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Egypt: Gene Sharp Taught Us How To Revolt!

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

Last February, Sheryl Stolberg of The New York Times wrote an article about the political science professor, Gene Sharp, whose ideas were credited by her as being an inspiration for the Egyptian revolution, as well as many other uprisings in the region.

Few Americans have heard of Mr. Sharp. But for decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution — most notably “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt.

From Dictatorship to DemocracySome bloggers in the Arab world reacted right after the article was published, but not many people noticed the issue back then. Later on, about two months later, two Egyptian users on Twitter (@HanaSelim and @3arabawy) decided to use the Egyptian way in order discuss Mr. Gene's influence on the revolution. They started a new hashtag on Twitter that mocks the claims of The New York Times article – #GeneSharpTaughtMe.

@3arabawy: I was happy all my life under Mubarak, but suddenly #genesharptaughtme I must rebel.
@SohaBayoumi: People do start civil disobedience without having to have read a book theorizing about civil disobedience. #GeneSharpTaughtMe
@Zjen1: #GeneSharpTaughtMe how to grow and eat garlic and breath in my enemies faces so they will faint.
@M_Alhalaby: #GeneSharpTaughtMe that washing eyes with Pepsi lessens the effects of tear gas.
@CVirus: #GeneSharpTaughtMe how to dodge bullets.
@moneloky: #GeneSharpTaughtMe ازاي اتظاهر تضامنا مع قانون منع التظاهر
@moneloky: #GeneSharpTaughtMe How to protest in support of the law that bans protesting
@prof_mostafa: #GeneSharpTaughtMe how to make a Facebook group
@deetaha: #GeneSharpTaughtMe that social networks is the only method to communicate, even when the Internet is down.
@alaa: #GeneSharpTaughtMe how to throw rocks at thugs, baricade myself behind burned out car hulks, dodge petrol bombs
@mohamedhani: I used to believe that Khaled Said & torture victims died of tickling but #GeneSharpTaughtMe that I was wrong.
@deetaha: #GeneSharpTaughtMe about life, the universe and everything. I now know what 42 means!
@Cairo_On_a_Cone: #GeneSharpTaughtMe how to make chicken Tikka without actually killing the chicken. #NonViolence
@Omr_G: #GeneSharpTaughtMe hashtag taught that there is a person called Gene Sharp who is willing to take credit for our revolution.
@nermin79: #GeneSharpTaughtMe that the west always wants to be sure that white men get credit for all the great things that happen
@ArabUprising: #GeneSharpTaughtMe that backward brown & black people need the permission of the white man to #revolt against his puppets
@L_HommeRevolte: #GeneSharpTaughtMe that the Libyans got what they deserved for not following his teachings.
@BSyria: People in Syria today were chanting: “Our blood, Our souls, we sacrifice for you, O Gene Sharp!” #NotTrue #GeneSharpTaughtMe

I myself have never heard of Gene Sharp before, as so do many others, and that's why many of them started to wonder who Mr Sharp was after seeing the hastag.

@MoniicaNag: Who the heck is Gene Sharp?
@abdelrahmanG: I thought it's something related to biology, “gene”.

Mostafa Hussein remembered he'd already read one of his books before but draws the line there.

@moftasa: When someone reminded me of his writing. I thought he meant G# programming language.
@moftasa: I remember reading his book or parts of it in 2002 because I was looking for free ebooks to read, but then totally forgot about it.

Others also added their two cents.

@prof_mostafa: Is it real that some westerners think that #GeneSharpTaughtMe anything?!! Give me a break!
@alaa: hell more people read gramsci, cliff, negri, and even @NaomiAKlein and Chomsky than Gene Sharp in #Jan25 and #sidibouzid revolutions
@moftasa: Don't forget that the other side used tools & ideas from the west. Tear gas, spy software, kettling, US foreign policy. Let's list them here
@sarrahsworld: Gene Sharp issue is a perfect example of bad journalism.Very tabloid. Journalists reveal the truth, not suggest “media sexy” conclusions
@jilliancyork: I hope the @NYTimes is paying attention to the #GeneSharpTaughtMe hashtag.

