The Top Ten Revolutionary Videos of 2011

At the end of the year, news agencies around the world, including the BBC, report the ten most popular YouTube videos of the past year. The lists inevitably contain some of the most banal, irritating, or mildly amusing videos of the past year, but rarely do we see the BBC and their ilk reminding us of the startlingly powerful images of resistance and revolution. So, in honour of those who were maimed or killed in 2011 in service of a better world, here are ten of the most memorable moments of revolt in 2011:

1. “Suicide that sparked a revolution”
Upload date: January 19, 2011; Source: Al-Jazeera English

The self-immolation of Menobia Bouazzizi, a young Tunisian man, was the spark that ignited the Arab Spring.

2. “The Most AMAZING video on the internet #Egypt #jan25
Upload date: January 27, 2011; Source: hadi15

Beginning on January 25, the Egyptian people revolted against its Western-backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak. At the height of the protests, anywhere from 250,000 to 1 million people occupied Tahrir Square in Cairo.

3. “Go Forth and Revolt”
Upload date: August 17, 2011; Source: go4thREVOLT

This parody of a Levi’s commercial reminds us never to accept corporate co-optations of revolutionary acts or symbols.

4. “I AM NOT MOVING – short film – Occupy Wall Street”
Upload date: October 10, 2011; Source: CoreyOgilvie

Taking its lead from the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street attempted an insurrection in the heart of finance capitalism. While many people accused it of being too white, too amorphous, or too masculine, OWS rehearsed the pluralistic politics of the world to come, and brought considerable mass media attention to the crimes of capitalism.

5. “Oakland Policeman Throws Flash Grenade Into Crowd Trying To Help Injured Protester”
Upload date: October 26, 2011; Source: kresling

There was no shortage of police brutality captured on video in 2011. Veteran Scott Olsen was shot in the head by an Oakland police officer, while defending Occupy Oakland from a police assault.

6. “London Riots. (The BBC will never replay this. Send it out.)
Upload date: August 9, 2011; Source: mYcHeMiCaLrOmAnCeGaL

Darcus Howe, a West Indian writer and broadcaster, called the London Riots what they were: an insurrection. This wasn’t the explanation a condescending BBC newscaster wanted.

7. “Anonymous—Message to the American People”
Upload Date: December 3, 2011; Source: anonymous04210

Hacktivist collective Anonymous continued to attack repressive state and corporate apparatuses in 2011, promoting the Guy Fawkes mask and V for Vendetta to the status of revolutionary icons for the digital age. In this video, Anonymous addresses what may be the most draconian piece of legislation the United States has ever seen, the National Defense Authorization Act 2012, which appears to enable the US government to detain American citizens indefinitely and without trial, another expression of creeping global fascism.

8. “Oil Gateway”
Upload Date: September 16, 2011; Source: stimulator

Colonial resource extraction has always harmed indigenous communities and the environment. Oil extraction is no different. The planned Keystone Pipeline extension and Northern Gateway pipeline would expand production in the notorious tar sands of Alberta. Dozens of First Nations communities in Alberta and British Columbia united in 2011 to oppose these pipeline projects.

9. “Police pounded by petrol bombs in Athens”
Upload Date: February 23, 2011; Source: ReutersVideo

“Austerity” was the word of the year for 2010. Greece was ground zero of the global austerity agenda. After stealing as much as $29 trillion of public money, the global finance capitalists decided to re-engineer capitalism on the backs of workers worldwide. In Greece, the opposition to austerity has been militant.

10. “Shocking Video: ‘Blue bra’ girl brutally beaten by Egypt military”
Upload Date: December 18, 2011; Source: RussiaToday

The symbolic import of this video cannot be overstated: the vicious beating of an Egyptian woman by members of the military captured the dominant visual meme for 2011, the visible brutality of state actors against domestic populations. In particular, the gendered violence on display reminds us that women of colour, especially living in the Global South, continue to receive the brunt of state capitalist violence.

Of course, there are more than 10 such videos. If you have a personal favourite from 2011, please post it in the comment section below.

Michael Truscello, Ph.D., is an associate professor in English and General Education at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. Read other articles by Michael.