Egypt in TV: Mubarak was a nice guy, Rabaa was inevitable

Another entry in our Egypt in TV series from our correspondent Nour Youssef

Recently, a college-educated friend asked me to explain how 9/11 could not be a Zionist conspiracy when all the Jewish employees of the World Trade Center were told to take the day of the attack off. This was a sincere question. And a sad reminder of how easily a ludicrous lie can be instilled in a mind (with IQ points and access to the Internet) when repeated enough times. 

Following the broadcasting of the Mubarak trial, there has been a perceptible increase in the frequency and temerity of such lies in the Egyptian media. It is not enough to believe Mubarak is innocent and that the Muslims Brothers and the West are the source of all evil. One must wish to kiss the sand beneath his hospital bed because under his leadership, Egypt was the best it could have possibly been -- considering that he was busy battling The Source this whole time without telling us, so as not to worry us. The same way he opted for selflessly falling and breaking a leg in the bathroom instead of waking up his nurse to help him limp to it, according to Al-Faraeen’s Tawfik Okasha, who wonders how we don't feel shame allowing the trial of this gentle soul to go on -- a dangerous rhetorical question since it implies the judiciary is conducting a farcical trial that could be stopped if enough people wanted it to.

"But why air the trial now?" CBC's Khairy Ramadan asked. Are they trying to elicit sympathy for Mubarak or agitate people? Are they going to air MB trials too? Ramadan continued to skirt the obvious reason, which is that people were angrier before and would have made a fuss seeing the judge go out of his way to accommodate the Mubaraks and offer to move the trial to anywhere they like to allow their father to defend himself outside the usual defendant’s cage, and profess his personal desire "to give them back their freedom” if only for a few moments.

Ramadan went on to echo some of the Al-Nahar TV’s Mahmoud Saad’s questions: Why did ex Interior Minister Habib el-Adly fail to stop Jan 25 if he knew that the MB and April 6 “were taking courses on how to revolt in Doha paid for the by US” (where they must have learned how to stand in a crowd and cry when teargassed, etc)? If it was a conspiracy, does that mean every person that stood in Tahrir was a conspirator/a typical nosy Egyptian who likes to see things for themselves (Adly’s contention) or could life under Mubarak have been so bad that people seized the opportunity to topple him immediately? Also, if Mohamed ElBaradei was a spy, why did former head of military intelligence, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, let him become Vice President in the summer of 2013? And if there is information proving that Jan 25 was a conspiracy, hasn’t anyone shown it to Sisi so he can stop embarrassing himself and quit calling it a revolution? (And why did the former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Tantawi side with and glorify this abomination?)

These questions are a sign of some division among propagandists. Others signs include Saad waging war on the long boring monologues that are the backbone of Egyptian nighttime television; Tamer Ameen accusing his colleagues of overreacting to news and fear-mongering to fill airtime and Hassan Rateb, head of el--Mehwar TV, complaining about the lack of coordination and synchronization in the media, which has been too unkind to the Mubaraks for his taste. It seems moderate hosts like Saad and Ramadan just want a little more coherence in the official narrative, whereas hardliners like Ahmed Mousa and Okasha want to bang a drum all day. Others like OnTV’s Youssef el-Husseiny, who fancies himself a revolutionary, simply want everyone to cherry pick the same “facts” he does. In Husseiny’s world, fighters from rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas put aside their difference to sneak into Egypt through tunnels, cross the entirety of the Sinai Peninsula, spread across the nation attacking police stations and freeing prisoners, and then make their way back to Gaza completely undetected in 2011. Nevertheless -- this is where el-Husseiny parts with the becoming-official narrative -- that does not make Jan 25 a US conspiracy because the fighters idling on the borders only piggy-backed on a very real revolution.

That being said, the worst coverage of the Mubarak trial was that of weather vane media personality Ibrahim Eissa, who wondered why people who are angered by the Mubarak trial don’t just switch the channel and accused Jan 25 supporters of being hypocritical because they were incensed by el-Adly’s accusations of treason, even though they, too, accuse the Mubarak regime of betraying the people. The revolutionaries’ anger, Eissa decided, is a classic  case of “can dish it out, but can’t take it.” This from a man who once wrote scathing condemnations of the Mubarak regime. 

The trial itself reveals two interesting things. The first is that Mubarak’s smiley attorney, Farid el-Deeb, is not as good as he is is meant to be, says journalist Abdel-Halim Qandil. In his opening statement, el-Deeb spent more time talking about how fond Egyptians are of the word “revolution,” and the many times in which they have misused the term in recent history, than about the the charges facing his client. The trial has also revealed that Ahmed Mousa can smile. Unlike Qandil, the Sada el-Balad host was very impressed with el-Deeb's opening statement and how it cited exciting "official documents that he didn't get from his brain, home or the moon." These documents and statements, he beamed, are from irreproachable former officials like Tantawi, and Head of Intelligence, Gen. Omar Suleiman from the Mubarak regime exonerating the Mubarak regime. To Mousa, the matter is settled. These statements come from “the people who used to run the country...they people who held the keys to everything” and they say there was no corruption -- who can say anything otherwise? Naturally, the only credible source of information about the Mubarak regime is the Mubarak regime itself.

El-Adly’s statement, on the other hand, was an unsurprising rerun of everything the media has been saying for the past 3 and a half years (Hamas this, Amerika that), with the addition of two gems. The first (featured above) was his resentful account of an alleged conversation with former US ambassador, Anne Patterson, when she called him to complain about the Internet shutdown and how the embassy couldn’t work due to it -- which he found irritating because it’s not like the representative of the world’s superpower needs Egypt’s lowly Internet when “she could find out what (he) is wearing today, if she wanted it to.” “But that was before it was announced that she was the head of the conspiracy,” he concluded with a smile. The second gem is his claim that the Egyptian police just so happens to have  given the Gaza police weapons from its own inventory before the revolution, which should answer any lingering questions about why Egyptian police ammunition was found in the bodies of protesters. 

What should have been the topic du jour of the week was the Rab’a massacre's uneventful first year anniversary. Virtually no video footage or photographs were shown of the bloodshed. The Human Rights Watch report on Rab’a was dismissed for not taking the official narrative and local  NGO reports seriously enough, as well as taking the bloodshed out of context (the context basically being "they started it/deserved it"), journalist Abdullah el-Sinawy told OnTV’s Yosri Fouda -- the only TV host who dedicated an entire episode for the anniversary. Meanwhile, others like Ramadan and Saad  murmured variations of "What Happened, Happened."

Others, like former-MB-turned-TV-talking head, Abdelsatar el-Meligy, were less kind. “Rab’a was occupied and the police cleared it so cars could pass. It’s really not complicated,” he said, matter-of-factly. Mousa went on about how the shoes of non-Muslim Brotherhood Egyptians are better than Morsi, his son and all his supporters and urged his viewers not to forget the 64 police officers who died last August while killing 1000+ people. 

(PS: If you are having a hard time falling in love with Mubarak, the following story, according to writer and person known primarily for being married to actor Yahya el-Fakharani, Lamis Gaber, should help: Shortly before Israel launched its surprise attack on the Egyptian Air Force in the 1967 war, Mubarak reportedly thought to himself: “Pilots gets worse without practice.” So he took three other pilots and flew. While in the air, they received the news and were told that the only airport they could land in was Luxor’s. Once they landed there, the airport was attacked and their planes were destroyed, forcing him to heroically take the train back to Cairo. The End)