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The Arab Street Responds To Fear Of Memes By Producing Tons Of Meme Videos

from the harlem-sheikh dept

You will remember the nation of Tunisia for being a flash point of the Arab Spring revolution, in which social media and the internet played a massive role, as well as for the post-revolution government's subsequent crackdown on those tools that brought them into power. There seems to be something of an ongoing problem within Middle East governments, in that they simply don't recognize how to handle popular dissent, often taking on the very characteristics of the dissenter's complaints to an almost caricature level. In that respect, while it may sound silly, any government learning to deal with the open communication system of the net is going to have to come to terms with memes and the manner in which they spread.

Which brings us back to Tunisia. They seem to have a problem with this Gangam Style, Harlem Shake combo-video produced by some apparently fun-loving Tunisian students (the original was taken down due to a highly questionable copyright claim, by the way, because while even the Tunisian government wasn't evil enough to block the video, a bogus DMCA claim had no such qualms).


For reasons that will never make sense to me, the Tunisian government apparently had a problem with the video and its popularity, prompting an investigation. And if you think about it for five seconds, you've probably already guessed what the response from Tunisia's people has been.

They danced en masse to the song and posted their exploits on YouTube. That prompted a quarter of a million hits and reports of an investigation by the country's minister of education and that prompted a backlash. Video after video after video of Tunisians proudly doing the Harlem shake in defiance.
Dear Tunisian people: congratulations! You've officially been made full members of the internet community now that you've engaged in trolling your own government as a form of protest. It's only a matter of time before you'll be naming soft drinks after fluid-expelling geriatrics.

Over in Egypt, the government didn't stop at a simple investigation, however. Four students were arrested for taking part in this Harlem Shake video shot in front of the Giza pyramids.


The response? A massive protest Harlem Shake performed directly in front of the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters.

Sorry, Middle East governments, but the people have spoken, and they want their damned memes. And, actually, that brings to mind the obvious question: how the hell are memes a threat to you to begin with?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    jameshogg (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 4:12am

    Copyright: more important than revolutions?

    Watch as fools will try to say how all of this should be censored in the name of copyright. Absolute, fucking, fools.

    Similar to how they would have censored the pirated copies of Animal Farm and 1984 that were circulating among those being oppressed by the Soviet Union in the name of, get this, "fighting the communist-pirate agenda". Either it is "communist", "terrorist", or just plain "thief". The one with the most interchangeable but contradictory insults is usually the one who is wrong.

    We all know that SOPA and PIPA would have resembled the Soviet Union's methods of oppression as well as the Great Firewall of China's. They are in no fucking position to be saying they are "against communists". And we all know the piracy rate would have gone UP as a result of those laws just like China's piracy rate is 80% despite the Great Firewall. No amount of common sense gets through to the copyright maximalists whatsoever.

    But maybe this will. There IS one country in the world that has probably reduced their piracy rate to 0%, due to the fact that its citizens probably do not know what arts actually are, and that is North Korea. So maybe it is possible!

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 4:41am

    Argument

    how the hell are memes a threat to you to begin with

    Clearly, they promote the child sex trade. Why are you supporting the child sex trade? What kind of person are you to be exploiting children this way? It is terrible I tell you. TERRIBLE!

    We need to censor this for the sake of the children! You and other supporters of selling children into the sex trade should be ashamed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 4:55am

    Re: Argument

    Inb4 Poe's Law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Pete Austin, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 4:56am

    Re: how the hell are memes a threat to you to begin with?

    They cause disorder. "[A] prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise" - The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli
    http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince17.htm

     

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  5.  
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    Blatant Coward (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:00am

    Memes become traditions

    "...Coined by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catch-phrases, fashion and the technology of building arches."

    Isn't this how religions start?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:03am

    I'm guessing they fear the discovery that the conservative/reactionary practice of Religion is just a Meme.

     

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  7.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:16am

    I have recovered my faith in humanity a bit today.

    Unite brothers in lulz! Mockery can be an insanely powerful tool!

    I'd guess they think the younger generation behavior a threat to all the religious bullshit that keeps them in power.

     

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  8.  
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    jameshogg (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:19am

    Re: Memes become traditions

    Yes it is. The best way to describe memes is the "natural selection of ideas". Religions are superstitious nonsense that manifest from our tendencies to see patterns where no patterns exist, as well as our fear of death - and because all humans are similar in this respect, it is easy to see why a common idea that best suits the need for illusions would survive and spread.

    It also explains why certain religions are more prominent in certain areas around the globe: simply being around a religious culture will make you more prone to taking on the ideas yourself, and is especially true when it comes to childhood indoctrination.

    Memes and cultures are intertwined, and it is undoubtedly true that the internet is manifesting cultures of its own with its own memes due to the ease of putting together a video with a cheap camera, internet connection and CTRL C+V on a keyboard.

    But yet, all this CTRL-Ving has to be resisted and oppressed according to copyright believers. This is hysterically delusional.

     

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  9.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:21am

    Because one dancer was dressed as a cleric? Or because another wore his underwear outside his pants and made sexual hip movements?

    You can disagree with the people who didn't like the video, but it's not all that hard to surmise why they didn't like it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:28am

    Those in power in autocratic countries see this as people organising themselves, which is a direct threat to their power. They will do everything in their power to prevent the people organising themselves.
    The whole objective of a states repression of its people is to destroy their trust in each other, and so stop them from organising themselves in opposition to the state.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:35am

    M because it is evidence that the people are willing and able to organize in any manner.

     

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  12. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:40am

    Timmy the (blind) Middle East expert.

    >>> "There seems to be something of an ongoing problem within Middle East governments,"

    WELL, the CIA is funding all those "popular" uprisings, and then at chosen time US (and NATO) military gives direct support, as in Libya. Anyone who honestly asks how large groups of militants suddenly pop up in country after country well supplied with weapons will find the obvious absolutely nailed down, no "theory" about it.

    Here's just one typical recent item:

    http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2013/03/confirmed-us-shipping-weapons-to-syria.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    iambinarymind (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:08am

    THE MEMES!

    Reading the government response to the memes immediately brought to mind the dialogue from the absurd final battle in the video game 'Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" and the following animated .gif/meme referencing it:

    THE MEMES!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 6:51am

    Re: Timmy the (blind) Middle East expert.

    Is there a reason you always refer to me as Timmy? That isn't my name....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 7:50am

    Re: Re: Timmy the (blind) Middle East expert.

    To quote Joshamee Gibbs in Pirates of the Caribbean:
    "Reason's got nothin' to do with it."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    TheLastCzarnian (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 7:53am

    Re: Re: Timmy the (blind) Middle East expert.

    Probably a South Park reference, or just to belittle you.

    Life cereal has made me hate the name "Mikey" so I feel for ya.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    mattshow (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:44am

    Halrem Shake videos are a threat... to my sanity

    Maybe the governments of Tunisia and Egypt just find Harlem Shake videos really f**king annoying. I'm with them on that one.


    Being really f**king annoying isn't a good reason to arrest people though. If it was, the Internet would be a much lonelier place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    AB (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Timmy the (blind) Middle East expert.

    Making fun of someone's name is one of the longest standing (and easiest) traditions of bullying.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Jesse (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 10:21am

    Re: Copyright: more important than revolutions?

    All of this should be censored in the name of copyright.

    You saw it here first, folks!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Rekrul, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 11:34pm

    Dissent is a crime against Islam!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2013 @ 6:04am

    Re: Re: how the hell are memes a threat to you to begin with?

    Can't tell if serious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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