Copyright 2011 by James May • All Rights Reserved
On Jan.25, 2011 Egyptians took to the streets in protest over almost 30 years of what they saw as President Hosni Mubarak's corrupt dictatorship in what quickly turned into a mass uprising in Egypt's major population centers.
Suprisingly, in only 18 days, a government that had seemed to have an unshakeable hold on the means of power collapsed and on Feb.11 the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down from office.
The uprising among Egyptians was in reality a groundswell that cut across almost every sector of society but among American conservative bloggers, even well before President Mubarak stepped down, the hue and cry immediately went up that fundamentalist muslims had as good as taken over the government of Egypt and that was that. Foremost in the thoughts of the political right was the specter of the Muslim Brotherhood, a venerable organization originally formed in Egypt in 1928 and with a fundamentalist Islamic credo hostile to the West and Israel. Among American conservatives, it little mattered that the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood publicly announced before the Jan.25 start to the street protests in Egypt that they would have nothing to do with those protests; the fix was in and it would stay in when it came to reports from bloggers.
In regard to the matter of its participation, in a few days, once the Muslim Brotherhood saw which way the wind was blowing and perhaps with a fear of being left behind, they joined whole heartedly in the protests. Indeed, during the darkest hours of the uprising which occurred in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Feb. 2-4, Muslim Brotherhood members proved an important centerpiece to the revolution when protesters were under siege from pro-Mubarak forces and the army standing by and doing nothing. On Friday Feb.4, that core group of protesters was rescued by fresh marchers to Tahrir Square and though things were iffy for a further week, the moment of crisis had passed.
For those on the ground who witnessed the street protests first hand, the uprising seemed to be about freedom, dignity, economic mobility and education and it would be a vast mistake to not associate this combination of emotion, perception and feeling together with very real concerns about ones livelihood as feeding one into the other - a sense of indignity is usually the last and most important straw to impel revolutions quite aside from merely economic concerns in a vacuum. The revolution in Egypt was very much created out of a sense of who Egyptians are compared to other nations and a sense of stung pride at last became too much to endure when combined with nothing to be prideful of and nowhere to exhibit that pride but in private. The last things on the mind of the protesters in general was religion or Israel yet these are the two things conservative Americans immediately latched onto as the greatest impetus and therefore greatest danger behind the uprising. The idea that a democracy could form in Egypt was laughed at by the American conservative right then and still is - the problem is that they see a democracy not in terms of its form but its values but voting is voting - not liking the results doesn't change that. What might ultimately happen in Egypt after the uprising is unknown but a view of it should at least be based on facts and not simplistic mantras based on wishful thinking and ignorance not to say Islamophobia and bigotry.
To be sure, the Muslim Brotherhood has an anti-Western, anti-Israeli agenda but they were in no way the main component of the Egyptian uprising against the government of Hosni Mubarak nor did they have the numbers to have pulled off an uprising such as occurred on their own. Despite the real facts surrounding events in Egypt, stories poured unabated from conservative blogs about Egypt being the next Iran, quoting Pew polls of how Egyptians were in favor of cutting off people's hands for crimes and how sharia law would be instituted. The stories were based on the idea that Egypt had been hostile to the West and Israel all along and this hostility had only been kept under wraps by the brutal suppression by the Mubarak government of the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist groups and that now these groups would take over the Egyptian government and unleash their hostility in the form of violence by terrorism against the West and perhaps outright military violence against Israel.
After Hosni Mubarak stepped down there were attempts by his government to replace him with others but the protesters saw this as simply an extension of the regime they wanted nothing to do with and rejected anything short of new elections that would bring about a new parliament, a new President and a new Constitution. As a result, the army took control of managing the Egyptian government and events took on a slightly unsteady but by no means unmanageable truce and feelers went out from the protesters and other institutions that would try and bring about a democracy. Players behind the scenes were many and possible scenarios as an outcome complex and difficult to ascertain.
Within the American conservative blogosphere, the mantra one most often heard was that the superior organization and experience of the Muslim Brotherhood would be the deciding factory in any upcoming elections and that one would see a "one vote/one time" scenario and that was that. The fact that in 83 years the Muslim Brotherhood had taken over exactly nothing was not acknowledged but the 83 years in isolation were; intent itself therefore became a mechanism and that mechanism became reality and longevity was proof despite no proof accompanying that longevity and that was the long and the short of it on the American political Right.
As evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood's growing power and influence now that they were allowed to operate out in the open, bloggers pointed to the events of Feb.18 in downtown Cairo's Tahiri Square. Every Friday during and immediately after the uprising had been a seminal one and this one was no exception. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a popular Egyptian theologian associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who had been banned in Egypt for 3 decades led Friday prayers and gave a political and religious speech to a very large crowd from a stage in Tahrir Square.
From the day this event happened conservative blogs mischaracterized it, blowing out of proportion the contextual setting of Qaradawi's speech. They pointed to Qaradawi's triumphant return to Egypt and his power at being able to draw a crowd of 1 million people to Tahrir Square and repeatedly characterized that crowd as the largest of the uprising so far. In fact, Qaradawi's appearance was mistakenly shown in a light which it did not deserve but which seemed to find traction among the doom and gloom conservatives who already had the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt and thus this furthered their own views.
What actually happened is that Qaradawi was in no way responsible for the crowd in Tahrir Square that day because such crowds were common in Tahrir Square from Jan.29 on, which was the first full day of the occupation of Tahrir Square by the protesters, until the end of Mubarak on Feb.11 as well as thereafter. That large crowd would have been in Tahrir Square with or without Qaradawi and it was no where near 1 million people. I would estimate the crowd at perhaps 200,000 but the important point isn't the actual number but the number in Tahrir Square that day compared to previous days. In point of fact, that Feb.18 crowd was emphatically not the largest crowd to have gathered in Tahrir Square but a more or less above average crowd for that time frame; I myself had been in Tahrir Square when there had been bigger crowds and obviously so. The intent of Qaradawi's speech was accompanied and inflated by a false context masquerading as an example of a mechanism to carry out that intent.
The other theme that was consistent among bloggers on the Right during and after the Egyptian uprising was the use of quotes: if a quote by a confident or boastful muslim fundamentalist in Egypt suited a conservative viewpoint that Egypt was about to fall to Islamic fundamentalism, then that quote was bruited about as credible. If however, a quote from a fundamentalist spoke about a commitment to a democratic process, it was taken for granted to be misdirection, a lie spoken by muslims to allay secular fears of the goals of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Double standards and a seeming slant to a propagandistic view were coming into shape from the conservative blogs although a simple lack of understanding could also have been in play.
The next culprit from the conservative right in regard to the uprising that took hold was the matter of anti-semitism. In this context articles were published that showed photos taken in Tahrir Square showing depictions of Hosni Mubarak with a Star of David placed across his face; a case for anti-Semitism and an imperative on the part of the protesters that placed one of the reasons for the uprising as being Mubarak's kowtowing to Israel in a peace shameful to Egypt came to the fore. Others had a different view.
The actual facts in regard to signs like the above in Tahrir Square during the uprising are these: yes they existed but they were in such small numbers compared to other signs as to be insignificant; you're talking about maybe a score of such anti-Mubarak/Israel signs as opposed to hundreds having nothing to do with Jews or Israel. On top of that one can easily argue that an Israeli symbol drawn over Mubarak's face is a disagreement over policy and not an expression of hatred for Jews. In this regard it is as important to note what was not seen at Tahrir Square as what was since anti-Western sentiment in Egypt among the general populace is taken for granted in conservative American blogs. What was not seen in Tahrir Square during the uprising was the burning of either an American or Israeli flag nor was there any hostility among the protesters to Westerners among them; quite the contrary, Westerners were welcomed and the only violent actions against Westerners and journalists was in the immediate environs of Tahrir Square from Feb.2 to the 5th by pro-Mubarak thugs. I photographed in Tahrir Square during 8 of the most crucial 14 days of there. I had the signs in my photos translated for me and not one said a thing about Jews or Israel. That's not to say they weren't there, but my 28mm wide angle lens had trouble finding them and I took hundreds of photos.
One would think that expressions of hatred against either America or Israel, if present, would see a more direct expression, as has been the case in other muslim countries during protests yet that was not in the case of Tahrir Square - not in any form. Putting a Star of David over Hosni Mubarak's face is no more an expression of anti-Semitism than putting a Star of David over President Obama's face is an expression of black racism or Jew hatred. In fact, the Egyptian uprising in a very real sense had nothing to do with Israel.
