Good Guys, Bad Guys, Egyptian Guys

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Obama Administration

It appears Egypt may be on the edge of a full-scale revolution. Heather Hurlburt has a good backgrounder at The New Republic for those of us who need a playbook.

The uprising in Egypt appears to be blowing holes in the Right’s simplistic good guys-bad guys worldview. The much-maligned Al-Jazeera is turning out to be the best source of information on what’s going on as well as the independent voice of the people on the streets. This doesn’t surprise me; Al-Jazeera provides some good reporting about the oppression of Buddhism in Tibet. It’s a genuinely professional news organization, from what I can see.

See also “Al Jazeera’s Egypt coverage embarrasses U.S. cable news channels.” U.S. cable news channels stopped being news channels many years ago. They are entertainment/propaganda channels. They’ve cut back news gathering, especially foreign reporting, and replaced them with mostly insipid “opinion” shows, because it’s cheaper to put some political hacks and gasbags in front of a camera than to maintain news bureaus. And through the Bush years all the cable outlets were way too obsequious to the Bushies and suppressed honest assessment of anything going on in the Middle East.

Other reactions from the Right are all over the map. Possibly the most surreal is by Jay Nordlinger, who seems to think the Egyptian protesters are being led (in abstentia) by George W. Bush. On the other hand, I understand Pam Geller is rooting for Hosni Mubarak, because she thinks the protests are the work of the Muslim Brotherhood. No one who has any clue what’s really happening thinks the Muslim Brotherhood are much of a factor, however.

The Telegraph — not always a reliable source — reports that the American government has secretly been backing the group behind the current uprising for the past three years. Jim Geraghty complains that the Obama Administration supports the Mubarak government’s attempts to crack down on the protesters. Um, in what alternative universe?

Taking a page from Cold War history, the genuinely evil Investors Business Daily accuses the Obama Administration of “losing Egypt.” I think the editorial writer thinks that the U.S. should prop up the Mubarak government, but it’s hard to tell. (IBD also seems to think that President Carter orchestrated the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, which is not how I remember it.)

Most knowledgeable commenters say that the U.S. can’t control what goes on in Egypt, one way or another. The Obama Administration has to signal to the people of the Middle East that we support democratic reform and liberation from oppression, while signaling to other Middle Eastern leaders that the U.S. does not support the violent overthrow of their governments. In other words, they gotta do nuance. And you know how righties hate nuance.

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29 Comments

  1. Ken Lovell  •  Jan 29, 2011 @3:38 am

    ‘Investors Business Daily’ thinks this is all happening in Egypt because Obama gave a speech that unsettled the natives? I know wingnuts think everything that happens in the whole known universe is about the USA but even for them, that’s staggeringly stupid.

  2. Chief  •  Jan 29, 2011 @7:41 am

    From everything I can determine, what is happening in Egypt is a ‘bottom-up, grass-roots’ movement. The poorest of us in this society (U.S. of A.) have no idea what the Egyptian citizen has been suffering through.

    Two things, however: First, for any kind of western democracy to grow out of this unrest will be unlikely b/c there is no coherent model or template for the Egyptian citizen to use.

    Second, do not discount the Muslim Brotherhood. They are a Islamic fundamentalist political group that is very organized.

    If the Mubarak gov’t falls in the near future, I would expect a popular but interim gov’t to be formed. Then, by late summer, I would expect a coup of some sort by the Muslim Brotherhood.

  3. uncledad  •  Jan 29, 2011 @8:23 am

    (IBD also seems to think that President Carter orchestrated the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, which is not how I remember it.)

    It’s really amazing how history is re-written nowadays at the drop of a hat. Batshit crazy Bachman was spewing some crap the other day about how our founding fathers freed the slaves! Hell not even three years have passed since the banksters almost crashed the global economy and that fiasco is blamed on Obama’a policies, that is one influential guy, his policies can crash a global economy before he even gets sworn in. Well hopefully those folks in Egypt will throw Mubarak out on his ass.

