Category Archives: Media

“Drink the sea”

In an editorial today in Al-Masry Al-Youm, the editor-in-chief put forth his opinion about the recent controversy surrounding his censorship of the newspaper where I work, which is (confusingly) the English-language sister (cousin? resentful stepson?) of his newspaper. I’m posting an English translation for people who are unfortunately like me and require many hours with a dictionary in order to sort of understand a long opinion article in Arabic. (The translation was done by an excellent translator. I can put you in touch if you want.)

For background on the whole situation, you can read our own editorial on the whole fracas here or an article by the author of the censored article here. The original article is here. You can read a parody of the editorial below here. I’ll add my own thoughts at some point, but wanted to make sure that the English translation was available in all its glory. Also, I want to add that this is far and away not at all the most important thing in Egypt right now or even of interest to many people.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

By Magdi el-Gallad

I thank God for his several blessings, one of which is that I am thick-skinned: I only contemplate objective criticism. Another of God’s blessings on me is that I do not fear but my Creator, for no harm can befall me unless God has written it.

Yet another of the blessings God has bestowed on me is that, like you all, I was born of Egyptian land and have learned to cherish my Egyptian nationality and to act in the belief that my country is a major power.

The fact that we have survived decades of degeneration should not make us think of ourselves as standing in an inferior position with regards to the West. Half a century of events will eventually be written in three lines in history books and Egypt will rise, because we will not abandon it, no matter what crises we face.

Neither American writer Robert Springborg, nor British Independent’s correspondent Alistair Beach are able to grasp this culture, belief or that kind of loyalty to a nation that has taught its people to die for its defense.

Both of them, as well as others who live among us but are bedazzled by the lights of the West, are not aware that a genuine Egyptian cannot be blackmailed, pressured or threatened. They heaped pressure on Al-Masry al-Youm to publish an article for Springborg in the pilot English supplement inciting Egyptian army officers and Sami Anan, the chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, to mount a coup and seize power, particularly following the results of the first phase of elections, claiming Field Marshal Tantawi is allied to the Islamic wave.

Believing the English supplement staff were well-intentioned, I assumed they lacked sufficient experience or did not recognize who the American writer was. But because I know who he is quite well, I stopped at the article, read it over and over and decided not to run it.

I did not take into account the writer, the country he belongs to, or to its bloody practices across the world. Nor did I fear his ensuing bellowing in the Independent or Foreign Policy.

I could not care less for the broken record about freedom of speech, employed by the West to achieve its nefarious ends against us, when it suppresses those freedoms to protect its interests and national security.

Springborg and those backing him are unfortunately faced with a man who cannot be blackmailed, who is not West-struck or ultra-impressed by Western press. I think of myself as equal to them, even superior, most of the time.

For those who do not know, Springborg is the Program Manager for the Middle East for the Center for Civil-Military Relations, a government center affiliated to the US naval forces and a branch of the Pentagon. So, do you now know who the writer is and who is inciting Egyptian officers and the Chief of Staff to launch a coup?

He believes that the attack he and some people in Egypt are launching against me will push me to change mind on a choice I have made based on national interest. But for me, one black strand of hair from an Egyptian child in the heart of Upper Egypt is of greater value than his country or the entire West.

He works for the US Pentagon, whereas I work for the simple Egyptian citizen. He derives his arrogant power from the American arsenal, while I find protection in satisfying a poor man in some impoverished Egyptian neighborhood.

He and those allied to him are using the internet to arouse people against, while I seek refuge in the soil of may land which they want to occupy through creating chaos and inciting military coups, squishing Egypt back to square one.

He thought that our occasional disagreement with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Islamic wave were going to pave the way for him to realise his evil schemes. But to him I say, “Our beliefs and civilisation teach us that disagreement is a mercy but the army, Islamists, liberals and all 87 million Egyptians are citizens are breastfed to love this homeland which the West wants to hijack.”

To that Springborg and those behind him I say that we insist on refusing to run his article. Al-Masry Al-Youm’s opinion writers, of whom I am one, criticise the SCAF extensively–but they are free Egyptian citizens who do not work for the US Pentagon.