In the weeks after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, as Egypt struggled along a path to dismantle the old regime and institute a process of free and honest elections, every event in Egypt reported by the press was twisted by conservative bloggers to advance a view that the Muslim Brotherhood was taking over Egypt, confidently striding to power and it was all over but the shouting.
Meanwhile, in reality, a democratic process stumbled along, haltingly but successfully. Fundamentalist salafi muslims were at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood who in turn were publicly critical of the salafis. The Muslim Brotherhood itself splintered from within over the issue of political parties and some resigned to form their own groups. The younger members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who had disagreed with the older members from the very beginning of the uprising over the issue of participating in the revolt, took further issue with the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood over upcoming elections.
The next bit of information casually used by both the Western press and conservative bloggers in order to come to some idea of the true power the Muslim Brotherhood would have in any upcoming parliamentary elections was the result of the 2005 parliamentary elections which saw MB associated politicians win 20% of the vote. Ironically the very voting system in Egypt that was ignored by the Western press because of its dishonesty, had its results for some reason swallowed whole in this instance, perhaps because it agreed with Western views of the Muslim Brotherhood having a power base that could be further exaggerated because of the fact that the seats were won in the face of such opposition from the Mubarak regime and that, with that regime now gone, would have even more power in any upcoming elections. The fact that politicians associated with an outlawed Muslim Brotherhood had somehow managed to win parliamentary seats in an ocean of voter fraud seems to have occurred to no one; why would it - it was a matter of the now inconvenient truth, used when convenient, ignored when not. That 20% vote result was blithely accepted in the West without a peep or a question about how such an outcome could have occurred in an arena of voter fraud whose vast presence was matched only by the massive hostility of the Mubarak regime to the Muslim Brotherhood; remember, the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed in Egypt and its members routinely rounded up and arrested.
On April, 9, some 8 weeks after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, conservative blogs continue to harp a mantra of Egypt as Iran in 1979 and the Muslim Brotherhood already as good as in power in Egypt although there is not a single shred of evidence to back up either view. What amount to urban myths and false narratives that are single minded and also without a shred of nuance continue to be flung about as facts in the blogosphere.
As I write this the number of people who died in the protests across Egypt from Jan.25 to Feb.11 are still unknown but are creeping up towards a thousand. I think it is safe to say that none of them died to have more religion in their lives. In Egypt, the legal monthly minimum wage under President Mubarak was 1,200 Egyptian Pounds, which is about 210 U.S. dollars. In reality people were working long hours, 12 hours days in some cases and 6 days a week for one third of that amount, 400 Egyptian Pounds - it's not enough. Generally speaking men and women in Egypt do not leave their parents homes until they are married but without the money to get married it is common to see men and women who are 30 years old living with their parents because they have no money. These people are not sitting around their parents homes worrying about wanting more religion in their lives but worrying about sitting around.
One of the other great pieces of misdirection by conservative bloggers, wittingly or unwittingly, is their claim that a government will come to power in Egypt based on sharia, which is Islamic jurisprudence. In fact, the Egyptian constitution is already based on sharia and Islam is the official religion of Egypt. The Egyptian uprising was in no way an uprising for Egyptians to have more religion in their lives - the suggestion is ridiculous. Although it is true that members of the Muslim Brotherhood fought and died and that their goal is to in fact have more religion it is hard to argue this was their sole motivation. Egyptian culture is already steeped in Islam and Islam well protected by Egyptian law and the MB not immune to wanting freedom, dignity, upward mobility and a need to work and have their children educated; democracy may or may not be something the Muslim Brotherhood wants but they couldn't get rid of Mubarak on their own nor can they now come to power on their own - the truth is that the MB cannot bring about the change it wants by sheer force since there is no evidence that Egyptians out on the streets are willing to trade one burdensome yolk for another. Also, there were many others who died who were not fundamentalist and so it is not inaccurate to say that in the main Egyptians were not out in the streets eating bullets in order to have more religion in their culture; such a view would be, in my estimation, far from the truth.
I learned a long time ago that when a person is not in possession of all the facts in a certain matter and yet states categorically that a thing is true, that all they are in fact revealing is what they want to believe. How it fits into the agenda of conservative bloggers to want to believe that that Islamic fundamentalists are as good as in power in Egypt is something I can only guess at and I really don't want to.
