What’s in a name? Kind of a lot, sometimes. Case in point: as supporters of the Egyptian military and those loyal to ousted former president Mohamed Morsi continue to clash in the streets, a smaller, safer clash has broken out in the pages of Wikipedia, where editors are debating whether to call this latest uprising — which saw Morsi driven from office as the military seized control of the nation — a coup or a revolution. That definition isn’t just important semantically — outside the hallowed halls of Wikipedia, which term is used could have real implications for U.S. foreign policy toward Egypt.
That’s because the United States is legally obliged to cut off foreign aid to countries where a coup d’etat — the overthrowing of a democratically elected leader by the military of his or her nation — has taken place. Considering the military is about the one group in Egypt the U.S. government has managed not to alienate to some degree, it’s no surprise that officials in the Obama administration have assiduously avoided referring to the events of the last few weeks as a coup, which would require them to cut off more than $1 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian military.
While the events of the last week do seem to constitute an according to Hoyle coup, some Wikipedians feel it’s hypocrisy to refer to the first round of protests that removed Hosni Mubarak from power — in which the military also played a key role — as a revolution and the latest removal of President Morsi following mass demonstrations a coup. For our part, we’re not foreign policy wonks, and we’ll leave the debate to them. If you’re interested in getting a look at that debate — and it’s a pretty great one — you can take a gander at the talk page for the article.
- We know how former president Morsi’s supporters feel on the matter
- The first protests in 2011 definitely felt like a revolution
- And social media was so important in them, one man named his daughter ‘Facebook’