Paid thugs assault Liberty Square. That should have been the headline this evening. It is the story being told by many correspondents in Egypt but that message is being butchered, like the men, women and their children in the pro-democracy crowds in Cairo, by editorial guidelines that seek the false grail of ‘neutrality’.
Instead the headlines, with notable exceptions, read:
‘Rival protesters hurl fists, petrol bombs in Cairo clash’ (CNN)
‘Clashes erupt amid Cairo protests’ (BBC)
‘Mubarak backers and opponents clash in Cairo’ (AP)
‘Chaos As Rival Protest Groups Clash In Cairo’ (Sky News)
The summaries below continue in the same vein, overwhelmingly in a nauseating passive voice. Violence ‘escalates’, chaos ‘erupts’, in tellings that equate ‘rival groups’ and deny agency (including that hard won by the Egyptian people) and ignore motives. Somewhere, buried a few paragraphs down the page, will be the claim, made by an interested party you understand, that it is a paid-up and centrally coordinated militia who instigated the violence and continue to attack peaceful demonstrators and journalists.
Compare such editorials with the good work of journalists on the ground. Read Robert Fisk as opposed to the Independent’s news wire imports. Contrast John Simpson with BBC editorial content. What makes it all even more absurd is that the media are complicit in their own persecution. It is Mubarak’s stooges who are attacking journalists. Why risk the lives of your employees only to dilute their findings with the calculated statements of Egyptian ministers and sympathetic foreign governments?
The Egyptian regime knows the perversity of this system of checks and balances. First, Mubarak’s friends put out the story that it is him or the Islamists, which has continued to reverberate around the echo-chamber of the global media despite being repeatedly discredited. Then, the regime make their latest bid to retain the international support that has served them so well, knowing that once the story becomes a shade more complicated than the people vs. military dictatorship the potency of the media spotlight fizzles out.
Undoubtedly, Mubarak has sympathisers, admirers even, among the Egyptian people who feel he has made enough concessions and want familiarity and order to be restored - but it is not they who go armed and mounted to attack their fellow countrymen. This violent phalanx of dictatorship do not deserve to be portrayed as a legitimate, popular movement.
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