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The cult of personality - Daily News Egypt

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The cult of personality

A perfect example is Mona Eltahawy who was arrested in New York City a few days ago. In a carefully colour-coordinated attack of spray paint and raincoat on an offensive ad in the city's subway, Eltahawy professed to be exercising her freedom of speech.

Over the years the freedom to speak your mind has generated a whole new terminology. When once we called a spade a spade, we are now obliged to use oblique terms that refer to neutral determinations. Just so we do not hurt, insult or inadvertently upset any individual or group of people defined by something they have in common. It is called being politically correct, a contradiction in terms if I have ever heard one.

From one day to the next these things change and I for one have been caught off guard by red-faced, fury spitting individuals claiming mortal insult when I used a manner of speech that just last week was fine. Opposites no longer exist it seems. While I have been called tall for most of my life, those that reach my shoulders are no longer short. They are vertically challenged. I may be still white, but anyone that has a different shade of skin can no longer be described by a segment of the spectrum.

I doubt that this new terminology actually makes anyone feel better, it just gives the feisty ones among us another reason to take a stand. Oops. Excuse me. Position themselves strategically to represent a specific vision. Do the years suddenly peel away when I am called mature instead of old? Nope. Does anyone feel less hefty when they are referred to as horizontally challenged? I really doubt it.

Refreshingly, there are some figures that still stand up and tell it like it is. Loud-mouthed, opinionated, and often abrasive, they create waves and make noise to draw attention to injustice, discrimination and whatever cause grabs their attention. They usually fight the good fight and because they passionately argue with anyone who differs in opinion they are fun to watch. At least, that is what television producers seem to think.

Before you can say protest, the activists in question are paraded on television to share their vocal views with the world. I am sure they mean well, these defenders of all that is righteous. I think they honestly believe that they are asked on these shows because their opinion matters. As they, together with the person brought along to vigorously state the opposite, spout their wisdom in 20 second sound-bites, men in suits monitor carefully how their viewers react. Not that they care if opinions are changed by the information given mind you, they check if people change the channel.

And lo and behold if they don’t. Focus groups and polls ensue and as long as their outcome is positive, invitations to appear on television keep being extended to the passionate activist. As long as they keep delivering their spunky sound bites, if they can be marketed to seem to speak for millions of people around the world, and can be counted on to repeat themselves ad nauseam, they are in. Mercilessly pigeonholed, they move within the small boundaries of however they have been defined by the powers that be.

A perfect example is Mona Eltahawy who was arrested in New York City a few days ago. In a carefully colour-coordinated attack of spray paint and raincoat on an offensive ad in the city’s subway, Eltahawy professed to be exercising her freedom of speech. A defender of the ad and a TV crew were conveniently close at hand to film the altercation and as soon as the police showed up, imagine the surprise, directives to the twitterati were issued by Eltahawy. The world had to be informed of her arrest.

And we were. Clips of the dispute between a camera waving woman and the pink avenger flooded news sites and social media joined in with tweets and Facebook postings. Comments varied from supportive to vile and everything in between. At least 90 per cent of the comments were pro or against Eltahawy, her personality and her methods. Only a few actually addressed the ad that supposedly sparked this whole altercation.

No matter what the cause she professes to address, the incessant media overexposure she has received in the past will always end up making Eltahawy the story. It is a smart way to make a living, but the longer it goes on, the less relevance and believable objectivity she has. It is sad, since the things she speaks out on usually deserve to be brought in the limelight she courts so well. Unfortunately the cult of personality throws deep shadows on those who need the exposure.

If I knew the politically correct term for this phenomenon I would use it. The one I do know should not appear in print.

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