Those in the US and its servant Britain who are not happy with what I have written might as well put that in their pipe and smoke it!

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What you don’t need to know about Ahmadinejad’s trip to Lebanon

I don’t read Slate for their foreign affairs coverage and I sincerely hope that you don’t either. This is exactly why.

Ruthie Ackerman, reporting from southern Beirut, gives Slate readers an ass-backwards take on democracy, Lebanon, and Iran. The article sounds like it was written by someone who only knows about the Middle East from reading the Washington Post’s editorial page.

What am I talking about? Take, for example, this passage:

But standing on the airport road Wednesday morning, watching the crowd of thousands shower Ahmadinejad with rose petals and rice as he waved from his black SUV, the uphill battle that activists and democracy-dreamers face here seemed formidable. Young children shook Iranian and Lebanese flags energetically, while over the loudspeaker a voice urged onlookers to welcome Ahmadinejad and warned about the Great Satan that is America.

Stop and think about that for a minute. Why does an overwhelming support for the president of Iran mean that “democracy-dreamers” in Beirut face an “uphill battle”? Ackerman doesn’t bother to explain, but it seems like readers are supposed to assume that because Ahmadinejad’s regime is anti-democratic in Iran, it will, by virtue of its popularity, somehow transfer its repressive ways to Lebanon.

There’s no reason to think Ahmadinejad’s popularity in Lebanon has anything to do with that country own (exceedingly complex) democracy. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that an un-democratic demagogue can’t be popular in foreign countries

The article continues with this kind of nonsense. A few paragraphs later, she writes:

Even Ahmadinejad’s supporters seem to be torn between their love for the Iranian leader and their desire to live in the United States. A 22-year-old woman wearing a veil said she really liked Ahmadinejad, but in the same breath she told me that her father had lived in North Carolina and that she dreams of going to America. “Take me with you,” she pleaded, half-jokingly. She saw no contradiction.

Anyone who has traveled in the Middle East (and, I suspect, other regions of the world where anti-American sentiment is prevalent) knows that it’s common for people to say they hate the U.S. in one breath and then they want to live there in the next. It’s certainly not notable. For now, let’s ignore the fact that Ackerman’s only example of Ahmadinejad supporters being “torn” between their allegiance to the Iranian leader and love for the United States is one 22 year old.

In another major faux pas, Ackerman writes that it was “odd” that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addressed the crowd via videolink rather than in person. Of course anyone who follows Lebanon even marginally knows that Nasrallah speaks almost exclusively via videolink. The last time Nasrallah appeared in person was in July 2008.

The article ends with a nice flourish of old-fashioned Orientalism, including some talk about camels in Isalmic culture.

It may seem excessive to unload on a single article like this, especially one in Slate of all places. But it’s not. It’s worth it because this is what is wrong with U.S. coverage of the Middle East. Americans are all too often provided with reports by journalists who have a complete ignorance of the place from which they are reporting. The only point of reference these correspondents have is U.S. foreign policy interests and the coverage becomes a tautological mess (i.e., Ahmadinejad is bad because he’s bad and dangerous because he’s dangerous). In the end, Americans — in this case Slate readers — get “news” that teaches them nothing and only reinforces their preconceptions.

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Canada gets the Egypt treatment

And you thought Tim Sebastian’s analysis of the Middle East’s problems through the lens of Cairo traffic was stupid? Well, this time, the New York Times, in honor of the Winter Olympics, turns its essentializing gaze towards our northern neighbors.

Theirs is a vast country that in many ways is run like a small town, with small-town values, and it has a highly developed culture of modesty, if not a collective inferiority complex. The athletic record in general is a little underwhelming, and some Canadians think that is because their countrymen prefer that, considering a good effort just as valuable as a trunkload of trophies, maybe better.

[…]

The Top Secret program does not appear to have extended to ice hockey, which has always been the great exception to the national culture of modesty, civility and pacifism. The game, especially the way the Canadians play it, is rugged and antagonistic, and may be the escape valve that makes Canadian niceness possible.