  4. erinyes  •  Jan 29, 2011 @8:38 am

    I got a copy of “American Raj” by Eric Margolis for Christmas in 1009; the events unfolding in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and now in Albania and Jordan were eerily predicted. Margolis envisioned the uprising exactly because of the grinding poverty, autocratic rulers, rising costs of living, lack of jobs, a large population under the age of 25, and the influence of Al Jazerra and the internet.
    In short, the people are sick and tired of being sick and tired.Margolis stated that the countries in North Africa were ripe for revolution, especially Egypt.
    A reporter on MSMBC last night commented that a demonstrator showed him a tear gas cannister clearly marked “made in the USA”. I seems we do still manufactur goods for export.
    Margolis predicted the fall of many dictatorships throughout tha Muslim world, the fall of the house of Saud may be close at hand, and say “good bye” to Col Kadaffi. and his trio of Ukranian “nurses”.
    2011 will be an interesting year.

  5. erinyes  •  Jan 29, 2011 @9:07 am
  6. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 29, 2011 @9:57 am

    This may be stupid, but when I look at what is going on in Tunisia, and now Egypt, I think, “Oh-oh, I hope our armed right-wingers don’t see this and think the time is now, and that this how they ought to start their little revolution against the Kenyan Usurper.”

    As this information age grows, it gets more and more difficult to keep people suppressed. They can see that there’s another, much better world out there, whether it’s on TV, their PC, or their phone, and wonder, “How come me and mine can’t have some of that?”.
    Erinyes brings up Margolis, and how many of the rulers in the Muslim world are vulnerable. And I think that’s a pretty fair assessment.
    The one dictatorship that I don’t see falling in the near future is N. Korea. That is a country that’s truly in a bubble, with no access to the outside world, little electricity in homes, and a population kept at near starvation levels. Outside of the capitol, it’s basically still in the late 19th Century. But when Lil’ Kim dies, who knows?
    What’s my point as I babble on? I’m not really sure except to say that societies and cultures were once fairly stable, outside of wars, until Gutenberg. But since then, information and knowledge became dangerous to the powers that be. Is that a good thing? Maybe not always. Maybe not today, but eventually…
    Look at what happened to two different countries in the Middle East. Egypt seems a problem for us because that is a secular government that is directly under our infuence, so we worry about Muslim fundamentlalists taking control. Yet just last year, we cheered as secular and religious people took to the streets to protest a government in Iran that had been under control of Muslim fundamentalists for over 30 years.
    The Middle East will settle into whatever it settles into. They will have to come up with what’s right for them, not what was/is right for us. It won’t happen overnight.
    And that is why, if we were more, or completely, energy independent, we wouldn’t have any skin the game, and could always try to help the people who are striving from freedom. Right now, we’re conflicted – do we support Mubarak, “our” guy, or the people protesting? In Iran, it was easy.
    If we weren’t in thrall to Middle Eastern oil, the world would be a lot clearer and the right path easier for us. Dictatorships, either secular or religious, are not something we should be supporting – but have been for decades, hell, almost a century. We ought to always be on the sides of the people trying to overthrow dicatatorships. Maybe that view is too simplistic, but it’s what I wish were true.
    The fight for freedom and liberty is an uphill battle everywhere, including here. And there will be valleys as we climb, but the point is to continue to move forward up that hill. Religious fundamentalism around the world, including here, is a huge valley. But it’s a valley that we may be nearing the bottom of. In this age of information, even the strictest fundamentalist leader can’t completely stop people as they look around the word from wondering, “How come me and mine can’t have some of that?” North Korea has kept the age of information genii in the bottle. But everywhere else, that genii is long gone.

  7. erinyes  •  Jan 29, 2011 @10:20 am

    Also, Wikileaks and the Egyptian blockade of Gaza both play parts in the unrest.
    More on this story later…….

