A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Denial Is Still a River in Egypt: Media Sees Western Conspiracy on Metrojet

It's a nervous time for Egypt in the wake of the crash of the Metrojet flight in Sinai: an already much-reduced level of tourism is in danger just as the winter months arrive (when Sharm al-Sheikh and Hurghada cater to sun-starved northern Europeans; but Britain and Russia have canceled flights. President Sisi's big tip to London was overshadowed by the attempts to evacuate British tourists from Egypt. The stock market dropped on Monday, and there was sharp international criticism over the arrest of journalist/activist Hossam Bahgat by the military prosecution. (He has since been released, but may still face charges.)

I'm sorry to say that when things are going badly, the Egyptian media, especially the more sensational newspapers (state-run and private) and the often irresponsible TV talk-show hosts, start looking for conspiracies. Israel, the US, the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, and he Freemasons are the usual suspects, often in improbable combinations (Iran and the US together; Israel and the Muslim Brotherhood).

While most of the rest of the world is convinced the plane was brought down by a bomb, and even the Egyptian investigators do not rule that out, the media is seeing an international conspiracy to subvert Egypt. Al-Watan on Sunday had a banner headline, "Egypt Defies Terrorism of the West." (Link is to the story in Arabic.) I would note that the most draconian step so far was Russia's decision to cancel all flights to Egypt, and Russia is usually not considered "the West," but never mind.

Associated Press
The Associated Press has done a story on this, showing the headlines (right) of the aforementioned Al-Watan as well as Sunday's Al-Gomhuriya, a state-owned paper but the most sensational of the state-owned papers: "The People Defy the Conspiracy."

There remains a possibility it was not a bomb. But the media, including the state media (perhaps with government sanction) is reacting in a prickly, defensive way that could make things worse if indeed it was a bomb. (Conversely, the US and Britain could look very bad if it wasn't.)

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