I am the first to admit that I am ill-informed of current events. The thing is, while school is on, I’m happy to listen to NPR news the whole commute, and I like knowing what’s going on in the world. But I don’t generally seek out the news (although I’ve got the news on right now if that makes anyone feel better).

With that in mind, even I noticed that some shit seemed to be going down in Egypt. I just had no idea really what. Something about a terrible president and elections and turning off the internet and etc. The problem is, all the news reports assume you already know a lot of the news that led up to the new news, so if you come late to the party, you just end up confused. It struck me that a lot of people are probably in the same boat, thus I am stepping forward to say, “I have no idea what’s going on.”

As is my custom when wanting to know the whole story behind some political/current event, I asked Eric about it. In general, Eric is the most well-informed person I know, and would not only be more concise than the million articles I’d find with a Google search, he’d be more entertaining and probably provide visual aids.

So, as a kind of tribute to Liz Tells Frank, my friend’s website wherein she explains terrible movies and books to our friend Frank, who doesn’t have the time or inclination to watch/read them himself, I offer you this transcript of the IM conversation that I am unofficially titling, “Eric Tells Kara About What’s Happening in Egypt” (slightly edited since IMing is pretty non-linear at times, and yes, Eric and I both know that Europeans did not become totally stupid during the Dark Ages, so you can hold your comments to that effect).

(Too long? Here is the video Eric links at the end.)

kara: ok so what’s happening in egypt

kara: i could read a million articles or just ask you

kara: you’ll probably be more concise and make more sense

eric: haha

eric: everybody wants the president (read: dictator) to step down b/c the government has been corrupt & violating human rights for like 30 years

eric: and the US is in a complicated position b/c we’ve been funding the Mubarak regime for most of that time

eric: so now everybody is like, “well do you support democracy or not, USA?”

kara: they want the president who was just elected to step down?

kara: well why did they elect him? or was the election fixed

eric: no the president has been in power for 30 years

kara: oh the news is making it sound like he is a new guy

eric: he just appointed a new vice president

eric: basically all the people were saying “this whole government sucks. get out”

eric: and the pres said “how about I just appoint a new vice president who is my best friend?”

eric: and everyone was like “LOL GTFO”

kara: i’m still confused

kara: why all the ruckus now

kara: all of the sudden after 30 years

eric: i think the big uprising & new govt in tunisia last week kind of got everybody excited

eric: also, according to all the docs wikileaks has been releasing, there’s been a growing movement in egypt for a year or so preparing for this, that the US knew about

kara: ???

kara: see, i would never have gotten the whole story if i googled

eric: this says that the US brought over some anti-Mubarak guys and gave them training on how to organize a protest movement

eric: and the guy was like “hey, so there’s this big shit that’s about to go down next year”

eric: and we were like “lol, that seems crazy”

kara: so we’re funding Mubarak’s evil 30 year dictatorship, but also funding an underground protest movement against him?

eric: Gotta cover all your bases!

kara: god, we suck.

eric: also, we make tear gas

kara: is that tear gas used against egyptian protesters?

eric: it’s a guy in egypt holding up the ‘Made in USA’ tear gas canister

eric: not sure why we’d print that on there

eric: but there you go

eric: seems like it’s adding insult to injury

kara: so we also funded the protesters and the weapons used against the protesters?

eric: apparently

eric: anyway, it’s unclear whether we actually funded the protestors

kara: but we definitely sent them that dude?

eric: not sure. from that wikileaks thing it just kind of sounds like we talked to him but didn’t necessarly give any support

kara: ok so what’s the deal with turning off the internet

eric: turning off the internet was supposed to help interfere with the protestors b/c they were using the internet to coordinate their actions

eric: that’s another really interesting thing about the whole situation

eric: is that it seems to be really well organized

eric: like… there’s been no one leader or group that’s taken responsibility for everything, and yet still it’s gone off without a hitch

eric: even after the internet went down

kara: hmmm

kara: ok so that is kind of suspicious

kara: or impressive?

eric: they were showing these pamphlets that people were distributing that talk about how to get the biggest crowds, what materials to bring to deal with tear gas, etc.

