The world is certainly a fascinating place.
January 25th is, apparently, Police Day in Egypt. This reminds me of the wonderful habit of naming short segments of Chicago streets after locally relevant ethnic heroes and of the oft-cherished Casimir Pulaski day. That is, you give benefits to those whose support you require. The Democratic machine and Irish mayors of Chicago do it, and it certainly looks like the Egyptian regime does it as well. [The origins actually come from a British murderous attack on a police station in Egypt in 1952 that killed 50 and led to anti-British riots, which is not to say that supporting the police by giving them the holiday is incompatible with the patronage idea.] At any rate, on this holiday, dissidents decided to protest the Mubarak regime. Undoubtedly (although to what extent?), they were spurred on by the recent successful ousting of Tunisia’s Ben Ali. Massive demonstrations ensued. Tahrir Square was full of protesters.
For my purposes, protests in capital cities are of course relevant. But I want to note a tiny detail that will be forgotten if Egypt proves to be closer to Beijing in 1989 than Tunisia in 2011 (i.e. shoots the protesters) relates to what is condensing into the second book project, on the information problems of autocracies. Gamal Mubarak, the son of Hosni and his most likely successor, was reported to have fled with his family to London on the evening of the 25th. Fleeing does not project strength in such a situation, to say the least. The source of this claim has been said to come from Akhbar Al-Arab weekly in the US. It almost goes without saying that if potential protesters believe that the leader’s all-but-officially-designated successor has fled the country they will be more likely to protest. And that, like many issues when dealing with waves and information cascades, changes in beliefs by some can lead to actions that lead others to change beliefs and actions and so on. Very interesting times indeed.
I suppose that we’ll have to wait and see.