Are perceptions more real than reality?
In Egypt today one finds oneself witnessing a political theatre. There is an elephant dominating the stage, but the actors, or rather those actors given lines, pretend that it’s not there.
What to say of Diaa Rashwan, long-time leftist academic and politician who during Mursi’s time in office was elected leader of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate? A few days ago he reacted against Alaa Abd al-Fattah, the prominent revolutionary activist just released from long term detention. Rashwan decided to ban Abd al-Fattah from entering the Syndicate’s premises. His crime: having sharply criticised the Syndicate for not standing up for freedom under Sisi’s rule. In Rashwan’s words Abd al-Fattah had resorted to a base level of discussion which might if unchecked lead on to violence and terrorism.
Another instance: in a long interview with the editor of al-Shuruq newspaper on his way to attend the UN General Assembly Amr Musa former foreign minister and badly losing presidential candidate in 2012, (why should Musa attend the General Assembly anyway?), commented upon official statements that in order to be allowed back into the political scene the Muslim Brothers must, along a list of other preconditions, renounce violence. Questioned on how this related to the fact that the Brothers have so consistently renounced violence in their declarations, and asked if he had evidence linking the Brothers to the attacks taking place against police stations and other symbols of authority, Musa simply answered: this is about perceptions. People think the Brothers are involved. So it is up to them to make people believe otherwise. Is it really? What of the state-owned and regime-loyal media (i.e. virtually all the currently active media in Egypt) that day out and day in since the coup have sought to drive home the idea of the terrorist Brothers whatever the status of evidence?
Musa simply answered: this is about perceptions. People think the Brothers are involved. So it is up to them to make people believe otherwise
The striking fact about Egyptian media is that despite the existence of nuancing views here and there, no one is making a major effort at challenging the major deception meant to legitimise the current rule, namely that the largest civilian socio-political movement in the country is a terrorist organisation. After overthrowing the elected president, killing thousands of demonstrators in the streets, and putting tens of thousands of opponents behind bars, an army general was presumably elected president with 97 percent of the vote. There are twenty thousand political prisoners, and mock trials turn out death sentences and life sentences by the hundreds. Reading the local press on this background one feels thrown back to the time before the 25 January revolution when highly educated and well informed Egyptian academic commentators could spend their days writing long articles producing explanations for the sweeping victory of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party in the December 2010 elections (when it took 95 percent of the seats), as if these were perfectly normal democratic elections, when everyone knew them to be a complete fraud.
No one mentions the elephant.