As Juan Cole pointed out to Democracy Now's Amy Goodman this story is unsurprisingly being ignored by our corporate 24/7 cable news outlets.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re spending the hour on the revolution that is unfolding right now in Tunisia. The latest news is that three members of the national unity government representing the protests in the streets have just pulled out of that unity government. We’re going first to Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan. His blog is "Informed Comment" online at juancole.com. His most recent book, Engaging the Muslim World. And then we’ll be joined by Anthony Shadid, based in Beirut, also in Baghdad, but now in Beirut.
Juan Cole, this latest news and the significance of this revolution?
JUAN COLE: Well, this is the first popular revolution since 1979. But it’s distinctive in that the Iranian Revolution in 1979 was ultimately taken over by the ayatollahs, by a clerical elite, and so it didn’t develop in a democratic direction, whereas this revolution so far has been spearheaded by labor movements, by internet activists, by rural workers. It’s a populist revolution, and not particularly dominated in any way by Islamic themes, it seems to be a largely secular development. And it’s occurring in a Sunni and an Arab country, unlike Iran, which is Persian and Shiite. And it’s occurring in a country that has many similarities to other countries living under authoritarian regimes with limited employment opportunities and a kind of long-term economic stagnation. So, it’s something that other Arab countries might well look to—the publics, at least—for inspiration.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the coverage? As I raced through my TV dial this weekend, trying to find coverage, it was extremely difficult to find coverage of the revolution in Tunisia.
JUAN COLE: Oh, the U.S. 24-hour cable news networks fell down on the job with regard to Tunisia. Ben Wedeman, a veteran reporter at CNN, made heroic efforts, did get to Tunis. I don’t get a sense that his dispatches were put through by his editors back in Atlanta. And mostly, you couldn’t find out what was going on in Tunisia from television, from American mass media. You had to be on the internet. There’s a Twitter channel, "SidiBouzid," which is excellent. There are Facebook formats. The French press, if one knows—if you can read French, was much better. But the American corporate news just blew off this story. They’re not interested in it. They don’t seem to think it’s important. Or maybe they’re a little bit afraid of it, because it is, after all, a revolution made by workers, and American corporate media are a little nervous about things like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan Cole, what if it was an Islamist revolution?
JUAN COLE: Well, had this been a revolution led by the Muslim party, the Ennahda, by the longtime opposition leader Rashid Ghannoushi, then I’m quite sure that it would have been 24/7 coverage. It would have knocked off of the news many of the fluff stories that dominated it. But since it was a labor revolution and an internet activist revolution, it wasn’t seen as connected in any way to the master narrative of American foreign policy, which is now the—still the war on terror, even though they don’t call it that.