Republic of Facebook

July 23, 2009

Following the beating and arrest of two youth activists and bloggers in Baku, who were using new media as well as Facebook to spread their ideas among their followers, the local online community has exploded in a way that prompted support from global community ifor the arrested bloggers and in general, the freedom of speech in Azerbaijan.

Living in an increasingly restricted society, failed by traditional media and broadcasting tightly controlled by the government, Internet users in Azerbaijan have embraced new media and social networking sites like Facebook as last refuge. Their usage of these online tools for communication and networking, mobilizing and news sharing, as well as advocacy and activism has resulted in what one blogger has effectively called Republic of Facebook .

Below are the excerpts and the summary of his blog post reproduced by the kind permission of the author.

Published in a start-up blog titled Bakrabo4iy , the post starts with a short retreat to the Soviet times:

In the USSR, the people were discussing politics in kitchen, sitting on white greased stools. Trusted friends would gather in the evenings and would have freethinking conversations. Without anxiety and fear that someone can spy on them, ideas of communism would be criticized harshly.

In Azerbaijan, everything is virtual and ironic nowadays. It is Facebook that plays the role of underground kitchen. The social networking site created by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 to connect young people and transformed into something like global Classmates all over the world, it has become almost the last bastion of freedom in Azerbaijan.

Then the writer gives a description of internet users in Azerbaijan dividing them into two loose groups. The first group, according to the post, consists of the majority with low educational level and poor Internet skills, who use those skills to meet mostly their material and physical desires. Then, there follows a description of the minority:

The second group of people in Azerbaijan is traditionally supposed to be abnormal. These unique smart guys and gals can be met only in Facebook. The majority of them know several languages and almost all speak English. All of them have higher education. Many studied abroad. They are liberals, democrats, intellectuals, cosmopolitans and objectivists.

The activities of this minority in Facebook are jokingly labeled ‘hooliganism’ by the author in an apparent hint to the ‘hooliganism’ charges that the arrested bloggers are indicted of.

What today happens in Facebook can be compared only to the Matrix. As if you live in a fine and fluffy world where opposition may revolt from time to time. And you do not pay any attention to them. It was always like that, and thus, it is sound and reasonable. So was always, it is self-evident.

But then you enter Facebook and see that quite affluent and successful people talk about those acute problems, which you already knew about, but could not accept their existence – all of these were beneath the fog for you. As if Morpheus has called you, appointed a meeting and gave a pill. Take it if you want to learn the truth, don’t take if you don’t. A choice is yours.

And here comes the Republic of Facebook:

Facebook is the non-existing Republic of Crimea of Vasily Aksyonov – the great writer had created an utopian republic not grasped by the red army and moving on his own way of development.

However, it is not correct to consider Facebook as a political hobby group. Facebook is an avant-garde, non-conformism, objectivism, talent, tolerance and the most important – honesty.

Jacobin Club of the pacifists.