egypt's Totalitarianism

James Karl Buck is a bad, bad blogger. After all, he took photos of anti-government protests in Egypt. For his sins, he was tossed in jail.

He was released after putting up a one-word post via the Twitter network: Arrested! That rallied friends to his rescue, and now that the totalitarian government of Egypt has released him, he's using Twitter to try to free his translator, Mohammed Maree, who's lost somewhere in the Egyptian gulag.

His crime? Standing next to a guy who was taking pictures of a demonstration against the government. CNN picks up the story:
Buck was released, and his translator was moved to another police station. Now, attorneys say Maree still hasn't been charged and remains in prison.
Back in the United States, Buck has taken it upon himself to further capitalize on the power of his Twitter network, which is now more than 570 followers strong, to help free his translator and friend.

Fueled by the gnawing guilt of leaving Maree behind, Buck set out to enlist all of the help he could in hopes of sparking a movement for his release.

He began setting up a virtual online command post to demand Maree's release. He used everything from Twitter updates, blog posts on his own Web site to an electronic petition signed by more than 900 people.
It's working, maybe. As a result of his Twittering, Buck got CNN engaged, and CNN has grilled the Egyptian consul in San Francisco, who's made inquiries back home. Buck has also gotten human rights groups and attorneys interested -- all through his Twitter network. Do a Google search on his name name, and you'll find that Twitter has launched Buck into the www's upper atmosphere, with 240,000 hits.

That sort of stuff separates Maree from the other political prisoners Egypt (one of the good Islamic nation, mind you), a country that holds legions of citizens without trial in prisons that make Guantanamo look like Club Med.

Buck just might succeed in his efforts to free Maree. After all, he's bringing a Marine-like intensity to his effort. CNN quotes him on what motivates his efforts to free a guy he barely knew:
"It's absolutely an unconditional moral imperative. You just don't leave your men behind."
Maree is still in jail, and human rights advocates who have seen him say he's been tortured and moved from prison to prison. That could be human rights propaganda, or it could very likely be true.

What's true for sure is that totalitarian despots are facing a new world, one that exposes their crimes and excesses faster and more broadly than ever before. Unlike the Bladerunner and Matrix futures, where technology chains us, we live in a present where it's being used as a powerful force for freedom.

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