12.02.2014 Author: Seth Ferris

Egyptian political reality: “the devil is in the media coverage”

arab-revolution-otporNow some kind of mutual understanding has been achieved between the ruling military council and the Islamists in Egypt, with the help of the US, a new narrative of that country’s recent past is being written in the State and Islamist media. However, the worsening economic situation and, last but not least, the use of violence by the newly-installed military council seem to indicate that, once again, a national revolution, hailed by those involved as a solution to that nation’s problems, is being shanghaied by outsiders, without consulting the locals.

Revolutions are never simple. Usually a wide variety of forces are involved in trying to achieve change, and these frequently have very different ideas about what sort of country they want to build after the common enemy, the incumbent government, is removed. Mao Tse-tung and Chiang Kai-shek fought alongside each other to overthrow the Emperor of China and the myriad of groups which drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan 35 years ago are still fighting each other today.

However, many of these disputes, internecine, need never occur. Each combatant force has its paymasters, foreign protectors who will offer them the earth in exchange for influence when they take power. Patrice Lumumba, now revered as the national hero, was President of Congo for a mere twelve weeks because various forces were determined to protect their interests in this former Belgian colony, and subsequently had him murdered. Yusuf Lule got rid of international bogeyman Idi Amin in Uganda, to global acclaim, only to be deposed a short while later by cabinet members with other extraterritorial friends.

So we’ve all seen what is happening in Egypt before. First the promises with strings attached, then the collection of the debts, then the rewriting of history. Each power has its own distinctive way of doing it. This latest attempt has, unsurprisingly, the words LOVE FROM YOUR UNCLE SAM written all over it.

Since elected President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July he has been demonized to justify this course of action. The nature of his rule has been questioned, his treatment of religious minorities, diplomatic orientation, etcetera. All this is typical of what happens when any revolution is derailed and hijacked. The outcome starts to bear less and less relation to anything anyone actually fought for in the first place.

But the twist which screams “USA” is that Al-Jazeera, the media organisation originally established by the BBC and then bailed out by the Qatari government when the British ran short of cash, is now being attacked for describing the removal of the elected Egyptian president as a ‘coup’. The agenda-setting Washington Post wrote early last month that the “sympathetic coverage of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood movement has turned Al Jazeera into a virtual enemy of the state in Egypt.”

These attacks are meant to imply that Al-Jazeera is not playing the game by disagreeing with the Western view. Really?

The Game and Who is Playing It

Few Americans are familiar with the existence of The National Endowment for Democracy, NED, and fewer under what it actually does. Established by the CIA, which as a secret service organisation is essentially anti-democratic project, NED is not subject to democratic public control and is famous in most other countries for planting and spinning stories and regime change.

Whenever there is a divergence between what news reports say is going on in a country and what most of those involved say is going on, there are two common factors which accompany this divergence. One, the NED is openly sponsoring some sort of project in that country, and is accused of covertly sponsoring several others, for example those ostensibly conducted by aid agencies. Second, the new narrative is one which supports the US position, but any contrary narratives also fail to reflect what those whose positions they claim to be supporting say is actually happening.

The present situation in Ukraine is a case in point. The ongoing demonstrations are consistently being presented as a protest against the Ukrainian government reneging on its previous promise to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, thus committing the country to a path which is supposed to lead to eventual EU membership. The counter narrative is that the demonstrations are about the population which identifies itself as Ukrainian, seen as synonymous with supporting Yulia Tymoshenko, objecting to domination by the “Russian” part of the country.

If you look at these two narratives closely, you will see that they are in fact the same story. Ukrainian journalists in the middle of the protests keep trying to tell the world that Ukrainian people of all shades of opinion, whether they identify as “Ukrainian” or “Russian”, feel that their rights are being consistently violated by the government, and that is what the people are protesting about. But these mere locals, on site every day and living with the consequences of the demonstrations instead of running off home with their pay, are not employed by NED.

NED, which is not Egyptian and has been elected by no one, is trying to take over the initial gains of the revolution in Egypt. It is using the same methods it has in many other countries, including the others which are undergoing the various “Arab Springs”.