  8. uncledad  •  Jan 29, 2011 @11:08 am

    “Oh-oh, I hope our armed right-wingers don’t see this and think the time is now, and that this how they ought to start their little revolution against the Kenyan Usurper.”

    I thought the same thing, great minds or too much cable TeeVee?

  9. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 29, 2011 @11:26 am

    uncledad,
    It’s ‘great minds.’
    I’m almost 53 and I grew up on TV. But I can now proudly say that the only TV I watch is Stewart and Colbert (along with my parents), and some sports on occasion.
    I don’t watch news on TV at all, and I used to watch at least 3 hours of it a day back when I had a job. Now, I’m on the internet about 9-12 hours a day.
    I miss Keith and Rachel, but now Keith’s gone, and I wonder how much longer she’ll be on.

  10. joanr16  •  Jan 29, 2011 @11:35 am

    Whenever something like this happens, involving huge and complicated events on the world stage, I try to come here asap. Both maha’s posts and the input of the commenters really help me understand. And usually remind me that things are way more complex than the MSM lets on.

    btw, I too have long sensed that al-Jazeera was on the side of truth more than anything else, and that a lot of Americans condemn al-Jazeera because they’re allergic to the truth.

  11. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 29, 2011 @12:25 pm

    At one point in time all of the major US newspapers had correspondents all around the world in important spots. No longer. Cost cutting. Stringers are cheaper.
    At one point in time CNN had reporters and editors all around the world in important spots. Bloviating gasbags and infotainment shows are far, far cheaper.
    MSNBC tried to duplicate that. No longer. Cost cutting. Bloviating gasbags and infotainment shows are far, far cheaper.
    FOX never even bothered – they just went all bloviation, all infotainment all the time – presented by female hotties in short skirts, and manly men like ORally and Unibrow, and those in between, like Steve Doocebag and Glenn Beckerhead.
    I watched a few minutes of MSNBC during commercials on Stewart and Colbert. And a couple of times, guess who Matthews brought on to discuss what the situation was in Egypt? Chuckles Todd. I kid you not! Why ask him for his opinion, how’s he supposed to know wtf is going on over there? This asshole doesn’t know what’s going on around him in DC. I remember when both CNN and MSNBC had reporters in Cairo. Now they go to Chuckles Todd. That is all you need to know about the sorry state of affairs on our TV news programs.
    I’m sure FOX brought on its experts – Bill “Wrong Again!” Kristol and a panel of knuckledragging neocon thugs just drooling over the prospect of involving us in another conflict somewhere, all to help poor Israel, that great innocent. But, FOX’s not news, they’re ‘all the propaganda, unfair and unbalanced.’ And the only news they cover is the opposite of the NY Times motto, “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” it’s “Only the news that fits.’

    How ironic would it be if al-Jazeera was the only “real” TV news outlet out there anymore?

    PS: Ok, yes, there’s stil the BBC. And my sister watches Russian channels on satellite. She tells me the news in Russia BLOWS OURS AWAY! I don’t doubt it for a second.
    Chuckles Todd. Egyptian expert. At least we know the “correspondents” on the Daily Show are standing in front of a green or blue screen.
    Chucles Todd. Egyptian expert. God help us all…

  12. Swami  •  Jan 29, 2011 @12:58 pm

    I’m hoping that Mubarak meets the same fate as Ceausescu. At 82 years old it’s time to go..and if he doesn’t go peacefully of his own accord than I hope the people of Egypt help him along.

  13. biggerbox  •  Jan 29, 2011 @1:28 pm

    Obama “lost” Egypt by convincing that guy in Tunisia to set himself on fire somehow? Wow. That IS impressive.

    As erinyes mentioned, the idea of revolution in Egypt has long been a question of when, not if, since the problems have been well-reported, yet it’s been clear we never learned the lesson of Iran, that you can only support a dictator for so many decades before it goes south quickly. (I wonder what the Cairo embassy staff are thinking right now…)

    I really hope Egypt doesn’t follow the Iranian model, but you have to admit the Islamists are well-organized, and there will be a lot of confusion. Not that I know anything about Egypt.