Finally, Soha Bayoumi wanted to make it clear that Gene Sharp is not the one to be blamed here.

@SohaBayoumi: I respect Gene Sharp, but his books had almost no influence on the #Jan25 revolution.
@SohaBayoumi: Gene Sharp didn't claim his books inspired the #Jan25 revolution. Some Western mainstream media did. It's false.

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

19 comments

  • Can’t believe y’all JUST discovered that article. (I guess you were busy revolutioning at the time.) To be fair, the claim is that Otfor was influenced by Sharp and April 6 was influenced by Otfor. I like this Aljazeera piece more (skip to 4:23) http://youtu.be/QrNz0dZgqN8

    • Deyaa

      Just to clear things up, we have known about that article since its release but didn’t feel like making fun of it at the time. The thing is that every once in a while we (the Egyptian tweeps, collectively) agree on a hashtag and start a comic twitter party. We had had made fun of all the interesting events on that day and @3arabawy brought the Gene Sharp thing because we hadn’t spent much time rediculing it :D

  • […] American philospher’s ideas strongly influenced the demonstrators in Egypt. That article was widely mocked by Arab bloggers and […]

  • Rochtounsi

    Newyorktimes sucks…. and I never heard of that gene sharp before

  • […] whose name I first heard in my life only in February after we toppled Mubarak already and whom the clueless NYT moronically gives credit for our uprising. And even the leaders of social protests who were fighting for […]

  • […] spirit of Abbey Hoffmanesque theater of spontaneity and homage, the protestors themselves created a Twitter hashtag: […]

  • Maimoona

    Not to be giving Gandhi unecessary credit for any uprisings in the Middle East but Gene Sharp is definetely not the first to mention non-violent protest nor will he be the last.

  • […] idea that Sharp’s influence is exaggerated a bit much by Western commentators (like as usual at the NYT). Yet, his other important book From Dictatorship to Democracy seems to have influenced […]

  • lidia

    gene sharp is a proxy for CIA/USA imperialism who teaches how to topple leaders that USA do not like, including CHAVES! Yes, his “methods” are used by anti-Chaves “opposition” with USA money to boot, as usual. His book is ONLY works with USA imperialist backing, and even then – not always. To see the great results of his book “success” – look at Georgia, where police is beating opposition several years after the “rose revolution”.

    Sharp has NOTHING to do with Gandhi and MLK who fought against imperialism and racism. Sharp is a lackey of USA imperialism under “non-violent” mask. Beware!

    • ae

      BTW, lidia’s right, that’s why Gene Sharp had a nice article on him in that imperialist organ the New York Times. If ya want to learn more about Gene Sharp’s ties, look his Albert Einstein Institution on SourceWatch. Sure, those former US military officers on his board are just peaceniks, uh huh. Albert Einstein is rolling in his grave.

  • […] Arab bloggers mock Gene Sharp theory of Arab revolutions June 9, 2011 By admin Leave a Comment Follow the reactions here. […]

  • […] That is a question that has come up time and time again in leftist circles, both when discussing our reaction to oppression at home and abroad. Recently the topic has come up again within the context of the “Arab Spring” that led to the relatively expedient overthrow of governments in Tunisia and Egypt, and prolonged unrest and civil war in several other nations (e.g., Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain). Egypt, in particular, has been held up as an example of a so-called “nonviolent revolution”, although such a label strikes me as misleading, at best. For that to have truly been the case, we would require good reason to believe that the individuals and groups protesting the eventually deposed government somehow managed to withstand the violent onslaughts of the Mubarek regime without so much as firing a shot. As Richard at American Leftist reminds us, such a notion is laughable. Even more ridiculous, as Richard duly notes, have been those commentators who seem to have convinced themselves that those “noble savages” in Egypt would have never utilized nonviolent resistance (to the extent that they chose to) without the intervention of Euro-American theorists and organizations. Still more ridiculous have been those Euro-American commentators who have condemned those among the Egyptian resistance who did use violence against the oppressive violence of the state. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of folks in Egypt who did not appreciate being told by a bunch o…. […]

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