Global Economics

Charlie Rose Talks to Wael Ghonim


Charlie Rose Talks to Wael Ghonim

Photograph by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Where do you think the revolution in Egypt stands today?
There are two ways to look at things. One is basically to look at the positive side of the story. We have achieved, in one year, what we never thought could happen. If someone comes in and tells me, 13 months ago, Mubarak is going to be out, his son is going to be in prison, no more Mubarak government, his party’s going to be dissolved—and 27 million Egyptians are going to vote for Parliament members who are then actually going to go to the Parliament—I will say, “You need to see a psychiatrist because this is not happening in Egypt.” But the fact is, it happened. Yeah, there are many other challenges. The first and most critical thing is the complete transfer of power from the military rule to an elected president, something that needs to happen before, I believe, the writing of a constitution.
 
The many, many leaders of Egypt’s revolution weren’t political revolutionaries, they were not longtime opponents of the government seeking leadership roles, they were people like you. Now it’s a different set of people who are competing for power, right?
One of the best things that has happened since the revolution started is the political engagement. So many parties were created, so many young people are joining them, a lot of movements are being created. For the first time in 60 years, 27 million Egyptians take to the streets to vote. I remember I was in a cafe when they aired the first parliamentary session. Everyone was watching it as if it was the most important soccer match. Are these things enough to make changes for the country at the pace we all want? The answer is no. But is this good for Egypt in the long term? I really think it is.
 
Do you think that what lies at the heart and soul of the Arab Spring can reach beyond the Arab world—to North Korea, or Iran, or the Soviet Union?
If the Arab revolution taught us something, it’s that the power of the people is greater than the people in power. In Egypt, if you asked Egyptians before Mubarak stepped down, “Do you want Mubarak in this country?” they would say, “No, but we don’t know what to do about it.” Any country that has reached this status, their dictator has to understand that it’s coming. It’s coming mainly because people now communicate with each other much easier, collaborate with each other much easier. A politician’s job is now to listen to the people and make the appropriate changes. Otherwise, they will be overtaken by an uprising or a revolt.
 
The military in Egypt didn’t take sides in this. The military in Libya took sides. The military in Syria took sides. In one case, they lost. In the other case, they may be losing …
They will lose, definitely. I think Syria is definitely … it’s over. It’s just a matter of time, because you cannot kill thousands of people and still remain in power. It’s not going to happen in the 21st century.
 
How many Facebook and Twitter followers do you have now?
Why?
 
We want to know?
The page I started has 1.8 million followers.
 
And what does that mean for you?
After my identity was disclosed, it meant a lot of responsibilities. I kind of feel responsible for whatever I say on the page. I always ask myself, before every post, is that in the best interest of this country or not? I do not want to abuse a tool like this, because at the end of the day, it could lead to people dying, or it could lead to bringing the government, you know, bringing the country in the wrong direction. So it’s a lot of responsibility. I personally became more conservative than before; I calculate my steps before taking them. I truly love my country, and I think the people of Egypt deserve a much better life.
 
You’ve written a book, Revolution 2.0. Tell me about social media’s impact on Egypt in the last year.
A lot of my friends and people I meet in Tahrir Square have been asking me, “What did social media really do?”
 
It brought people to the square.
I’m biased because I come from a technical background. But on Jan. 25, the Internet was critical. The event reached over 1 million people online; 100,000 people confirmed [what was happening]. People were collaborating on ideas for what would be done on the street. Yet this is not an Internet revolution. It would have happened anyway. In the past, revolutions happened, too.

Watch Charlie Rose on Bloomberg TV weeknights at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET.

Emmy Award-winning journalist Charlie Rose is the host of Charlie Rose, the nightly PBS program.

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