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12th February 2011
“In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody.”
– Omar Suleiman, 16:12 GMT, 11/2/2011
I HATE TO BE A PARTY-POOPER, BUT…
Do YOU have any feelings of unease now that Mubarak has been ousted by “the people” in Egypt? Or is it just me? As usual, the contrarian?
Despite my admiration for the so-called generational/technological revolution and the sight of all those seemingly disparate groups and individuals with seemingly innocent wishes for western-style liberal democracy, I’m afraid I do feel quite a bit of trepidation. My concerns started well before 4:00pm GMT on Friday when we first heard that Mubarak had finally succumbed to pressure from various quarters and was “stepping down”.
MY CONCERNS STARTED 18/19 DAYS AGO
They began at the start of the entire media coverage of the last 18 days. We can expect that our free, liberal and democratic (sort of) press would be delighted at the demonstration for liberal democrat freedom. If that was the only issue, so would I. In fact I AM delighted! If that is the only issue.
Trouble is, it isn’t the only issue.
Despite being delighted that democracy (at least in some form – there are many forms) has seemingly taken the upper hand at last in the largest country in the Middle East, I DO have concerns. Many of them. My first concern is the earlier mentioned 18-days-old one.
WHAT DO THE REST OF THE 80 MILLION EGYPTIANS THINK?
From the start of this Egyptian People’s Revolution it always seemed somewhat careless to me that the media as a whole was determined to take as read the general opinion against Mubarak. True, tens of thousands, perhaps at times hundreds of thousands were demonstrating to be rid of their (military) dictator of 30 years. But why did none of our supposedly dispassionate press ever mention that the tens/hundreds of thousands of demonstrators were but a tiny fraction of some 80 million citizens in that country?
Mainly, I should imagine, because we should all be delighted in principle that the people were speaking AT ALL against Mubarak’s government, and were being heard and even read on the internet. Overthrowing tyranny is something to yell happily about always, in every case. Well, isn’t it?
Egypt was/is hardly a democracy. Its press is (still, today) government controlled. So there aren’t too many opinion polls telling us how most people feel about anything much. The mainly young group of understandably jubilant demonstrators in this mainly young population, may well have been speaking for everyone there, even those over 35, but I’ve seen no proof that they were.
All politics is local, they say, and from their local viewpoint all that was needed for democracy to take root was for Mubarak to be sent packing. In fact democracy is about far more than one person/one vote. Until the structures surrounding and supporting democracy are also in place – an independent judiciary, a free press, honest reporting as regards external, particularly foreign policy/international complexities and of the longterm ambitions of all parties for getting that vote is clarified, to name but a few, we are living in cloud cuckoo-land. It took us in Britain centuries of work and development regarding the rights and responsibilities of the people, politicians, the judiciary, the input from the background religion (Christianity) before we in Britain achieved what we now have – an accountable democracy.
As far as having an accountable press is concerned – what do you expect? Miracles?
Honesty would be something.
Someone needs to explain to those determined to remain in Tahrir Square until ‘Democracy Rules OK?’ that the junta is hardly, even with the best will in the world, going to be able to produce democracy in a matter of weeks.
We can see where the press were coming from in their limited report of the Egyptian fight for freedom and democracy. To show their true allegiance to democracy and freedom they even interviewed plenty of members of The Muslim Brotherhood, presumably to show us that they’re not all such bad sticks.
Where the press are going may be an entirely different matter.
The 18-day demos ended in a MILITARY COUP. Now a junta is in charge. As it has been for 60 years. As it was after Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 for his 1979 peace deal with Israel. A peace deal to which Mubarak continued to hold until he departed on Friday.
Today this military junta now replaces the former military man put in place by an earlier military junta. Please don’t let that slip past you in your jubilation.
18 MILLION IN ANYBODY’S MONEY IS STILL 18 MILLION
On BBC Newsnight last night I heard a supporter of the popular uprising in Egypt saying that “18 million” people had demonstrated against Mubarak. We all know that truth is the first casualty of war (some might say of politics too), but this woman seemed to be getting her 18s confused. Cairo has a population of 18 million and it has been an 18-day People’s Revolution. But 18 million demonstrated? I don’t think so. And yet she said it twice, and was not pulled up for it once by the presumably dispassionate Newsnight interviewer.
And today I heard a male commenter from Egypt say that “almost half the country” (that’s around 40 million people!) had come out on the streets to show their support for the removal of Mubarak. How does he know? Who counted them?
SAME DISTORTIONS, ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION
How the press treated the demonstrators and the demos themselves reminded me of something else, closer to home, in a real democracy; ours.
During the 2002/2003 demonstrations against the Iraq war some said that as many as a million marched against. That despite opinion polls showing that as many as 63% supported Tony Blair’s decision. Then, at the next general election, two years after the Iraq invasion, in 2005, Tony Blair’s government still won. For a third historic time! The big opinion poll showed that most people did NOT disagree with Blair or the Iraq invasion. Odd how that is seldom if EVER referred to as of any importance by the anti-Blair, anti-Iraq war press.
In 2005 his party’s percentage dropped 5.5% from the 2001 election, but they still won 355 seats in parliament c/w 198 for the Conservatives and all of 62 for the anti-Iraq war Liberal Democrats.
Disillusion with government, for one reason or other, invariably sets in after a party has been in government some years, so some drop in support was to be expected, with or without Iraq. Contrast that with the 2010 election: the Conservatives (winning only 306 seats) failed to achieve an overall majority at all and had to rely on a coalition with the Liberal Democrats (who won 57 seats, an actual drop on 2005)! Labour, under Gordon Brown, lost 98 seats (from 355 in 2005 under Blair to 258 in 2010) .
So what’s all that to do with the price of bread, or democracy in Egypt?
To put it simply it’s the press, sweetheart.
A free press and their opiners can get away with disseminating all sorts of untruths as truths if we, the people, let them.
The conclusion, since we DO let them – democracy is only TRUE democracy when the PRESS decide NOT to undermine it by peddling inexactitudes as “truths” for reasons concerning their own agenda.
So, TRUE democracy? True accountability of the press as well as the politicians?
Way to go, Egypt.
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I am staggered by all the hate directed towards our former Prime Minister. I believe that Tony Blair made the Iraq decision in good faith and is most certainly NOT a war criminal. If anyone should be tried at the Hague it should be those in the media for totally misrepresenting the information and facts. The media are to blame for fuelling this hatred as it is purely driven by them. (UK)
The greatest and most successful leader the Labour Party has ever had with the courage to fight the Islamist terrorists who really would like to kill us all, and you never hear a good word about him. The herd of independent minds, commentators, activists etc who have never had to make a difficult decision in their lives drown out all debate with their inane chants of war crimes and blood on his hands. Defend him at every chance. I just wish more people would do it. (Glasgow, UK)
Tags: 18 million, Egypt, Egyptian Armed Forces, Egyptians, Hosni Mubarak, junta seizes power, liberal democrats, military dictatorship, Omar Suleiman, Politics of Egypt, press agenda, Tahrir Square, Tony Blair