    Meanwhile, speaking of international media, I heard that the current British government’s fetish for austerity involves cuts to the BBC world service. (Sigh.)

  14. Pat  •  Jan 29, 2011 @3:10 pm

    The uprising in Egypt appears to be blowing holes in the Right’s simplistic good guys-bad guys worldview.

    LOL! As if that were the first time? These holes join those left from the last half-century of meddling in Central and South American affairs. As a nation we’re far roo ready to buy the manichaen labels from our leader. Ken is correct, this does arise from ethnocentric hubris regarding our influence, particularly that which comes from the use of force during a time when goodwill and altruism seems unaffordable to most and is accordingly scorned by the right. We only need to look in the mirror and ask what works with us while realizing that “they” are never that different from us.

    Our leader’s compulsive need to ally with even the worst of strongmen belies the same corporate influence that grinds down many Americans at home. Business dealings with a few strongmen in return for arms and other support has been the pattern of our symbiotic international relationships while selling the superficial fantasy of freedom for those who oppose exploitative dictators and those who rule only with the thinnest veneer of democracy.

    Some countries wise up and want us out. We have ourselves to blame for an increasing number such as Venezuela who take a pass on our “help.”

    It might be healthy for us to realize when our reach exceeds our grasp and sit this one out on the sidelines. That’s much wiser than plunging headlong into some conflict that we’ll likely perpetuate.

    I couldn’t buy any attempts for call this conflict part of the war on terror and the participants muslim radicals or fundamentalists. All indications are otherwise but that might play on Americans who don’t do complex.

    Speaking of aversion to complexity, there’s a great post on Obama by David Bromwich, Professor of Literature, Yale University:

    There are two traits conspicuous in Obama no matter what the pressure of the occasion: He rarely explains complex matters with a complexity equal to the subject matter; and he hates to be a bearer of bad news.

    Obama is good at metaphor and platitudes at the highest levels but he seems lost when things get messy. A large segment of America can absorb a bit of dumbed down complexity. That’s how it’s always been…the rest get dragged along in the wake of those who get it. Media even does too.

    We’re in bad need of better explanations from our leaders that aren’t thinly-veiled attempts to obscure the limits of our influence. We also need explanations that don’t shy away from complexity that is commensurate with the problem — regarding Egypy, the economy, or other problems that face us.

  15. Swami  •  Jan 29, 2011 @3:30 pm

    The Investor’s Business Daily cites the Heritage Foundation as part of it’s analysis of the situation in Egypt…Do we have to go any further than that little fact to know all we need to know about their interpretation of the events unfolding in Egypt?

    Heritage Foundation = Red flag!… Disengage immediately!… Abort, Abort!… Bail out, nothing of value here, now or in the future!

  16. Pat  •  Jan 29, 2011 @4:29 pm

    I did some contract work at IBD once and it gave me IBS. There’s nothing that comes out of that excuse for a paper thatn does not come directly from William O’Neill. O’Neill is to the right of the Heritage Foundation…

  17. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 29, 2011 @4:56 pm

    Pat,
    “A large segment of America can absorb a bit of dumbed down complexity.”

    Unfortunately, it seems like a large part of that large segment of America doesn’t decide to go and vote every election, or we wouldn’t have the absolute and total morons like Bachmann, Pence, Ryan, Goemert, the Congressmen King, etc, in our House, and more than a handful of dangerous clowns in the Senate, and as Governors.

    PS: Please understand that this isn’t a criticism of what you wrote. I always love your comments.

  18. Pat  •  Jan 29, 2011 @5:52 pm

    No offense taken C-U. I still think think the explanations have rarely been tried and the bully pulpit of the presidency rarely leveraged to its fullest potential. People line up behind and are inspired by those who show some independence and gumption. If you chased the link I provided…the remark about Obama’s disinclination to initiate is part of the reason.

