A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, August 19, 2013

Some Sensible Commentary from Egypt

So much of the opinion coming out of Egypt is as polarized as the country itself, either portraying the Morsi supporters (all, not just some) as terrorists or the regime as fascist, that I thought I'd point to some sensible commentaries in English from Egyptians:

Sarah Carr, "With or Against Us," compares the pressures on media under recent regimes:
It's trite but worth remembering that an excellent barometer of political freedom is how a regime treats the media. Deposed President Mohamed Morsi attempted to shut critics up through clumsy litigation — charges of insulting him or the judiciary, and so on. It was a classic Hosni Mubarak technique, but Morsi used it far more frequently.
Another technique was tacitly approving Salafi preacher Hazem Salah Abou Ismail and friends setting up shop outside the Media Production City in October 6 City — or at least not doing anything about it — in order to intimidate Lamis al-Hadidi and other vocally anti-Brotherhood television presenters who were beyond state control.  
But just like the Muslim Brotherhood failed in everything they did while in power, they failed in this, too: The cases never had the chilling effect desired, and Morsi and company were regularly ripped apart in the press, by comedian Bassem Youssef and others. In fact, the Brotherhood themselves liked to crow about their critics being left alone as an example of their political largesse. They never understood that using underhand measures to intimidate your opponents does not make you a just leader, and that leaving the press alone is a positive obligation, not an act of charity.
Wars on terrorism rely on crude binaries: You are either with us or against us, and this is the constant message being relayed to us. 
The current regime, meanwhile, is combining the very best of pre-2011 media repression techniques with a classic February 2011 xenophobia campaign, combined with the force of an Interior Ministry stretching its sinewy muscles as it resurrects itself. 
"Sandmonkey" (Mahmoud Salem) on "Four Common Misconceptions Egyptians Have":
It’s the golden age of rumors and misconceptions in Egypt these days, especially with the lack of credible “unbiased” news channels or sources for information. Add that to the nationalistic wave in the country, misconceptions do not only get viewed as fact, it actually leads to bad planning, policy and actions. Very few people will attempt to clear those misconceptions now without risking to antagonizing others, but it is a risk I am willing to take, because I cannot take having the same discussions over and over. Let’s go:
Abridged version, but read it all: 1) The US is not against June 30; 2) There is no Giant global conspiracy against us; 3) The International media isn’t in the MB’s pockets; 4) The War on Terror Will Not End This Way.

Iris Boutros in Daily News Egypt: "#Egypt Needs More #Facts":
Egyptians are devastated by the loss of life and bloodshed of the last week. We are also frustrated and angry by the amount of misinformation spread. The misinformation has aided the violence. This is why I argue that Egypt needs more facts.
We have an opportunity to move forward as a nation. That opportunity is always there for us, despite the horrifying events of the last week. In it is a power that cannot be taken away by the powerful entities around us. We can seize the opportunity and harness that power by working together to spread more #facts. Here are six important points for consideration.
Again, the abridged version: 1) #Egypt dominated social media, which is an important information source. 2) Traditional media is influenced by social media. 3) Misinformation expends energy with less positive consequence. 4) Spreading misinformation is civic corruption. 5) Information gives the population power. 6) Reconciliation will come through real facts and information. But again, it's worth reading her supporting arguments.

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