Issandr El Amrani writes:
The most significant thing about today’s protests across Egypt is that their scale was totally unexpected. Yes, there has been a wave of protests since late 2004. But none have been nationwide to this extent, and none have been as big. We still do not have a clear picture of what transpired in much of the country, and media focus tended to be on the main protest in Cairo’s Midan Tahrir. But that is enough to know that these may be the biggest protest movement since at least the 1977 bread riots and perhaps even the biggest since the 1950s.
It was not predictable, just like Tunisia, because it was an unknown unknown — we did not know that the threshold for such an event had been reached, partly because previous protests had fizzled out or were effectively contained by the regime . While we (here I mean the press, analysts, and activists) knew many Egyptians were tired of the current state of affairs, we did not know that an external change (what happened in Tunisia) could have this kind of impact on a country that, after all, has been protesting for years and that is nowhere as repressive and controlled as Tunisia was under Ben Ali. I suspect the staggering effrontery of the regime during December’s parliamentary elections and the moment of national unity after the New Year’s Eve January bombing also played a role. A significant number of Egyptians simply do not find the regime credible anymore, and hold it responsible for much of the deterioration of the country — in terms of the socio-economic situation, sectarian relations, and political accountability. Today, a red line has been irrevocably crossed, a barrier of fear transcended.