The Role of Political Satire and Technology in the Liberalization of Egypt: The Case of Bassem Youssef
This analysis paper attempts to highlight the intersection of political satire and technology as a means of politically mobilizing young audiences in the Middle East. The bulk of the essay focuses on Egypt as a case study and uses Bassem Youssef as a primary example of both the successes and challenges of late-night satire in promoting political efficacy. His show, Albernameg, combined with the proliferation of smart phones, Internet access, and digital media created a powerful precedent of political resistance and protest. Youssef serves as a model for the potential that technology and humor hold in changing the domestic dynamics of Egypt and other countries in the region.
Due to the scarcity of academic research on Bassem Youssef’s effects on youth in Egypt, this essay draws on available research regarding American late-night comedy—notably Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report — and spotlights the parallels between these shows’ effects on American youth and Bassem Youssef’s impact on Egyptian youth. In a country with a cultural history of obedience to authority, Albernameg was a refreshing departure from the historical norm. Youssef’s clever, sharp criticisms of both the Morsi and Sisi regimes have opened doors for the next generation to imbue their society with a new culture of individualism, plurality, and liberalization.
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David Aptaker is currently a graduate student in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. He grew up in the Bay Area, California and attended UC Berkeley where he obtained his BA in Peace and Conflict Studies. He is deeply interested in Middle Eastern politics–particularly Israel and its relationship with its neighbors. David is also a foodie and a lifelong Warriors fan. His Twitter is @