At first, I didn't want to write something about Egypt's turmoil because things seemed to be changing moment to moment.
As events (and non-events) have unfolded, I think the opposite is true: there's not much to write about Egypt, because in many ways, nothing has exactly happened, yet.
Egypt may well be the first televised modern revolt, partly by timing, partly because, despite Mubarak's authoritarian instincts, Egypt has been a fairly secular society which hasn't limited access to various media. Indeed, Mubarak's inability to black out and isolate his protestors is as good an example as any of his wishy-washy presentation as an iron fisted leader. The really successful dictators know enough to insist on total control. Of everything.
For all the talk of how tweeting and facebook and "social media" have vastly changed the opportunities to communicate in situations like this, it's television that still makes the story a story. More than anything, the Egyptian government can't get these protests under control because doing so - shooting at civilians, quelling riots - would happen in plain view of the cameras watching events 24/7. Violence and streetb protests make, as they say, great television. And right now, the story of Egypt is really a story about watching and waiting. TV has created the impression that there's a fast moving, ever changing story on the ground... but mostly, it's the effect of heightening tension in hopes of a dramatic resolution.
As with Tunisia, the Egyptians have one simple demand: the removal of the totalitarian in charge. The unraveling of the past few days has been amazing, mostly because Mubarak has offered cosmetic change after cosmetic change - I'll appoint a Vice President! I'll fire my cabinet! - refusing to accept that the change Egyptians want is... not him.
It would be amazing - and generally very unlikely - for this matter to resolve peacefully. If Mubarak can be convinced to step down and leave Egypt, there's the question of what arises to take his place. If he refuses to leave, then it's hard to see how violence and chaos can be avoided.
One thing I think American audiences may not realize fully is just how much this is not an American story. The puzzlement and disarray in American government and American media - both of which were caught fairly flat footed by the speed and direction of events as they unfolded in Tunisia and Egypt - speaks to a failure to fit this into our own national narrative. The dirty open secret of our foreign policy - as WikiLeaks more or less reminded us - is that America accepts foreign dictatorships as a necessary, even useful evil. Authoritarians provide structure, and make the business of supplying funds to get a desired result much easier. We talk a lot about freedom and favoring democracy everywhere... but freedom is dangerous and democracy is messy when you just want to get your way. And really, a lot of people living under those authoritarians have caught on to the reality that our talk of "freedom" is pretty much all talk. And possibly marketing, since we remain the world's best advertiser.
In our country, I think the Obama Administration has, yet again, benefitted from a wild card event beyond its control. Egypt has swept our petty intraparty squabbles off the front page, put foreign policy back up front, and left conservatives scrambling for something to oppose. At the same time, I'm struck, as usual, by the American ability to cast ourselves as the innocent ingenue. Who knew Egypt would fall apart? Who knew that there could be a random shooting in Arizona? The truth that these wild cards are not so wild, that these events speak to issues and problems we should be addressing but largely avoid, generally gets lost. We know, actually, that this country has a problem delaing with untreated mentally ill people who turn to violence.
And we've known, for years, that Hosni Mubarak has been a disaster for Egypt, and should never have been allowed to hang on to power this long, and stifle all opposition forces so thoroughly. But doing nothing, giving Mubarak guns and money and credibility as a "world leader" served our purposes. Like a Shah in Iran, a President in the Phillipines, or a totalitarian in Iraq... until their usefulness ceased to be so useful. They get overthrown, and we look around, each time, wondering how these situations got so out of hand.
Television, our instant history maker, doesn't tell that story. That story is complicated, it doesn't have great pictures, the drama is long and mostly hidden from view. The story television likes to tell is unfolding in front of us, right now, soon to be resolved. It tells the story we say we want to hear, even if we think we don't say it, or want it. Because television, primarily and still, is a medium that entertains, however we try to dress up news as "serious" and "important". TV shapes the "news" into a dramatic narrative... and then waits for the dramatic conclusion. The revolution will be televised... because revolutions make great television... and that's what's important. Vive la revolucion!