At the Speed of Twitter: The Revolution Spreads to Libya, Bahrain, Yemen

Twitter is the pulse of the fast-moving wave that is overtaking the Middle East as Gaddafi trembles, and Bahrain blinks

By the time I picked up The New York Times Sunday edition with its lead story about protestors gaining momentum in Bahrain, the news had long been overtaken by the fast-moving wave that is washing over the Middle East. 

I could barely sit still to read the story about Bahrain’s security withdrawing from the central square – on Saturday night – in my haste to read the next page, where the revolutionary fever was throbbing through Yemen and Libya.

But then I had to switch to Twitter, where #Libya was riding a tear through the Twitterverse. Libyan security had opened fire on demonstrators; human rights groups claim at least 200 and as many as 500 have been killed.

The Twitter-revolutionaries were furious, and pounding their rage through cyberspace:

#Libya ambasddor in #India just called #BBCArabic and resgined for the mass crimes against ppl in Libya, tweeted @Abdulla_AlAthba.

Then came: URGENT | #Libya | Confirmed | Fallen of Libyan TV 2 and the Libyan Jamahiriya FM into the hands of demonstrators. Source R.S.S

And this: The gaddafi posters in the heart of tripoli, that have been there before I was even born, are now being burnt :).. #libya #feb17 came from ChangeInLibya Libyan Dude

You can feel real-time events coursing through this tiny data stream. Reuters can’t keep up. Even Al Jazeera can't. The information isn’t vetted, I can’t tell if it’s right, but I can feel the pulse of change as I search on #Libya.

Meanwhile, the Gaddafi family teeters. Son of the dictator Saif Gaddafi went on television on Monday morning to do what usually signals the death knell of dictatorship: threaten the protestors, blame the uprising, while tipping his hand to weakness by promising a vague program of reforms.

Appearing on Libyan state television early Monday morning, Saif said his father was in the country and backed by the army. "We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet," he promised.

But where is the scary guy, Muammar? Is he in hiding? Rallying his troops? Or working on securing the Swiss bank accounts?

We don’t have good information about what’s going inside this oil-rich dictatorship – rich for the Gaddafi family, that is. Libya, population 6.4 million, nestled next to the recently-revolutionized Egypt, and not terribly far from the autocrat-free Tunisia, was ripe for being upended.  

Western reporters are rarely allowed in. And they’re not handing out visas to watch Libyan security gun down protestors.

After the speech, Najla Abdurahman, a Libyan dissident, told Al Jazeera: "He's threatening Libya and trying to play up on their fears. I don't think anyone in Libya who isn't close to the Gaddafi regime would buy anything he said.”

We can start taking bets on which regime will fall next: Libya, Yemen or Bahrain. One thing is certain, the momentum for freedom has taken hold. This revolution isn't over.