There is no doubt that the West's concern with religion in all of this is quite understandable given the events of the last decade. What is not understandable is why the West doesn't see the the middle east is riddled with dictatorships and not theocracies. It would be reasonable to feel that the outcome of the revolution would be another dictatorship rather than a theocracy and I don't understand the view of Western journalists that a theocracy is somehow the natural outcome in Egypt after the fall of a dictator - kings and princes have fallen and it had been the army that has taken hold other than one instance in Iran. My greatest concern for Egypt at this point is not a theocracy but a counter-revolution by the old regime as most all of its assets are still in place although slowly and painfully being dismanteled one by one.
No doubt it is possible a theocracy could come to power in Egypt that would make people nostalgic for Mubarak but if a worse case scenario occurs I think it will be a return to the recent past. As of now no strong, ambitious man has emerged in Egypt that would seem capable of taking the bull by the horns and the constant specter of people taking to the streets seems to have inspired as much if not more fear in the old regime than the other way around and religious oriented groups are taking note of this and seem, at least for now, willing to at least play at the idea of a democracy. Whether in the long run groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or salafi fundamentalists will feel threatened enough to start resorting to violence is the question and an important one - who is it in Egypt that feels most threatened by the idea of a democracy taking hold in Egypt; look to those quarters and you may find some answers.
The real story is that, before the uprising, Egyptians were able to look around the world in a manner that was unprecedented in terms of their ability to see how other people live and they didn't like what they saw. Egyptians saw themselves through the lens of the world as backward and poor and without even the dignity of being able to at least say they were free because they were not. Egyptians lived in a world of brutal repression and endemic bribery and poverty, working long hours towards little purpose since wages were so low and within a stratified system based on relationships and respect not easy to move around in. Far from obsessing about having more religion in their lives, Egyptians began to see themselves as a kind of cast out society, pariahs in a world that seemed to be having fun and moving on without them.
Although the Egyptians are a deeply religious people and the revolution can in no way be seen as any kind of movement away from religion, there is the beginning of a spark of realization that perhaps religion is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to the success of a nation and a people. In the case of an imposed revolution from without as is the case in Iraq, the lack of this self-realization of indignity will cause Iraq to fall back into the same old patterns and this could be exacerbated by the differences between Kurd, Shi'ite and Sunni. In the case of Egypt there is very much the sense that this is a revolution that belongs solely to them and in the end perhaps that is the greatest reason for a chance at success.
The problem for those of us on the outside looking in culturally speaking is trying to ferret out what success means to the average Egptian; we are talking about over 80 million people after all and so it would seem that simplistic stereotypes based on projecting Western hopes and fears will not suffice to provide insight. A clue one has is the manner in which President Mubarak would address the Egyptian people on TV as "my children" or "my sons and daughters" which is something I noticed him do on his famously disappointing telecast on Feb.10, 2011, the day before he ended up stepping down. Egypt is growing up and being penned in by unwanted father figures who know what is best for them such as dictators and religious zealots may be something that no longer will be allowed traction among a population of people who are after all adults.
At the same time Egyptians are utterly unwilling to stray too far from Islam as it provides a sense of order and constraint on unwanted behavior that Egyptians see emanating from the West. However neither are they willing to be suffocated back into somnolence such as the Mubarak regime provided by an ascension to power by the Muslim Brotherhood or any other fundamentalist group. Egypt is a work in progress at this point and a great experiment is in place as Egypt struggles to redefine itself and at the same time reconcile its deep conservatism with more expansive views on what it means to be human.
There would seem to be little room for extremes at either end of the spectrum and what probably must result is a kind of societal compartmentalization where differences are tolerated and not allowed to be foisted off onto those who don't want them; people in Egypt are going to have to get used to the idea of being happy with their own particular views of the world rather than forcing others to share them and in the end a type of individualism must emerge which Egyptians are my no means comfortable with as they are not a nation of individualists although they feel a powerful pull to become such.
Perhaps what they are feeling is the need to for the first time to define themselves by what they are for rather than by what they are against and that means personal responsibility, something Islam does not prepare individuals for. People who comprise groups like the Muslim Brotherhood perhaps fear Western culture more than hate it, seeing it as something that must be transformed rather than destroyed and kept out of Egypt but the MB has its hands full just ensuring they can keep what they have which is pretty much nothing but the view of the outside world is awfully tempting and in the end may prove more subversive and powerful than any dogmas or strategies for power the Muslim Brotherhood can bring to the fore. One must remember that even in its more strict applications, Islam is a minefield of weird rules about 2 hour marriages and interest on loans that are not interest on loans just to keep up appearences - people are people. Islam in this sense in not only about rejecting things the West indulges in but about keeping a lid on them being too conspicuous although muslim feelings about women, Christians and gays are another thing.
With the conspicuous failure of revolutions taking place in other parts of the middle east, I am reminded of an essay I wrote once about Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In it, I posited that, rather than giving credit to those two men for what they achieved, that perhaps the main credit should be given to the instrinsic morality of the institutions they ostensibly fought against; after all, both men would have certainly disappeared without a trace in 19th century Austria, Russia mostly any time in the last 300 years or Nazi Germany. Perhaps the same thing is in play in Egypt and that the reason we did not see a bloody crackdown in Egypt such as Libya or why success in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen is so elusive is because there are no entities already in place from which to extract success from. Obviously both Britain and America had moral centers from which concessions could eventually be extracted - perhaps there was a moral center in Egypt, one that one and all were surprised to find, not least of which were the Egyptians themselves. The story in Egypt has not played out, not by a long shot. But in looking at that story so far, there is at least reason to hope.
Updated May 23, 2011: One must be careful about where one gets information in regard to Islamism in post-revolutionary Egypt. Although there is no doubt that the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahabbi Salafis coming into political power is worrying to many inside and outside of Egpypt, the view from outside of Egypt is by no means a one-sided done deal with Egypt another Iran 1979 as some would have you believe.
Barry Rubin reporting in Pajamas Media on May 11, 2011 begins an article called "Egypt: If A Country of 80 Million People Falls And The Media Is Deaf, Does Anyone Hear?", "There are a lot of complaints about the mass media not reporting important developments."
Mr. Rubin writes "The Salafists are already attacking Christians in Egypt and the government isn’t defending the Copts at all", referring to clashes between muslims and Christian Copts in the Cairo enclave of Imaba a few days before and yet two days prior to Mr. Rubin's article Cairo's Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that the army did in fact intervene and it was reported that 190 people were arrested 4 days prior to Mr. Rubin's article according to Cairo's Al-Ahram Weekly and Al-Masry Al-Youm indicated 3 days previously to Mr. Rubin's article that the 190 were to be tried by the military. In the articles by Mr. Rubin in the next 12 days none of them mentioned these events.
In that same article by Mr. Rubin he wrote about Islamists released from jail in the days following the fall of President Hosni Mubarak on Feb.11, 2011 writing about "Those people coming out of jails And are openly holding joint meetings and demonstrations with the Muslim Brotherhood." What Mr. Rubin failed to mention in subsequent articles was that Abdel Aziz al-Gamal and Mohamed al-Zawahiri, the latter the brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, both of whom had indeed been released in mid-March, having served more than their original sentences called for, were re-arrested only a few days later as reported by Al-Masry Al-Youm on March 22 and not only put back in prison but sentenced to be executed for a prior sentence of death by the Egyptian military in a case generally known as “returnees from Afghanistan and Sudan”, referring to acts of terrorism in those countries. To my knowledge Mr. Rubin has written nothing about this although he writes frequently about the unbridled freedom of Islamists in post-revolution Egypt.
On May 16 Mr. Rubin had an article at Pajamas Media called "Read It Now: The Possible/Probable Main Crisis for 2012". In this article Mr. Rubin writes "And here’s an Egyptian demonstration outside Israel’s embassy. Today. Don’t see any police protecting the embassy, do you?" and he provides a link to a video. In this video, actually from May 15 during the Nakba Day rally the day before, you can see protesters who are clearly being tear gassed, presumbably by police. On the same day as Mr. Rubin's article, AhramOnline reported the "number of injured at 353 after police violently cracked down on the demonstration at Cairo's Israeli embassy." This is extremely significant because that number of injuries is the largest number since the Egyptian uprising itself. On May 17 AhramOnline reported 150 of those protesters had been arrested. There has been no subsequent reporting from Mr. Rubin on this event in the week since. It should be noted that the Egyptian army also squelched an attempt by protesters to go to the Gaza border during the Nakba Day weekend in a motorcade.
