Despite the variety and the differences, and however much we proclaim the contrary, what the media produces is neither spontaneous nor completely “free”: “news” does not just happen, pictures and ideas do not merely spring from reality into our eyes and minds, truth is not directly available, we do not have unrestrained variety at our disposal.”
In his famous book Orientalism, Edward Said argued that the West continues to define the Arab world as the ‘eroticized other’, as its contrasting image through considerable material investment, including that in art, literature and political writing. The media is a powerful tool in the hands of the West, who, in order to legitimize its own power, continues to influence its opinions about the ‘other’ and the ‘orient’ on the world. One obsession of the West has been about Muslim countries; its faulty foreign policies has led it to run a propaganda about ‘good’ Muslim states like Saudi Arabia and against the bad ones like Iraq and Afghanistan. This propaganda is clearly reflected in the West’s media on issues relating to ‘bad’ Muslim countries, currently its fixation with the states where protests to topple old governments and replace them with democratic ones is simmering.
On July 3, as the Egypt military toppled the Mohamed Morsi government as per the will of the country’s people, the western media termed it as a coup, even though it was far away from being an illegal seizure of power. What happened a few days ago has been the result of a decades-long struggle over the nation’s identity between two authoritarian forces – the Islamists and a secular military state.
Egypt won its independence from Britain after a 1952 revolution by army officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser. From the start, the military was set against the Muslim Brotherhood, a growing and at times violent underground Islamist movement.
The Brotherhood’s vision inspired both moderate Islamist groups and terrorist organizations across the region. But the group was both co-opted and persecuted by successive military leaders who regarded it as a threat to the Westwardleaning secular state they envisioned.
The organization’s bitterness simmered through six decades as military men ran the country, until the Arab Spring happened. It led to the overthrow of the Hosni Mubarak-led government and the nation’s first Islamist leader to take control. At this point, the West, particularly the US, quickly took credit for this overturn, terming it as one inspired by Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009. As the revolt escalated, Obama declared Morsiand his Islamic organization to be American allies. Since then, he poured billions of dollars into the country in support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But power got on to Morsi too, who quickly began accumulating control, ignoring court decisions against his authority, pushing through an Islamistbacked constitution and referring to his opponents as “thugs”. The state started falling apart again as foreign reserves plummeted, inflation soared, tourism dwindled, power outages spread, gas lines grew and poverty deepened. The dysfunctional, corrupt state came under attack again as its inability to address the nation’s many ills grew and this was reflected in the June 30 groundswell against him. As people came together once again on Tahrir Square, it became clear that they were revolting against their system of governance and their leaders, that they had rejected the Brotherhood.
The Daily News Egypt reported that the protests suggest that millions of demonstrators come from a cross-section of Egyptian society, broader even than the citizens who participated in the revolts in 2011. It said, “The instigators of the January 25 revolution were a relatively small number of citizens who belonged to youth networks and coalitions and who co-ordinated with some political forces and parties. Yet on June 30, citizens, en masse, took to the streets even though many had no prior political affiliation nor party membership. The fear barrier was broken in the January 25 revolution, releasing political energy that has been pent up for 50 years.”
The western media showed unprofessionalism by terming the event as a military coup and presented biased views in support of the Obama administration that backs the Muslim Brotherhood. This angered many Egyptians who formed a petition called “CNN, shame on you!”, that has over 32,000 signatures, with more on the way. The Economist denounced the event as ‘Egypt’s Tragedy’ even as millions of Egyptians celebrated on the streets in the hope of a new dawn...One of the slogans of this revolt was “We are revolutionaries, not infidel”. It again suggests that the protesters were not fighting for secularism but against the Muslim Brotherhood as guardian of Islam, against the deployment of security personnel to attack the antiregime protestors. It is clear that what is happening in Egypt is not a power hungry, undemocratic coup but practical manifestation of the people’s right to rule their own country. Yet some of the coverage of these events speaks of western media bias and a disconnect with the pulse of Egypt’s citizens. This is not to suggest that this revolution will necessarily pave the way to a smooth democracy; there is still a possibility of its hijack by the ultraradical Islamists. The road to peace and prosperity is long. However, to represent this as simply a military coup is to be blind to the voices of the millions who dare to dream of bread, freedom and dignity.