Arab Spring in North Africa: Still Winter in Morocco?
Rebecca S. Robinson AUSACE Atlanta, Georgia November 19, 2012
Arab Spring created a media hailstorm but nations that did not achieve complete revolution were overlooked Morocco offers an interesting case study for social media researchers Examine why OCA of Blogoma failed to explain how event would unfold Argument: Fragmentation of society manifests online and off. Collective action frames of the Blogoma failed to resonate with the greater population.
Lead author’s ethnographic research 2007- 2009: employed participant observation, content analysis, interviews, and surveys This research oriented us to the primary concerns of the bloggers: civil liberties and freedom of speech, govt accountability Updated in 2012 through the discussions of many of the same informants and they oriented us to new blogs Examined dozens of blogs in English and French (Feb 20, referendum, elections)
Significant social, economic, political, religious, linguisti c, and ethnic distinctions DD not so much the binary of un/linked (Selwyn 2004; Graham 2011) but similar societal divides manifest off/online or are exacerbated (Farrell 2012; Couldry 2012) Linguistic divide: even lower classes with access may not contribute to Blogoma Arabophone bloggers, at times from divergent socio-economic backgrounds, less likely than Francophone to cover Mourtada and Erraji arrests
“Homophily” reaffirms that interest of group are most important issues (Farrell 2012) Blogoma presents as a unified front although societal fragmentation prevalent Diagnostic frames identified in earlier research: expand liberties and free speech through govt accountability Prognostic frame: parliamentary monarchy Benford and Snow (1988) salience and credibility most important
Bloggerspart of media landscape so clearly free speech important part of movement Not directly affected by poverty, illiteracy, lack of services that preoccupy majority of population, which impedes salience Regime started campaign to discredit protesters/bloggers as inauthentic Moroccans and called upon the true ones to uphold sacred institutions through voting PJD not implicated in past corruption so able to maintain credibility unlike bloggers/protesters
Started as networking community in 2004 but began to exhibit solidarity of a collective, especially surrounding censorship issues: Google Earth, YouTube, Mourtada, Erraji Less success in influencing politics (abstention/anti-PJD in 2007 elections) Success in social initiatives: BlogonsUtile! and Gaza relief 1st survey: 18:21 said censorship issues were most important 2nd survey: 42 unanimously said Moroccans should be able to debate sacred institutions
Feb 20 resonates w/ Blogoma initiatives: parliamentary monarchy free from arbitrary rule and special favors (grima) Some linkages theoretical, others clear Former informant, Hisham Almiraat, co-founder of Mamfakinch—covers protests Feb 20 viral YouTube video offers various reasons for protesting: freedom, equality, better living standards, education, labor rights, minority rights (Lalami 2011) Regime responds w/ subsidies, jobs, reforms
Why did the protests not result in revolt? 1st: Alaouais have maintained popularity-- 1,200 yo dynasty descends from Prophet, Moroccans inculcated with inseparability of God, state, and monarchy (Roumana 2011), regime scapegoating 2nd: King central to stability—April Marrakech bombing (M4C 2011)—against militants, used to squelch assembly (Hogan 2011) 3rd: part-time protesting (Imad 2011), movement splintering (37 orgs) (M4C 2011)
4th:middle class dubious of the ability of the lower classes to participate in democracy (Tourabi 2011) Blogoma/Feb 20 reject integration of religion into politics not likely to have voted for PJD, which has managed to avoid scandals PJD promises to reduce poverty, increase wages, and fight corruption (Cabalmuse 2011), which are more concrete than Blogoma/Feb 20’s abstract ideas of liberties Majority believe that PJD can reform system
Majority of Moroccans voted for change through PJD Islamic-oriented political parties have offered services for years (Cohen and Jaidi 2008) Not likely concerned PJD’s rumored changes: liquor sales, co-ed beaches, promoting hijab Coalitions integral to effective politicking (Almiraat 2011)—hopefully expected change will be realized The Arab Spring has not passed Morocco by: it is in hibernation for the winter