Egypt in TV: Sisi's UN speech, Bassem Youssef's bad manners, a women's coup

What's been on the small screen in Egypt lately, from our TV correspondent Nour Youssef. 

Egypt’s talk show hosts may have always been unethical and unprofessional, but they have never been quite this childish. It is hard to watch Ahmed Moussa giggle whenever his guests call the Qatari royal family and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan names (for their support of the Muslim Brotherhood), and not think of my fourth grade arch enemy, Khaled Picksnosealot.

Last month there were five on-air fights (followed by numerous opportunities for the analysis and re-iteration of insults). One of the fights ended with business tycoon Naguib Sawiris comparing Al Kahera Wal Nas’s Abdelrahim Ali to (who has become infamous lately for playing private telephone conversations of activists, undoubtedly leaked to him by the security services) "an annoying fly that gets into the mouths of others" and another was started by the unknown founders of a failed Tamarod-like movement who complained about not getting a share of the praise for toppling president Mohamed Morsi in a seventh grade history book.

 “(Mohamed Hassanein) Heikal is the one who made the theory that has held us back all this time!” announced Tamer Amin, who’s had enough of the reverence that the veteran political analyst and historian enjoys in the media. According to Amin, Heikal is guilty of giving the same advice to every Egyptian president: To put only those he can trust, and not those who are competent, in positions of leadership -- advice they all followed religiously, thus holding the country back. It is time to move on to younger thinkers, Amin says. Especially since “most of (Heikal)’s ’judgements and his political prophecies in the past years were wrong.” He ended this virtually unprecedented attack with a reminder that there are over 90 million Egyptians -- surely one of them can fill Heikal's shoes.

The strangest fight so far, however, was between satirist Bassem Youssef (who went into a forced retirement earlier this year when Egypt's "democratic transition" gave him more freedom of expression than he could handle) and AlQahera AlYoum’s Khaled Abu Bakr in New York. According to the latter’s side of the story (which is the whole story as far as the media is concerned), an unprovoked Youssef walked up to him to grudgingly say hello and then came back a moment later screaming obscenities and complaints about not being able to cycle on the Suez road unlike President Abdelfatah el-Sisi, whom he accused Abu Bakr and his colleagues of shamelessly shilling for. Youssef said all this in full view of women and impressionable children, every talk show from Tamer Amin to Osama Mounir took care to note. Even Mortada Mansour – a lawyer who has made a career of picking fights with public figures and threatening to publish the details of their affairs -- gasped at the idea of a man cursing in front of his wife, or worse yet, cursing the people of Egypt. (Anyone who has been to Egypt knows that the people of Egypt curse the people of Egypt all the time.)

The endless reprimands to “The Boy” (Youssef’s new derogatory nickname) also included suggestions of emigration and of revoking of his citizenship; a photo-shopped picture of him as a rabbi from Moussa and a monologue from Mounir about how Youssef will never be back on TV because Sisi is a “decent” man who won’t stand by as Youssef expands the vocabulary of innocent Egyptian women, making them prone to lewd behavior and talking back.

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Egypt in TV

Another entry in our contributor Nour Youssef's avidly followed Egypt in TV column. 

"El Sisi just doesn’t want to disclose any information about his plans. He is not stupid. He is smarter than you and your father," the red-faced, middle-aged woman seated next to me in a restaurant told her son, who coolly alternated between sipping Pepsi and asking if she was done talking, provoking her to throw dripping straws in his face.

What caused the fight across the table was a discussion of the nearly four-hours-long interview Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gave Lamis el-Hadidi and Ibrahim Eissa on CBC last week, where he repeatedly expressed love, admiration, respect and all things synonymous for the straw-thrower’s demographic.

"(I don’t want) anyone to get me wrong, but I love the Egyptian woman," he told Ibrahim Eissa, who wanted to know why the Marshal’s metaphors are always related to or directed at women. This followed el-Sisi’s request for caution from the public while choosing their representatives in parliament and the president -- the same caution an Egyptian mother exercises when checking the backgrounds of her daughter's suitors.

To be fair, el-Sisi’s flattery was not limited to women. The rest of the population is also exceptionally smart and more patient than any other nation.

When not complimenting the population, el-Sisi ducked numerous questions -- literally. Questions about the nature of his policy towards Hamas and Qatar were met with a lowered head and a close-lipped smile. And when he depended on words to answer questions, the Marshal made certain that they were so vague that I had to re-watch segments of the interview multiple times to make sure I was not missing some vital transitions that would put things in order and reassure voters about our future president's attention span.

When they asked about the weapons deal with Russia and whether or not the next parliament will monitor the military and its budget, el-Sisi dispensed words about "leaving the army alone." After a long pause, he said: "The army is a very great institution, to an extent that Egyptians can't imagine. God willing all of Egypt could be at that level." The two journalists sitting across from him smilingly accepted his answer without further questions.

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Egypt in TV

A semi-regular column from our contributor Nour Youssef, who watches a lot of TV. 

Placated by the official decree calling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, talk show hosts finally got to stop pestering the government and move on to more pressing issues. Like the dispute that ensued in a classroom in Tanta. The conflict began, Wael el-Ibrashy tells us, when an MB teacher scandalized his students by resolutely mispronouncing the caption of the poster of General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi they had used to decorate a wall, even though it clearly read: “Sisi, Heart of a Lion.”(The Arabic word for ‘heart’ is dangerously close the word ‘dog’.) But the teacher denied insulting the army chief, faulting four students’ hearing for the controversy. 

