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How Laughter Saved Tunisia

Essay: Who says that all revolutionaries should be grim and gloomy? It certainly wasn’t the case in Tunisia, where humor has always been used as a political weapon.

Tunis (Womeos)
Tunis (Womeos)
Hakim Bécheur

During the last regime, the name of our former ruler Ben Ali was never said out loud in public places for fear of omnipresent snitches. But this didn't stop people from calling him all kinds of names: from "Tarzan" (a link with gorillas?), "Ammar-404" (for the Internet error message displayed every time some item of information was censored), to "the hairdresser's husband" (Leila Trabelsi, Ben Ali's much despised wife had indeed practiced this noble art). The good people's imagination knew no boundaries.

And yet, the fear of a backlash was all too real. Laughter could come with a high price, for as ignorant as dictators may be, they know that laughter can be dangerous. Still, laughing succeeded in making people forget -- even if for just a little while – the freedom that was missing. Since laughter, as some have claimed, is the property of man, Tunisians rapidly understood that it was only humor that would help them cope with the reality of having an "under-qualified president" deciding their every move.

And then came the moment when laughing was no longer enough. Muhammad Bouazizi's burning himself to death (which launched the Tunisian revolution), followed by the deaths of those felled by the snipers' bullets, transformed the laughter into rage. Not everyone has a sense of humor, after all, and certainly not a killer who shoots at his own people. When the people finally shouted for Ben Ali to "Get out!," the time for jokes had passed.

But ever since he fled, Tunisians have been smiling again. To see this, one just needs to walk in the country's towns or villages, or to go on Facebook or Twitter. The problems Tunisia faces are still enormous: high poverty and unemployment rates, a bumpy road towards democracy, and a process of writing a new constitution so challenging that the most optimistic of persons would instantly lose their sense of humor.

No such thing in Tunisia, though. Between a rally and a sit-in, people there still find a way to crack a joke: about the provisional Prime Minister Beji Caid-Essebsi's advanced age (he is 84), about the new political parties popping up like mushrooms from nowhere, about Ben Ali's former henchmen now suddenly reconverted into democrats, and about the Islamists who swear (imagine that!) they will be as good as their Turkish counterparts. That reminds me of the one about Ben Ali vs. Bin Laden. Don't stop laughing now!

Read the original article in French

Photo - (Womeos)

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Look At This Crap! The "Enshittification" Theory Of Why The Internet Is Broken

The term was coined by journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the fatal drift of major Internet platforms: if they were ever useful and user-friendly, they will inevitably end up being odious.

A photo of hands holding onto a smartphone

A person holding their smartphone

Gilles Lambert/ZUMA
Manuel Ligero


The universe tends toward chaos. Ultimately, everything degenerates. These immutable laws are even more true of the Internet.

In the case of media platforms, everything you once thought was a good service will, sooner or later, disgust you. This trend has been given a name: enshittification. The term was coined by Canadian blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the inevitable drift of technological giants toward... well.

The explanation is in line with the most basic tenets of Marxism. All digital companies have investors (essentially the bourgeoisie, people who don't perform any work and take the lion's share of the profits), and these investors want to see the percentage of their gains grow year after year. This pushes companies to make decisions that affect the service they provide to their customers. Although they don't do it unwillingly, quite the opposite.

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Annoying customers is just another part of the business plan. Look at Netflix, for example. The streaming giant has long been riddling how to monetize shared Netflix accounts. Option 1: adding a premium option to its regular price. Next, it asked for verification through text messages. After that, it considered raising the total subscription price. It also mulled adding advertising to the mix, and so on. These endless maneuvers irritated its audience, even as the company has been unable to decide which way it wants to go. So, slowly but surely, we see it drifting toward enshittification.

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