In his novel about the Egyptian Revolution, The City Always Wins
(2017), Omar Robert Hamilton shows that the alternative media possess mass engagement and global reach, while threatening power. However, over the course of his novel Hamilton traces the crushing of the ‘Twitter revolution’ and the rise of a disillusionment and despair among the revolutionaries. This downward trajectory is typified both in the appellative journey from Hamilton’s non-profit media collective Mosireen—‘those who insist’—to the novel’s similar group, portentously named Chaos; and in the text’s reverse-chronological structure of ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Today’, and ‘Yesterday’. The author uses Twitter as an archive of an alternative, resistant history of revolutionary struggle; he embeds Tweets in the fabric of this experimental novel; and social media posts interrupt and punctuate the narrative as in the real life of his millennial characters. In this article I explore the novel’s representations of (social) media and the impact these have both on everyday lives and modes of protest. Despite promising beginnings, the internet ultimately turns ‘toxic’ and is depicted as a Pandora’s box of dis- and misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news, and the manipulations of state media lackeys. A more lasting alternative to media may be ‘creative insurgency’. As such, I conclude this article by discussing what art can achieve that (citizen) journalism cannot, and how this applies to the novel’s portrayals of art, particularly music.
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