    The rhetorical battle I wait for between credible and corporate economists never happened and instead there was concession after concession. Part of leading means going first. There haven’t been any reasonable attempts.

    I agree that many have disengaged, thinking the situation hopeless but that’s expected when the one who earned the people’s trust at one point is not perceived as being up to the engagement.

    I like your comments too…always enjoy reading them and mulling them over.

  19. moonbat  •  Jan 29, 2011 @8:24 pm

    I read Heather Hurlburt’s piece in the New Republic, and while it was helpful, my eyes glaze over, and my bile starts to rise whenever someone keeps saying “no one could have predicted”, as was said repeatedly in her piece. Many of the commenters to her article – as well as Eric Margolis (thanks erinyes) begged to differ. I can almost forgive (and certainly ignore) right wingers operating from their fantasy universe, but I have great difficulty with officials and serious scholars who claim the excuse “no one could have predicted”. Nonsense.

    As for the IBD – I sometimes pick up one at trade shows, and after a quick read, usually give it right back, alarmed at how mean and one-sided its editorials are. I don’t know if it’s always been so extremely wingnut, or if I’ve developed good radar for this, but I concur – it’s an awful waste of pulp.

    I’m certainly no expert on what’s happening in the Middle East – have only watched a bit of Democracy Now! and seen a few interviews on Charlie Rose – but the common denominators seem to be: entrenched rulers in power for three decades, worsening poverty and opportunity, and no avenue for political expression.

    The riots over austerity in Europe, and these revolutions in Middle East are the forerunner of what could happen here. We have an entrenched duopoly that increasingly ignores the electorate and exists and operates the government only for the benefit of the moneyed interests. Poverty hasn’t yet reached the levels seen in third world countries, but with the stimulus running out, austerity is on its way. It won’t be long before the younger generation realizes (if they haven’t already) that it’s their future that’s been mortgaged.

  20. uncledad  •  Jan 29, 2011 @8:28 pm

    “I miss Keith and Rachel, but now Keith’s gone, and I wonder how much longer she’ll be on”

    Not much longer I would bet. To me getting Keith out was the master plan, they want bad ratings so they can justify a change (far to the right to compete with FAUX), why else would you force out your top ratings guy and replace with Lawrence O’Donnell (that guy is un-watchable). So now all they really have is Rachel bookended by a couple of sorry shows (Lawrence and Big mouth Ed) a sure recipe for a ratings plunge.

  21. khughes1963  •  Jan 29, 2011 @11:34 pm

    IBD probably longs for the days when the Brits ran Egypt’s government as a British protectorate. The corporate media in this country also tend to view everything through the prism of the stock market, so they have been caught flat-footed by Al Jazeera and concentrate on the possible economic fallout, as evidently their investments in Mubarak’s Egypt is about ready to go south.

  22. jugheadjack  •  Jan 29, 2011 @11:36 pm

    Its about time, these people are tired of being sick and tired. And yes, we are eventually going to have to do the same thing. The potiential for political up-heaval is ripe all over the world. The potential for violence is ripe. The potential for wars are greater than they have ever been. America better mind its own business and let other countries take care of their problems, and their own business.

  23. erinyes  •  Jan 30, 2011 @9:49 am

    My computer got clobbered by something called “security shield”, can’t do a damned thing with it, so I’m on the kid’s machine this morn, seems to be helping my keyboarding skills.Hint; don’t google image Col. Kaddafi ukranian nurse, it ain’t worth it. If you guys know anything about getting rid of the virus, please let me know, as it has completely blocked my email.