Why they are playing it

NED has reason to do this, according to its own standards. One thing which aroused antagonism to the Morsi government is that on one occasion it sent heavily armed security operatives to raid the offices of 10 international organisations, including NED and the National Democratic and Republican Institutes, two other “democracy promotion” mechanisms used by the US in recalcitrant countries. As part of the same operation the Morsi government prevented at least six Americans and four Europeans from leaving the country.

This was described as a “preemptive operation” – a claim rebuffed by the international community but now seen to be fully justified. After all, the Morsi is no longer in power, and the reasons for that, no matter which side they are apparently expressed by, are ones the US was writing and quoting before his removal.

Al Jazeera’s apparent sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood could almost have been designed to provoke an American reaction. It is used to provide another opportunity for developing the scripted US narrative. The US is afforded another platform and photo opportunity to hedge its bets. The shadow of the Vietnam War, where US support for one side was unequivocal, still looms large over Capitol Hill, although the veterans of that conflict and their families might dispute this. If the NED intervention goes the same way, Al Jazeera’s roots as a BBC project can suddenly be rediscovered, and a number of Americans will start appearing on its broadcasts.

What They Seek to Achieve

The NED intervention in Egypt really took on its present form when President Obama gave his infamous “change” speech in Cairo in 2009. The Muslim Brotherhood, whether the US likes it or not, was elected by the Egyptian people in the same election first hailed as the culmination of Egypt’s move to democracy. It is now banned and has been declared a “terrorist group”. Many other groups which behave in the same way but remain purely armed groups, without being granted any electoral mandate, are supported, supplied and funded by the US. Remember Yugoslavia? Nicaragua? Libya?

Of course Egypt is only one of the regional countries that experienced revolution and proto-revolution in recent times. Another is Syria. President Assad, who the US continues to try its best to portray as a terrorist; he is no less democratic than other regional leaders who have waxed and waned in US esteem, has been targeted for removal due to his refusal to abandon his alliance with Iran. This alliance does not involve developing nuclear weapons, the flimsy reason the US gives for its hostility to Iran.

By taking such a position the US has put itself on a collision course with Russia, China and Iran, which could even foment another Cold War.However,even today Egypt’s position on Syria, at least officially, is that a political solution should be found. It has rejected foreign military intervention in the conflict since it began in 2011, even though all Egypt’s current political forces might be considered to be well-disposed to the sort of foreign military intervention which toppled Mubarak and put them in power.

It is thus easy to see why the US, through its traditional channels of deception, wishes to falsify what is happening in Egypt by presenting the controversy over the removal of the elected government as a conflict between one American position and another, differently expressed American position, regardless of the facts on the ground.

If the truth were told, not only would the US be expected to abide by its own democratic principles but it would have to admit that a state it regards as a client is actually conducting foreign policy rather better than it is itself, and changing its government has not altered that. So where does that leave the US?

One of the major “dissident” websites in the US is AntiWar.com. This has much to complain about, as the US is involved in an ever-increasing number of wars. Obviously it is allowed to exist due to US respect for Freedom of Speech, as reiterated by George W. Bush when the Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at him. However, as a former New York editor recently wrote to me:

“I have published a brief commentary on the very troubling switch of position and changes at AntiWar.Com, a site that I used to support and consider one of my favorites. Since their management change they have been banning not only me but other well-respected true alternatives. And they have been losing many supporters while gaining mystery-undisclosed funders. But the most troubling change is their consistent coverage of the New York Times, Washington Post and the rest of the US government and corporate propaganda machine. I have researchers who are compiling data on their recent changes, and running background checks on their new team members who have successfully altered this once truly valuable source of information.”

Removing an elected government in another continent was small beer to the US/NED machine. Now that same machine is not only conducting its usual tricks to support its actions but turning every possible alternative media site into a means of delivering the same non-contradictory message. Maybe if the US NED staff had read and understood the American Constitution they could have expected where replacing democracy with the tyranny of falsehood would lead them.

Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Please select digest to download: