(Click here for an incredible slide show of Egyptian Women from Global Post. See their expressions. Click the title to view the post on its own page. /wr)
Dysfunctionalism is always the product of a system, and if one part of the system decides to change for the better, the other parts redouble their efforts to stop its progress. We are witnessing this maxium played out in Egypt’s internal politics, in its multi-state relations, and in its media coverage.
The US especially, has been drumming the fears of “what if,” substituting the details of speculation for hard facts. Its focus seems to be the “downside” of democracy. Huge graphics show “what if” the Suez canal is closed, tracing the long journey around the horn of Africa to the US, stoking the fear of run away oil prices. Yet the facts that there is no current threat or attempt to close the canal, that neither the government or the patriots have called for the canal’s closing, that no threat assessment has put the canal in danger is conveniently omitted from every report I’ve seen.
The media has also added the imperative question, “should we?” Should we continue to fund Egypt’s military, should we call for an interim election, should we debate the unknown about future as if has arrived? No matter the events, the level of violence, its cause and sources, American media has responded with “what ifs”–and “should we”?
Or let’s take a few facts and build a worse case. Fact: Oil costs have rapidly gone up. Yet Egypt is the only the world’s 27th ranked producer of oil and barely produces enough to meet its own needs. The current price spike is actually 50% lower than the 2007 spike of oil prices. Yet the drumbeat of fear and ominous possibility replaces context and facts. The fact to be carefully noted is that companies are profiting from political unrest and obscenely using these profits to stop Egypt’s movement toward democracy. Rising oil costs are used to leverage world-wide government and popular pressure to block and stifle the movement and undercut its support, while the companies applying this pressure through price increases benefit on their bottom line.
Currently the route of applying the leverage of economic pressures seems to be main tactic to defeat the Egyptian campaign for democracy rather than exciting fears of potential threats against Israel. Nor has the fear of an Islamic takeover become significant except in limited circles.
But the heart of the dysfunctionalism is at the source of the government, in Hosni Mubarak, who is in denial about the changes being demanded and who has a strategy of shifting blame to outside, unnamed forces and campaign’s television coverage. He overlooks the collective judgment that has been made: the repression and limited economic opportunities of his regime must gave way to a new social order. The people of Egypt get it. Their dysfunctional government and its leader, Mr. Mubarak, don’t.
The main club of Mr. Mubarak to surpress the people is now violence and fear.
Nicolas Kristof, blogging from Tahrir Square, makes this clear, without speculation or objectivity, from the substance of facts: “I have been spending hours in on Tahrir today and it is absurd to think of this as simply “clashes” between two rival groups. The pro-democracy protesters are unarmed and have been peaceful at every step. But the pro-Mubarak thugs are arriving in buses and are armed — and they are using their weapons.
In my area of Tahrir, the thugs were armed with machetes, straight razors, clubs and stones. And they all had the same chants, the same slogans and the same hostility to journalists. They clearly had been organized and briefed. So the idea that this is some spontaneous outpouring of pro-Mubarak supporters, both in Cairo and in Alexandria, who happen to end up clashing with other side — that is preposterous. It’s difficult to know what is happening, and I’m only one observer, but to me these seem to be organized thugs sent in to crack heads, chase out journalists, intimidate the pro-democracy forces and perhaps create a pretext for an even harsher crackdown.”
A commenter on his NYTimes blog echoes the theme. From London, she says: “Very frustrating to see other media reporting this as clashes between rival groups when it is clearly an organised attempt by the regime to break the protest.”
My favorite for negative coverage is a long piece of wholecloth that ties the toppling North African regimes of leaders entrenched for decades to a conspiracy on the American left led behind the scenes by corporations, social media, the unions, and Obama. Its blames this secret cabral for bringing down governments and inciting people to freedom. ”In other words,” the post says, this group led the first internet attempt at formenting regime change. Another post monitors the fringe left and claims they are driving the mainstream. It cites the Troskyites, (remember them?), communists, and socialists as “exploiting” the events.
Continued patience and determination will bring the change the people demand. Others, slowly or swiftly, will have to deal with their own consequences. Violence is not justice or security; only freedom will bring stability. The bells are ringing.