This is a quote from Mr. Rubin's own blog from March 20, 2011: "When you read something like this the conclusion is inescapable that the reporters involved are pushing a specific political agenda, deliberately twisting or leaving out material." and "Not too hard to find out the truth, is it?"
Somewhat ironically Mr. Rubin has this on his blog about being an analyst versus a propagantist from April 26, 2009:
how to evaluate sources, how to provide a scholarly balance, how to make it clear when you’re unsure about something, how to throw out really good stuff that you doubt is accurate, and how not to say something is fact just because it agrees with your analysis or political preferences.
A propagandist is not someone who merely has a point of view but rather someone who slants the facts to fit it that point of view rather than taking account of them by either explaining how they fit into the picture or modifying one's viewpoint.
One aspect of this is to define who are the "good guys" and the "bad guys" and then assume that all their actions fall into these categories.
And finally, really believe in your heart of hearts that if you lie or shade the truth it will do you and your cause no good.
That last remark particularly strikes home with me because it means that two people on the same side of an issue can have marked disagreements on how that cause can best be presented and at the same time admitting that people do indeed have a "cause".
Mr. Rubin also writes this in speaking of a new Constitution that will be drawn up: "The Constitution will define Egypt as a Muslim state with Islam either being the main--more likely--or perhaps the sole source of law." The problem with that statement is that the first two elements have already been officially and legally true for years in the present Constitution. And again, the claims that the results of the uprising were obvious at the time without being able to even accurately describe post-revolution Egypt is problematic. The fact that Egypt may very well be less willing to turn a blind eye to interactions between Israel and Gaza may be a good guess but why not simply report what key figures are saying and leave the pronostications to each reader? Certainly reports that Egypt will pursue a war with Israel are ridiculous given the events of the 1973 War with Israel and the fact that the Egyptian army is no longer equipped by a vanished Soviet Union but by America. Without exception every single time I have seen speculation about Egypt and Israel going to war there has been not one mention of the effect on such an idea of having an American supplied army. Once again, an projected intent by a new Egyptian government to wish to abrogate the current peace treaty with Israel is emphasized without one word as to how it can be brought about, especially in light of the fact that Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsul for 15 years after the 1967 War and are not likely to get it back as easily a last time should they lose it again. And Egypt got the Sinai back because of what? - the peace treaty.
I do not mean to pick on Mr. Rubin and in fact we agree on the main points about Egypt but not about how to see Egypt. I use him because he is a typical example of how many on the American right see everything in the middle east as if all roads go through Israel and they do not. Parsing out every event in the middle east in a "What would Jesus do?" type of thinking can be myopic if extended too far. Certainly Israel and the Palestinian Arabs are the centerpiece to much of Islam in its stronger adherents but a lot of people simply don't care one way or the other.
As I write this Egypt is going broke from a severe drop in tourism and zero new foreign investment. Fundamentalist muslims intending to discomfit Israel in some fashion and having no money or means to do so are once again two entirely different considerations unless one believes Egypt will commit some kind of cultural suicide simply to get their hands around Israeli throats.
Islamists may very well take over Egypt and agitate for abrogating the peace treaty with Israel, call for a closer relationship with Gaza and Hamas or even rattle sabers for outright war. That is not the point and intent divorced from the ability to carry out that intent has its own reality. The point is that today's journalists, rather than simply reporting what they see at the time seem intent and almost obsessed with predicting future events, as if it's some kind of contest. Presumably when a predicated line of reasoning is born out one can say, "See! I told you so." and egos are soothed all around, not necessarily to the benefit of an audience or the idea of hard facts. What it actually amounts to, especially in cases where the facts are either gerrymandered to suit an agenda or simply unavailable to a writer, are situations where predictions are made but without an actual description of the mechanism by which such a thing might come to pass.
What that in turn amounts to is like the idea of a stopped clock being right twice a day; if one waits long enough Egypt will become another Iran, not by the act of gathering information that would lead one to conclude such a thing, but by sheer willpower and superior judgment and instincts. And, like the facts so mysteriously bereft of a presence, if such a thing never comes to pass one simply doesn't mention it. In this sense journalists are reporting, not about the present, but a future that never really arrives since to predict a thing based on wishful thinking and have it eventually be proven correct is like my girlfriend correctly predicting the outcome of the World Series who has never thought of baseball in her life and is unable to say why her team would win.
