If we put together an encyclopaedia of Al-Sisi’s words since he first carried out his brutal coup in July 2013, the pages would’ve been completely filled and we would need one after the other. The most recent, but of course not the last of what he said was at the youth conference in which he commented on the hashtag #Sisi_Leave, saying, “When I come to get you out of impoverishment and make you a worthy nation, you set up the hashtag #Sisi_Leave Should I feel upset or not? In this case, I feel very upset.”
Did this simple hashtag launched into virtual space shake the leader’s chair and actually upset him? The youth believed him and fell into his trap. They saluted him and restored his position, believing in his influence and effectiveness, thus causing the hashtag to trend worldwide. This caused a state of electronic mobilisation where jokes and songs to mock him were circulated on social networking sites.
This brings us back to the fundamental question of whether the hashtag truly upset Al-Sisi. He has repeatedly said: “If you want me to leave, I’d leave in a second. I don’t need protests or anything else; I won’t stay against your will.”
So what is it that changed and upset him? He knows exactly how much anger is pent up inside the Egyptians after he stopped the subsidies on basic commodities, energy and fuel, and the resulting crazy rise in prices. This affected the lives of the Egyptians and their means of a decent living. They found no other way to release this anger other than in the virtual world, as the real world has been closed to them, depriving them of means of expression and freedom. This occurred after mouths were gagged and all windows of free media, including newspapers and television, were closed. Instead, the media has become a mouthpiece for the government and whatever else the state wants to broadcast to the people.
Since the government still lives in the time of Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s, when they established the media ministry, they called it the “Guidance” ministry. In this government’s time, the media has become a guidance, i.e., guiding the people to what the government likes and wants, forgetting the fact that the people have changed and that the president is addressing new generations that grew up in a new world where major revolutions in the world of communications and information occurred. These major revolutions made the world a small village and turned the right to knowledge in to a basic human right, and everything is now easily and effortlessly available.
Therefore, I rule out the fact that Al-Sisi is upset by the hashtag #Sisi_Leave. I may even go as far as to assume that one of his intelligence agencies were the first to launch this hashtag into cyberspace in order to absorb and contain the people’s anger and as a calculated reaction, since the youth adopted the hashtag with good intentions and spread it. By doing so, they released the anger inside them into balloons and launched them into cyber space, instead of releasing their anger in protests on the ground. It also is calculated as it gave them a false sense of victory. Now, Al-Sisi is announcing he is upset with them and they got what they want, so they rejoiced and continued to spread the hashtag, thinking they were angering him even more. Meanwhile, he made sure that their reaction would not go beyond what he permitted and would not harm a hair on his coup-led government, which governs the people with iron and fire.
These methods of distracting people with trivial matters, insignificant issues, or celebrity scandals, are familiar and used in ancient times by the intelligence of third world countries. The first to use this method were the colonial countries, such as Britain, who used it with the countries it occupied.
Al-Sisi’s anger distracted the people from the transfer of 75 people’s cases to the mufti (a routine measure that has become a formality carried out before the issuance of an execution) in a farcical case known in the media as the “Rabaa protest dispersal case”, issued on the same day. The people became distracted from the death sentences and only very few noticed this. Meanwhile, the majority were distracted by Al-Sisi’s electronic anger. There was no true reactions, even from this minority, and of course the human rights organisations were absent because those sentenced to death are affiliated with the hated Islamist trend, and although it is more accurate to say that they are opposed to the trend, I will not say this.
The choice of timing to issue the sentences coincided with the fifth anniversary of the most violent massacre in Egypt’s modern history (the Rabaa Al-Adawiya massacre) and with Al-Sisi’s anger, which was chosen very subtly and cleverly. He was able to hit two birds with one stone, as he was also able to release and contain the people’s anger towards the painful Rabaa memories, which still resonant in their hearts.
In order to complete the dramatic distraction and for it to reach its climax, there is a need to introduce the irony factor in the dramatic structure. Just as the innocent victims were sentenced to death, the murderer must be rewarded at the same time. The hero of the Republican Guard massacre was granted an extraordinary military promotion. This hero was the commander of the Republican Guard at the time and captured the legitimate President Mohamed Morsi. He was recently appointed as defence minister, thus closing the curtain on this scene which is offensive to the values and honour of the Egyptian military.
The international media reported this tragedy and most of the world’s army leaders and generals condemned it and considered it an execution of military honour in Egypt! However, before we go into the heart of this farcical matter, there was a preliminary scene represented in the US’ release of the aid frozen since Obama’s term, after the Egyptian intelligence leader visited the US and met with the leaders there. So, were the death sentences the price paid in exchange for the release of the aid? Was this meant to please Trump, who is anti-Islam and anti-Muslim Brotherhood and considered an offering or sacrifice to prove we are on the same path and following the same approach? The answers to these questions will be revealed in time, just as the role of Obama’s administration in the July 3rd coup was revealed in the report written by the American writer David Kirkpatrick and published by the New York Times.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.