Who’d have thought that the Internet was—and is still—capable of changing the world and its Geopolitics? The cradle of new digital revolutions has had its inception by the beginning of the 90s, officially launched by the British Computer Scientist, Tim Berners-Lee. As a matter of fact, in his article ‘Small Brothers are Watching You: Reflections on a Moroccan Digital Spring,’ Dr. Youssef Amine Elalamy tackled the implications of this technological shift on the social fabric—of this ever-developing change.
The title, a play on words, has an Orwell-esque reference, that of 1984: ‘Big brother is watching you!’ reads the posters on Oceania. In modern-day terms, it has, indeed, turned into small yet effective watching brothers. A reversal of power relations occurred. There’s not one omnipotent authoritative figure; there exist several small ones. Hence a dominator can be dominated and vice versa. In this respect, Pre and Post-digital eras are radically different. For people have developed new perceptions over the years when the Internet tore apart their blindfolds. This shift, then, has surely pushed two generations afar from each other: Digital natives and Digital Immigrants. Bridging this gap would be too hard a mission to accomplish but never Impossible.
In Morocco, the advent of the Internet has fertilized the ground to foster not only an array of opinions but also new ideologies and discourse(s). What was once a one-dimensional, Manichean perception has become multidimensional—supporting and adopting the excluded, repressed strata. Known for its censorship, the mainstream media has nipped many a thought in the bud, filtering content according to what suits the establishment. However, could it counter-attack the new, uncensored freedom the internet has provided its users with? Had it done that, perhaps we would not have witnessed the Arab spring—dead as it is now—and its implications for the MENA region, e.g. 20 February movement in 2011 Morocco. Standing impotent before the power of the Internet, mainstream media is left with one option, i.e. to turn a blind eye over facts; especially those of the political scene, manipulating those with no Internet access—for the Internet destabilized the status quo. However, the Internet has also given ground to SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) to prosper. A Social Justice Warrior, a pejorative term popularized on the internet, is an individual who engages shallowly, non-thoughtfully, in arguments on social justice on the Internet. Striving to raise their own personal reputation, Social Justice Warriors, as it were, are pseudo-activists—or netivists—for they do not care about the cause they’re fighting on behalf of as much as they consume and produce the same recurring comments, hoping to gain admiration from their social circle.
Recently in Morocco, many a protest took place in several cities; the indecent death of Mouhssine Fikri, crushed inside a garbage truck, pushed Moroccan citizens to question their dignity. To cut a long story short, Mouhssine was a fishmonger. Halted by two police officers to investigate his goods, Mouhssine refused to bribe them. They threw his fish in the garbage truck, confiscating his daily provision. Indignant at their unjustified, repressing even, action, he climbed inside the truck to save his goods when the police officer shouted, “T7an Mou!” (Crush him). The latter became the motto of the widespread protests all over the kingdom. That said, had the Internet not existed, no one would have known about Fikri’s vicious, inhumane death.
Many videos of the incident penetrated the Moroccan web scene, each from a different perspective, but they all served one purpose, i.e. the injustice Fikri had faced—and it was the starting point of the real-life protests. What began as a virtual protest turned into real demands: social justice, dignity, and freedom. If anything, Mouhssine Fikri’s death served as a wake-up call to the repressed, and it only portrayed what many a citizen faces daily: =the injustice of the establishment.
Following the incident, the Riff, situated in the region of northern Morocco, witnessed not only protests but, at times, riots, especially in Al-Houcima. Facebook’s live feature allows anyone with a phone to broadcast any kind of situations. And, as habit had it, the mainstream media have showed no interest in what the Riff has been undergoing ever since. Nacer Zefzafi, a young, uneducated yet charismatic figure led the protests in Al-Houcima, now jailed, became notorious for his appeal to the repressed, that they should stand for their rights, too. He was accused of Blasphemy, treason, destabilizing the state, and inciting riots—when not obedient becomes treason!
A chasm began to appear: those who support Nacer Zefzafi and those who do not. While the former thinks that he did the right thing, the latter deemed his actions as degrading toward the monarchy per se; hence his treason. Of course, one is inclined to think that whatever Nacer demanded, he has not called for the separation of the Riff from the state; rather, his demands are reasonable, fair, and realizable.
Thus, Nacer Zefzafi and the likes of his figure are to be considered as small brothers—watching over their Big brother. Nevertheless, unlike other web users who, perhaps, are actively following such political causes in the virtual world but passive in real life, Nacer Zefzafi is one of the few Netivists that has disrupted the status quo—making us believe, once again, that the Internet withholds enormous powers.