I have written an essay that is a companion piece of sorts to this one called "Egypt After the 2011 Revolution: The Muslim Brotherhood. Why they cannot succeed" posted on Feb.16, 2011, 5 days after the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. I wrote it, not because I wanted to or felt I could predict what would happen in this regard, but out of a sense of frustration I felt at people who were saying "See! I told you so. That's what I predicted." when in fact they had only talked about an outcome but, like my girlfriend, without any reasoning behind it or even any idea that the outcome they "predicted" had even come to pass. How in the world can someone claim something they predicted about Egypt has come to pass when they are incapable of describing the present situation in Egypt either at the time of their so-called prediction or at the time of the so-called outcome of their prediction?
Aside from hooting about their superior judgment, journalists seem to have some idea in regard to Egypt that if we really understand what is behind the uprising and if it is bad that the United States can somehow affect the outcome by waving a magic wand. If President Mubarak and his security forces were unable to stop the demonstrations then how can an American administration discredited in the eyes of most Egyptians even before the uprising and without a clue as to what was happening do anything? Certainly there are always pressures that can be exerted but that is an uncertain mechanism at best and if journalists are slanting the story in the first place then how can pressure be effectively be exerted: by almost hysterical claims and disinformation? The problem with credibility is that if 90% of your info is accurate but you are manipulating that info people are left wondering when it can be trusted.
Hamas in Gaza says right out in its founding charter that it is a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and it is well known the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is almost fanatically anti-Israeli as is Hamas. Generally speaking, Egyptians are on board with the idea of helping Gaza and the Palestinian Arabs; what they are willing to sacrifice in their own personal lives and as a nation is another thing - there is no doubt the Muslim Brotherhood has the intent to manipulate those feelings among the Egyptian public but there is that word again: intent.
Those facts represent intent and not in and of themselves the ability to carry out such an intent and that is the problem in journalists assessing Egypt after the uprising because intent and ability are being entirely and sometimes purposefully confused as if saying a thing is doing a thing. All the teams in major league baseball have the intent to win the World Series - saying that is not sports journalism - an honest assessment of each teams strengths and weaknesses is and leaving out some of the teams as if they don't even exist isn't going to help anyone understand the situation, especially if one of those teams embarassingly wins the championship.
Intent and the ability to carry out that intent are two totally separate things; a hobo might want to be rich - so what? It is certainly interesting but not necessary to understand what chance the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamic groups have in the upcoming fall elections. The reason it is not necessary is because there is not a damn thing anyone outside of Egypt can do about it. Either one is in favor of a vote or one is not; to do otherwise is to suggest the ends justifies the means which was basically the American policy of favoring a dictator like Mubarak but now that policy may have worked against American and Israeli interests - we don't know. Reliable polling is not yet available in Egypt and so pretty much everyone is in the dark and reduced to guessing games but which serve little purpose, especially when they are reduced to wishful thinking or outright propaganda and hysterical scare tactics.
Some journalists want to portray the Egyptian revolution as a carefully planned and plotted event and yet such plans and plots have come to nothing in the past. In fact it was a sense of public outrage that sparked the Egyptian uprising, first by the murder of Khaled Said by police in Alexandria in the summer of 2010 and then by the uprising in Tunisia. The groups opposed to President Mubarak simply couldn't have done the uprising by themselves and didn't. Whether they will successfully hijack the revolution to their own ends consisting of Marxism or Islamism is another matter. The great rank and file of Egyptians who took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands are home now and will only be expressing themselves in the upcoming elections with a vote which is a far different game than a mass uprising. No one knows how it will turn out and those who say they do are revealing more about themselves and their own intent stripped of the ability to explain that intent than they are anything about Egypt.
If one is really a journalist one should simply tell the truth as one sees it unless on believes that there is only money and a career in creating a polmemic. More importantly, if one believes in the righteousness of one's cause then there should be no problem with it surviving all the truth it can handle; to do otherwise is to make others believe that you yourself doubt the righteousness of your own cause. Islam is noted for it willingness to shade the truth and create false narratives because reality in recent decades has not been kind to it. For the West to indulge in the same shadings doesn't show differences between itself and Islam but only similarities, doubts and false narratives.