  24. Pat  •  Jan 30, 2011 @12:08 pm

    no one could have predicted

    …is all too common and pervaded the litany of excuses for the economic downturn. And since then we’ve heard no good explanations to counter that, even from Obama. We are having fundamental problems with the truth at a collective level and in the media. This is unhinged and is more than a little frightening to me…

  25. Pat  •  Jan 30, 2011 @12:22 pm

    IBD is very thin and the news even thinner. Stock tables take up most of the publication. Much of the company’s profit comes from selling the idea of technical analysis and related tutorials (Oneill’s “CANSLIM” method) to neophytes to help them know when to spot the little teacup shape in a stocks chart that supposedly precedes an upwards run. I worked briefly on a circulation project but I can’t say what sorts of people are relying on IBD as substitute for NYTimes or WSJ. The company was backwards…used ancient technology and morales was low. Very ugly. Nevertheless, a layover for a few wanting a fat juicy contract where consultants were used to make up for lac of technology. I had a contract-to-hire and declined to go perm. I was let go the next day reporting making my decision to the consulting firm. Quite a few of the new developers were Indian with H-1B work visas and were paid a fraction of the competitive salary. There was a lot of tension — the dev manager, an Indian gentleman would verbally lash the Indians (a cultural thing I hear) and take a different tone with others. As for the developers…all nice people in a bad situation…

    That’s the insider’s view. Anyone could pick up an issue and look it over.

  26. Felicity  •  Jan 30, 2011 @1:35 pm

    Speaking of “cutting back news gathering,” during the height of the Iraqi (so-called) war, it cost CBS News $7 million/year (total) to run its entire Baghdad bureau at the same time as it was paying its CEO $40 million/year. Interesting juxtaposition of priorities.

  27. moonbat  •  Jan 30, 2011 @2:49 pm

    erinyes – I got hit by the “security shield” a few months ago – it’s a trojan, pretending to be something benign, although you have never seen it before and have no idea where it came from. You clicked on an ad or a link, and all of a sudden the “security shield” appears.

    I had my anti-virus software set to the lowest level of protection – to only do deep scans of my system when I initiated them, instead of actively looking at everthing that comes through the internet, in real-time. I managed to wrest control of my system from the “security shield” and flipped the anti-virus into gear, and it quickly zapped the bogus “security shield”.

    I use a product called Vipre Antivirus. It’s saved me a number of times when I’ve clicked on innocent looking things that turned out to be infected. Best of all, it doesn’t slow down your computer, unlike conventional anti-virus software, and it’s relatively cheap – a year’s subscription is something like $30.

    For many years I never ran anti-virus software at all, and depended on my own innate ability to not click things I shouldn’t, but nowadays even legitimate websites or click through ads get infected, which has overwhelemed my own internal filter.

    Vipre is one package I wholeheartedly recommend, I prefer it over the bigger names that I’ve found to be either too slow, cumbersome, or expensive.

  28. Bill Bush  •  Jan 30, 2011 @7:57 pm

    Did anyone happen to see David Gregory’s interview with Sec of State Clinton on NBC news tonite about 6:15 or so? He kept trying to play gotcha with the objective of getting Sec Clinton to say whether we were urging Mubarak to abdicate, declaring US policy as a coup for his interview being more important than actual diplomacy. I wonder where he was when Dumbya was shredding the Constitution and flinging unaccounted money at everybody in the Middle East? And what about his hard-nosed questioning of WMD? Where is a transcript of that? No wonder I find myself watching less and less network news. What was the last story this guy investigated or broke? Or even reported? I don’t count newsreaders as reporters. Hear me, Wolfie? And who can stand to read WSJ? Every once in a while I go there to read a linked item, and too often I find myself raising the window to shout the Howard Beale line. Then when I see the vegetable garden out the window, I am reminded of how much BS I have buried there already and calm down.

  29. erinyes  •  Jan 30, 2011 @9:29 pm

    Thanks, Moonbat. I’ve tried to download that Vipre program, but the trojan program keeps kicking it out, I’ll have to get a hard copy I guess.
    I sure appreciate your advice THANKS!!

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