I do not know when we will sober up and discern the truth of many of the myths spread across Egypt nowadays. However, I see indications that this sobriety will come soon.
I am referring to some of the extraordinary writings that have appeared in Egyptian newspapers during the past two weeks that indicate such sobriety, especially in those who are scared by the return of the state security ghost accompanied by repression and incitement under the pretext of protecting the state from the Muslim Brotherhood. They were also concerned by indicators suggesting the militarisation of Egyptian society after the dismissal of Dr Mohamed Morsi, in addition to the voices who exaggerated the murders committed in the name of dispersing the sit-ins by force. There were also the loud noises coming from the counter-revolution which proclaim the outbreak of a new fascism that is not content with the repressive measures and exclusion and so accuse those responsible for the January 25 Revolution of treason, calling them all "mercenaries" and describing the revolution itself as a "setback".
Due to the limited scope of these voices, I understand that their emergence does not constitute a break in the media campaign and intellectual terrorism accompanied by political and moral assassination adopted by many of the neo-fascists. Such matters contribute to the poisoning of Egypt, but I would argue that its presence cannot be ignored, because it means that counting on some sobering up is not hopeless or mere wishful thinking.
I do not attribute this to some awakening of the national conscience but to the blatant exaggerations that are being resorted to in the current hectic atmosphere which is too often counter-productive, in line with the common saying that whatever goes too far turns against itself. When one of the detainees, Mohammed Abdel Tawab Ahmed, is accused of assaulting demonstrators, possessing arms, terrorising citizens before killing them; and then we find out that he is a blind man who cannot move without being led by a guide, any sane person must realise that the charges against him are lies. Moreover, when newspapers report an arsenal of weapons in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square and protesters in possession of heavy artillery and chemical weapons and then we find out that hundreds were killed in that square alone, with thousands more detained without the slightest resistance, this destroys the myth without needing to disprove it. Furthermore, when a newspaper reports that US President Barack Obama, in all his glory, is a member of the international organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Wafd, 28 August), which means that the man often described as the most powerful in the world is subject to the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide, this turns the news into a joke of a kind told by a group of people out of their minds; on drugs perhaps.
Something of this nature occurred last week when Al-Ahram newspaper published on its front page an interesting report claiming to reveal a "new conspiracy" to disturb stability by involving politicians, journalists and businessmen; the "last link of the agreement between [Brotherhood leader Khairat] El-Shater and US Ambassador to divide Egypt" as well as the arrest of "37 terrorists after uncovering a plan to isolate Upper Egypt and declare its independence". A confession in the US about this was, it was alleged, prepared and – there's more the security agencies had "discovered an alternate plan".
The report was written by Editor-in-Chief Abdel Nasser Salama, who attributed his information to "security sources". The plot, it was claimed, involved US Ambassador Anne Patterson and El-Shater before he was arrested. Two hundred armed individuals were supposed to enter Egypt through the tunnels from Gaza, drive to Cairo "and spread chaos".
The same report also mentioned that the armed forces arrested the "37 terrorists" in Al-Manba province, and confiscated a large number of weapons sent to them through the western desert to enable them to take control of the province and form a government.
On the next day (28/8), Al-Ahram followed this with some "security experts" saying that the uncovering of the plot to divide Upper Egypt delivered a "very harsh blow to the West and US", and is also regarded as a significant victory for the security agencies. Al-Sisi, said one of the "experts", had "defeated Washington and Europe", which "were shaken" by the strong support he has received from the likes of Saudi Arabia and the "friendly" Arab countries.
Another crackpot story was published in Al-Watan on 25 August. A meeting is alleged to have taken place at a military base in Germany attended by representatives of Israel's Mossad spy agency, the US, France, Britain and NATO to come up with a plan to paralyse Egypt after the "huge loss" these parties sustained after the isolation of Dr Morsi. The report gave the impression that the meeting, which was reported as if it had taken place after a third world war, was held to help the Brotherhood by supporting democratic legitimacy in Egypt.
Ambassador Patterson described the report of her alleged involvement in the plot to divide Egypt as "deceptive and unprofessional". She called on Al-Ahram's editor in chief to act professionally and stop spreading lies and fears that threaten the future of Egypt and its democratic transformation.
The three most dangerous aspects of this are that the crude content revealed the lowered journalistic standards responsible for the fabrications, the flawed methodology and plain stupidity. It is a huge concern that the security agencies were said to be the sources of the story; they are responsible for creating public opinion at the moment and were credited with being more qualified and experienced than these "sources" suggest. Finally, the reports may fool newcomers to politics, ruining their vision and distorting their view of reality.
We are thus faced with a group of political myths and stories that I believe not only poison the political atmosphere but also threaten the peace. The most prominent of these myths are as follows:
- The myth of the Western, or American in particular, conspiracy against the current regime in Egypt to benefit the Muslim Brotherhood. The truth is that the West is preoccupied with three things: reconciliation in Egypt and the region; democratic policies and principles to which the West adheres and which reject military coups; and stability in Egypt which they consider to be one of the foundations of stability in the Arab region. Moreover, the West is not happy with the Brotherhood but is opposed to the way that the coup authority deals with its leaders and members. As for Washington, the US administration's dispute with the Egyptian administration over the Brotherhood is a "tactical" dispute, as the alliance between them is strategic. We must also not forget, in this context, that the US Chief of Staff told Congress that the Egyptian army is the American administration's most important ally in the country.
- The myth of the war on terror, which was fabricated and promoted by the media in the context of the scenario that began with the demand for early presidential elections and ended with criminalising and demonising the Brotherhood and suppressing and eradicating the movement. This has resulted, until now, in the death of 5,000 people, with 20,000 wounded, along with the detention of 10,000 more, according to the National Alliance for Supporting Legitimacy. This also poses a threat to Egypt, leading to it to become a dark police state which aborts the dream of becoming a democratic state. Moreover, the pro-democracy protests were generally peaceful, but the media and security depicted them as "acts of terrorism" that needed to be responded to with weapons and the fabrication of ready-made accusations.
- The conspiracy myth which was created recently when some independent liberal and nationalist voices opposed the measures being taken, were accused of being affiliated with the Brotherhood and were scared and terrorised.
- The myth of dividing Egypt, selling the Suez Canal to Qatar and surrendering Sinai, or parts of it, to Hamas. This is one of the media fabrications that were spread with no evidence which aimed to refute the patriotism of those accused of such actions.
- The myth of the Muslim Brotherhood depicted as a huge octopus that has arms spread in over 80 countries worldwide. In reality, it is a fragile and helpless entity founded in the sixties when the Egyptian Brotherhood leadership lived largely outside the country. This connection was formed between them, but it has never been proven that it had a role in guidance and organisation. The huge difference between the performance of Al-Nahda Party in Tunisia and the Brotherhood in Egypt is evidence of this, despite the fact that both are members of the international organisation.
In the confrontation of these myths, there lies a truth that is emerging day by day which can be summed up by saying that what occurred on July 3rd was not a coup against Dr Morsi's rule but a coup against the January 25th Revolution. The evidence for this is the great effort being made to restore the atmosphere and methods of the Mubarak era, in the media especially. I honestly doubt that this went through the minds of those who took to the streets on June 30th and gave a mandate to Al-Sisi, which poses the following question: Who should we authorise and who should we count on to defend the January 25th Revolution in order to rid ourselves of the myths pushed by the authorities during this time of confusion?
Translated from Shoroukh Newspaper 3 September, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.