Reading Slate on the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia

In the context of the momentous events in Tunisia, which just saw the first successful public uprising in the Arab world in modern times, it can seem a small thing to debate the origin of names given to revolutions.  Jeremy Singer-Vine has a piece in Slate that explains the various Jasmine, Orange, and Rose Revolutions as a matter of branding, in which he says:

In early 2005, Kuwati suffragettes started what some called the Blue Revolution. Around the same time, the assassination of Lebanon’s prime minister triggered a Cedar Revolution. Even President George W. Bush jumped on the bandwagon when he tried to market Saddam Hussein’s overthrow as the Purple Revolution (after the ink used to prevent fraudulent voting in the 2005 Iraqi elections).

This is true, as far as it goes, but the agent-less wording of how Lebanon acquired the name Cedar Revolution hides the source of much grievance in Lebanon today, where they regard the selection of “Cedar” as being the hamfisted work of the Bush administration as well.  The Lebanese cedars are, indeed, a national symbol — they are inscribed on the flag — but in the semiotics of local sectarian politics they are more specifically identified with the Maronite Catholics; thus, by branding the rallies that followed the killing of Rafik Hariri in 2005 as a “Cedar” Revolution, the Bush administration inadvertently defined one of the rare cross-sectarian movements in Lebanese history as a narrowly Maronite effort.  In Lebanon itself, the period is more commonly referred to as the intifadat al-istiqlal or Independence Uprising.


For more about how photojournalists covered the revolution in Tunisia click here; or here for how revolutions get their names.

To see my photographs from Tunisia click here; or here for the article I wrote about Tunisia for the New York Times at the height of the Ben Ali era.


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