Mahmoud Saad on Ennahar TV channel

Meanwhile in the adult world, Mahmoud Saad focused on how this “belated” label -- which gives the government the right to punish members of the MB, people who finance it and/or support it verbally or by writing; return security forces back to universities; ban members from traveling; search and close organizations related to the Brotherhood and sentence those who lead their protests to death and those who follow them to five years in prison -- was primarily issued to appease people. According to die-hard army supporter and regular Al-Qahera Al-Youm co-host, lawyer Khalid Abu Bakr, the move was made to counter the devastating effects of Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi’s tactless acknowledgment of the absence of a legal text defining what a terrorist group is on the public.  

Abu Bakr’s colleague, Amr Adeeb, took time to explain his Follow The Protest Theory to the "stupid organization" whose supporters wonder why his predictions are spot on. The trick is to wait until they protest in anti-MB neighborhoods and governorates like Dakahlia (where Mansoura is), Cairo, Giza, or Sharqiya, and then immediately assume they are going there to slip a bomb into a government building using the protest for cover. This theory is self-evident and undebatable -- provided you don’t wonder how one could sneak into a government building with reportedly sleepless people in it and place a bomb on a top floor during one the MB’s supposedly violent protests without getting caught; or why the directorate was deaf to Adeeb’s warnings (just like the Military Intelligence’s HQ in Sharqiya was a few days later before it, too, was attacked). You should also ignore the testimony of injured police recruits who said they didn’t search cars passing by that night, which is oddly lazy since far less important police buildings have been fortified and have the streets they are on blocked or closely monitored.  

Gaber el-Qarmouti on OnTV

Gaber el-Qarmouti claimed the attack was an inside job planned by MB elements in the ministry and facilitated by infuriating police incompetence; he started screaming “penetration!” at the camera. What annoyed el-Qarmouti more than police incompetence, however, was journalist Ahmed Hassan Shawky who went on Al Jazeera and unveiled a relatively new conspiracy theory, according to which el-Sisi was assassinated on Oct. 17 and the person displaying affection in sunglasses all this time is a look-alike -- driving el-Qarmouti mad with the desire to know if Shawky ever saw Egyptian sand. 

Out-pitching Qarmouti this week was Ahmed Moussa, who stood in front the partly ripped facade of the Mansoura directorate and asked God to curse the outside world and those who fear it, since they are undoubtedly and wholly responsible for all that is wrong.

Speaking of the outside world, el-Mehwar’s Reham el-Sahly has finally discovered who has been killing protesters for the past three years: foreign photographers. Turns out they have been literally shooting protests. Their cameras, el-Sahly found out, had guns inside of them. They also had GPS devices that fired nine millimeter bullets; guns that were so long they passed for walking sticks and could fire tear gas grenade; laser-pen guns (hence, the laser); and dope rings that shoot bullets “that can blow up an elephant,” according to Sahly’s guest, the political writer and researcher Amr Amar. He also took the opportunity of being on her show to vindicate the repentant traveler to Serbia and revolutionary Nagat Abdelrahman’s confession on el-Mehwar back in 2011 in which she dropped the“Freedam House gave every current revolutionary leader 50 USD to train people to burn shops” bombshell. That interview was widely cited as an ignominious example of staged propaganda -- but according to Amar it was all true. In case you're wondering why these random unnamed countries are conspiring with a privately-owned security services company, Academi (previously known as Blackwater) against Egypt, remember they have done this in Moscow, Iran, Romania, Kurdistan, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Yemen at various unspecified points in history. 

What was worse than hearing the sound of Reham el-Sahly’s gasp and Lamis el-Hadidi saying el-Sisi makes her “feel safe as a woman” this week was hearing Ibrahim Eissa coax “the polite people of Qatar” into revolting against their emir like a parent would a child into eating bamia. After all, how can they sleep at night or drive their air-conditioned jeeps when their dishdashas, galabeyas and kaftans are figuratively soaked in Syrian, Egyptian and Libyan blood? 

Also depending too heavily on his persuasion skills this week was the self-titled “Defender of the Oppressed,” Youssef el-Husseiny, who leaned in close to remind us of how much we’ve gone through together and how long we've let his image sit in our living rooms before asking us to forget how admittedly lame he was giving the interior minister a 24 hour ultimatum to have a list of the officers who mistreated a friend and a colleague on his desk or he’d pull (someone else’s) rank. An unfulfilled threat he ate to save face after learning that testosterone and knocking on your desk doesn't always work.

Meanwhile, the coverage of the ongoing clashes between students and security forces in  continues its obsession with how atrociously mannered the female students are. For example, Wael el-Ibrashywondered how one of the female students who called a security man a woman could have possibly acquired that knowledge innocently, while veteran Azhar faculty members mourned the days when the girls dared not turn their heads in their presence and cited a Hadith that said not to educate the offsprings of the morally deficient -- if you catch their drift…

To end on a positive note, Ahmed Sbider, a rapper-turned-terrorist-messages-decoder and Tawfik Okasha's protege, gave his analysis of Vodafone's recent commercial featuring puppets. The commercial, he told the sniggering Director of Vodafone's External Affairs on TV, has five words that worry him: Dog, garage, guard, nearby and mall. Because when taken out of context and rearranged, these words could mean that a big mall security guard will be bribed to let a car bomb that the security dog sniffed into the garage, where it will explode on Christmas. Sbider's host, Ahmed Moussa, then yelled at the Vodafone Director for seeming to find the report Sbider filed against Vodafone -- and which the public prosecutor is actually investigating --  funny.

Vodafone's terrorist agent puppets