Read the rest here.

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Michael Slackman has once again reaffirmed my suspicion that the primary duty of a foreign correspondent for a major American newspaper is to read the local press and then digest it for American audiences. This time (unlike with the garbage story), I think he gets it right.

He’s writing about the shooting of six Coptic Christians on January 7 in what was a blatant act of sectarian violence.

Egypt has experienced many clashes over the years between its Muslim majority and Christian minority, and has always insisted that the conflicts were driven by something — anything — else. A land dispute, a personal grudge, a crime for profit. The official narrative is that these are singular, unrelated crimes.

That is the case since the shooting. Three people were arrested for the attack, which killed six Christians as they left church (Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7) and a Muslim guard.

“The crime of Nag Hammadi is just an individual crime with no religious motives, just like the crime of raping the girl,” Ahmed Fathi Sorour, the Parliament speaker, said in Al Ahram, a state-owned newspaper.

Read this story or this story (or both) in Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition for a more thorough analysis than Slackman’s.

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Way better than Christmas

Want to know what I thought about Police Day? (It was a national holiday here today.) You can read all about it in The Faster Times:

Today Egyptians around the country have off from work and school in recognition of a new national holiday: Police Day. The Mubarak regime, it seems, has a sense of humor after all.

Or maybe it’s not meant to be ironic. Police play a crucial role in this country, which is, for all intents and purposes, a police state. The government wants to celebrate the police for making Egypt the country that it is today.

Read the rest here!

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Filed under Egypt, Human Rights, Life Abroad, Links, Media

Negative reports

Zeinobia published an Egyptian Chronicle today lamenting the general loss of Egyptian dignity in the world. It’s impassioned, you should check it out. One bit stuck out at me:

There is not a week where you do not find a negative report about us in the international media tickling either our political dictatorship or our economic injustice or our falling part society. We have become a media sensation for sure for Western media , may be because we are open society than other societies in the region which usually more closed than us.

It’s an interesting point. She’s right that Egypt does get pretty uniformly trashed in world media. Either it’s stories about Egypt’s crushing poverty, its dictatorial government, or fallen-from-grandeur culture. And I’ll admit (though I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a part of the foreign media establishment) that these are the stories in Egypt that I’m attracted to, too. They are the most interesting.

At the same time, there are way more fucked up countries out there. There are places where poverty is worse, corruption is worse, regime brutality is worse, etc. Yet Egypt, because it’s a center and because it’s kind of open to the outside world, has all its dirty laundry aired to the public all the time. People only talk about what’s wrong with Egypt.

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Fact: Zionists control all the media in the whole world, no exceptions

Have you heard that an Israeli-American billionaire is going to buy a fifty percent stake in Al Jazeera? Well, it’s probably not true.

The story is everywhere. It goes like this: Haim Saban, an Egyptian-born Israeli-American billionaire, who is the creator of Power Rangers and the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, is going to buy up to fifty percent of the Qatari news network.

Haaretz is covering it, as are other reputable Middle Eastern newspapers. The blogosphere is abuzz with talk about the potential purchase. But I encourage everyone to take a close look at the news stories about the deal.

What evidence do any of the stories offer? It was reported in the independent online Egyptian newspaper El-Masryoon. Anything else? No. No comments from Saban. No comments from Al Jazeera. No off-the-record comments from the supposed Egyptian intermediary. In fact, the story isn’t even being reported in any other local newspapers.

I hate to say it, but just because something is published in an Egyptian newspaper doesn’t make it true. A post on Mondoweiss said today, “Mondoweiss couldn’t make this up. What Zionist control of the media?” But actually, someone else could have made it up very easily and probably did.

I think it’s pretty unlikely that the Qataris would sell a huge portion of the most-watched news network in the Arab world to an Israeli. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Saban’s ownership would seriously undermine Al Jazeera’s credibility with its viewers. Doha, of course, knows this.

So let’s just stop, take a deep breath, think this through, and try not to repeat rumors as fact.

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