kara: wow

eric: well it kind of supports what the random dude who talked to the US guys said

eric: that they’ve been planning this for awhile

eric: anyway, what *I’m* wondering is whether wikileaks had a hand in supporting all this b/c we know they’ve had all the cables since last year

eric: and one of them was all about the guy that talked to the US

eric: and one of the things he said was “we want to make Mubarak look really bad. Like a brutal dictator”

kara: hmm

eric: and then right after all the shit started going down wikileaks released all the cables about his human rights abuses

eric: Assange must have just been *waiting* for that one =D

kara: hmmm

eric: anyway, it’s a brilliant move on wikileaks’ part

eric: b/c once again they demonstrate the accuracy & importance of their information

eric: but without actually interfering in events

eric: just wait for the right moment & then publish the related docs

eric: oh also, the guy who now is leading the opposition movement is one of the former nuclear weapons inspectors who told the US not to invade iraq

eric: so, whoops

eric: but he’s a nobel peace prize winner, so it’s kind of hard to talk trash on him

kara: ha!

[...]

kara: are you going to get disappeared if i publish this thing about you wondering if wikileaks is involved

eric: hope not!

kara: should I not?

eric: nah, go ahead and post it

eric: if i get disappeared try to get me a lawyer

eric: they still haven’t prosecuted assange yet, right?

kara: you’re asking ME??

eric: hehe, no i was saying… they haven’t

eric: http://imagesarchive.org/archive/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/5360afa023YU3Ww.jpg-500×362.jpg

[...]

eric: apparently they have started busting a bunch of people who participated in that big DDOS on visa & paypal while assange was in prison

kara: ????

eric: operation payback?

eric: they were upset b/c amazon & visa & paypal & etc. stopped accepting money for assange’s defense fund

kara: oh. that is not cool of those companies

kara: they should not be taking sides

kara: like, don’t accept money for child porn or something, that’s one thing

eric: yeah at first they were all like “the government told us to”

eric: but then later they rescinded that

eric: but who knows if the government told them to say that

kara: hm

eric: well it is kind of unfortunate that so many of the companies required for international commerce are in the US

eric: it’s the same thing with copyright

eric: the US won’t sign treaties with other countries unless they agree to our copyright terms

eric: it’s like fight club! =D

kara: on the news right now there is a story about an internet killswitch in the US on the cybersecurity bill

kara: wtf

eric: yep

eric: bet lieberman wishes he had brought that up at a different time =P

kara: i mean i am not so naive that i don’t think something like that already exists

kara: but it’s one thing to have it as a secret nsa thing or whatever, and another to try to get it tacitly approved by the elected government

eric: yeah

eric: i think the government is just confused by what’s happening. they are used to being able to silence things they don’t like, but now they’re at the point dealing with global orgs. like wikileaks where they realize the only way to keep the cat from getting out of the bag is to just shut down the whole internet

eric: like when movies or music gets leaked and they try to shut down major bittorrent sites

eric: too late

eric: they blocked wikileaks’ DNS provider, but now there are hundreds of mirrors

eric: i dunno i’m pretty optimistic about things in any case

kara: yeah?

eric: it’s like… all of this is just teaching us where the weak points in the internet are (dns, payments, etc.)

eric: so we can improve all that

eric: and in the event they shut it all down then we’ve got a pretty good example of how to deal with that too

eric: everybody go outside & start occupying cities

kara: i don’t know – americans aren’t so good lately about standing up for themselves, it seems

eric: true

eric: but it probably wouldn’t take too much to disrupt that complacency

eric: like more expensive oil & food or whatever

eric: anyway, hopefully our government is better prepared to adapt to change than a dictatorship like egypt though

kara: i am not real optimistic about that

eric: what we need are some new countries!

[...]

kara: so is that the whole story with egypt?

eric: as far as i know

eric: although it’s still very much up in the air

eric: i think the main worry that a lot of people have is that they don’t know who will be in control once everything settles down

eric: they’re hoping it won’t be like… islamic fundamentalists

eric: like the taliban or the dudes in iran

eric: but we’ll see

eric: people don’t give secular islam enough credit

eric: didn’t those guys like… save us all from the dark ages?

kara: yeah, they were awesome

kara: they were modern and enlightened when europe was scrounging around trying to figure out where they’d misplaced language or whatever

eric: they were like… i see you’re stewing up some frogs over there. have you considered… algebra?

[...]

eric: video

kara: whoa

kara: that is a lot of people!

kara: are they firing into the crowd?

kara: oh is that ‘made in USA’ tear gas

eric: yeah think so

eric: hope they read those pamphlets & brought some rubber gloves to throw it off the bridge

addendum: Eric also notes that the best coverage of the happenings in Egypt have come from Al Jazeera’s live streams, and now a lot of people are campaigning to get them added to various cable packages.