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Chapter 1

POLI 227 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Marc Lynch, Observational Error, Arab Spring

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 227
Rex Brynen

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Poli 227 reading notes
Marc Lynch, “Political Science and the New Arab Public Sphere,” Foreign Policy, 13 June
New technologies, along with new kinds of debates, created a new Arab public sphere. The
Internet and social media gave platform for scholars, activists, etc. to interact.
TV (media coverage) important as well ; el-Jazeera, 5-way split screen showing simultaneous
multiple protests as images of Arab Spring ; approaches news coverage through shared identity.
Its talk show turned Arab narrative to Arab public sphere through argument.
Social media, as well as unifying through forums, etc. polarized : different opinions
Stations like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya changed their to fit the interests of their owners (Qatar
and Saudi Arabia) = distorting effects
- No meaningful debate : If before, arguments showed diversity of views and unified
public through shared concern, now promotes polarization : mutually hostile camps =
no middle ground, no common identity
E : Bahrai’s uprisig rushes igored  edia, peaeful protestors ieed as radical.
Debate on credibility of information grew, dividing population.
Allure of online presence and street protest distracts from forming functional/meaningful
political parties.
- Ex : Egypt, unsatisfying transition to public sphere ; revolutionary groups unable to
translate their legitimacy into electoral success. Meanwhile, well-established parties like
Muslim Brotherhood adapt better.
Empowered publics and new flows of information rewriting the rules of regional politics.
Social media providing loads new data regarding study of Arab politics.
- Data used to track information flow : retweeting, linking, usage of hashtags or phrases.
- Used to test propositions ; online reactions as preview of real impacts.
- Must be careful of systematic bias in data sources : Only few have Twitter in Egypt, etc.
If goal it to generalize studies to mass public, cannot study only online population.
New publics, new forms of engagement. Technology provides platform for new local sources, ex
: Arab scholars rather than American ones.
- Need to include and take into account their ideas as well as challenge and debate them.
Not follow blindly or refuse because they are Arab.
For academics who wish to be relevant in public sphere, essential to adapt to changing
information flow, which requires relentless attention.
March Lynch, “Twitter Devolutions,’ Foreign Policy, 7 February 2013
Debate over the role of technology in evolution of Arab Spring. Whether it made the Arab
revolutions or not, is it now killing them?
- General tendency towards exaggeration cost some activists credibility.
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