A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekend Reading

As I do each Friday, a quick roundup to hold you over the weekend.
  • Ayman Nour, the Egyptian opposition figure last heard from when his wife announced she was divorcing him at the time of the 6 April fizzled protest movement, is the center of a new controversy. He claimed he was attacked by an assailant on a motorbike who lit the spray of an aerosol can, giving him first degree burns on the forehead. Then yesterday Al-Masry al-Youm published a story quoting a "Professor of Dermatology" as saying that Nour told her that he had been burned by a hair dryer and that he wanted to have plastic surgery and a hair transplant to repair the damage. Nour has now fired back that this is nonsense, that no one he saw at the hospital was old enough to be a professor, and has repeated his original claims. Whether this is self-dramatization by Nour or disinformation planted by the regime or some combination of the two is unclear at this point. Nour may really have been the victim of an attack, but if the hair dryer/hair transplant version is government disinformation, it is likely to be what people remember, and it makes him seem vain and a bit ridiculous. Which, of course, is the point of good disinformation, if such it is.
  • I've been irreverent from time to time about Egypt's massive overreaction to Swine Flu, particularly its mass slaughter of pigs, and have regularly pointed out that not a single case of swine flu had been confirmed in the Arab world (though Egypt has persistent problems with bird flu, yet doesn't slaughter its chickens). Well, I can no longer make my observation, because the World Health Organization has confirmed swine flu in the Arab world: 18 cases in Kuwait. But there's a punchline: all the infected are US soldiers, presumably infected elsewhere before arriving in Kuwait.

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