A 16 year old boy, the son of an acquaintance, went to attend the Ghana-Egypt match dressed in an Al-Ahly t-shirt and holding a fireworks stick. The boy watched the match, left and was taking a cab when the police arrested him, charging him with participating in Mohamed Mahmoud clashes. Why is this alright? Because we are on a war on terrorism! We should all accept this and live with the fact that our sons and daughters can be taken anytime anywhere and be charged with anything. If you utter a word, loud, vulgar, aggressive voices from the TV screen will deafen you with the war on terrorism horror.
We start asking, “What war?” and then we are slammed with news headlines:
“Police officer killed by unknown gunmen”
“One officer dead in fight with ‘militants’”
“Officer killed combating terrorism”
“Military funeral for dead officer”
“Soldier injured in Sinai”
Going off headlines in Egyptian news these days, one would be forgiven for thinking the country is swarming with terrorists.
First, let me be clear that I am in no way belittling the tragedies of the deaths of the police officers or the army soldiers; I am merely trying to put things in perspective in an attempt to make some sense of the reality of the situation.
The atrocities committed in the past few months against the security apparatus in Egypt call for a strong response. The violence displayed in the Kerdasa and the Aswan police stations are staggering examples of the viciousness of Islamists trying to regain power over the country. But let’s be fair here; even though there are armed factions that should be fought, Egyptians are not at war as the media portrays the situation.
Now, as tragic as it is, in the past, the death of a police officer or the injury of a soldier would not have made front page news or “Breaking” on TV channels’ news tickers, unless they were very high-ranking officers. Otherwise, this type of news would run in the inner pages of Crime inside the papers, and would not even make TV news briefs. The label “criminal” would have been used instead of the current favourite: “terrorist”.
Simply put, what’s happening now is that the ordinary Egyptian sees this news and assumes that Egypt is drowning in a swamp of terrorists.
This is then coupled with the other type of news:
“28 Muslim Brotherhood supporters arrested after clashes”
“Students sentenced to17 years in prison for violence acts”
“Clashes erupted during Morsi supporters protest”
After reading news of dead officers and soldiers, along with the above news, the Egyptian citizen is kept in check, without paying much attention to the fact that “clashes” meant “rock throwing” and violent acts meant breaking a window. I am not saying that these are peaceful demonstrations; all I am saying is the reaction is disproportionate, and the media demonisation of the “other camp” is becoming ridiculous. There is wide gap of difference between criminals committing crimes and terrorists with guns crying “Jihad” on the streets, a distinction that seems to slip the media’s mind.
By launching a “war on terrorism”, in four months the state has managed to kill almost 2,500 civilians and armed factions obviously retaliated viciously, but the media is having a field day portraying every Morsi supporter as an armed terrorist. We see thousands on the streets protesting, but had each one of them been armed as the media would like us to believe, the country would have already plunged into civil war.
Had the media given Morsi supporters their time on air, they would have been exposed to be as ridiculous and irrelevant as they really are. When they had their time in the media during Morsi’s rule, they fell in no time at all. Why not play the game this way, and not by misleading the public?
Somewhere between the two extremes of portraying Morsi supporters as terrorists or as victims lies the truth.
The most successful creator of propaganda in modern history, Adolph Hitler, said, “By the skilful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” Since 30 June, Egyptians have been subject to brainwashing by propaganda; almost all known media manipulation and propaganda techniques are put to play. And by all means, Egyptians are falling for it.
Now, because of such media coverage, a horrendous Protest Law has been passed allowing police to use birdshot to disperse a demonstration, and the public is not objecting. Because of the media, innocent people are getting detained and sent to torture chambers without any response from the public. Because of the media, people will vote Yes on a constitution they did not read.
However, in spite of the systemic media manipulation of public opinion, one day this will all blow up and Egyptians will not take it anymore. They will not tolerate seeing their 16 year old dragged to detention, beaten up, tortured and thrown in jail for no reason but the state’s war on terror manufactured by the media. The “Wag the Dog” trick doesn’t last long when it hits home.