The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Disinformation and Egypt's multiple realities

I used to joke that Egyptians have their own reality distortion field, which once entered can lead you to believe that their country is center of the universe and where black is white, the patently untrue is brandied as incontrovertible fact, and a person will assure you of one thing when its opposite is plain to see in front of your very eyes. 

In the current media scene, the Egyptian reality distortion field has multiplied into (at least) two views of reality: one in which the Muslim Brotherhood is a savior that will guide the country to a Renaissance and Mohammed Morsi is geopolitical genius; another in which an Iranian-Israeli-American plot to install the Brotherhood threatens to unravel the country. The latter discourse is more shrill and insane, perhaps due to the fact that Islamists control a small minority of the print media in the country, that their numerous satellite channels have less compelling non-religious programming, and that their normal discourse is bizarre and nasty enough for the propaganda to be relatively tame. The two worlds co-exist and occasionally collide, a bit like the sci-fi show Fringe.

The latest salvo in a string of completely over-the-top anti-MB news "stories" this month is the allegation that State Security recorded conversations between Hamas and MB leaders during the 2011 uprising that showed Hamas had an operational around Tahrir Square. These recordings were recently presented to MB strongman Khairat al-Shater, the story goes,  Leading anti-MB commentators such as already calling it treason, even though the existence of these recordings (and the whole story) has been denied not only by Hamas and the Brothers, but also the ministry of interior. Still, most anti-MB media are running with it, as is anti-MB regional media such as al-Arabiya. It's not that some Hamas-MB contact during the uprising is unlikely, but the way this story has been spun goes far beyond that.

This comes after a month of stories such as the claim that Morsi has promised Sudan to return the Halayeb Triangle, continuous allegations that the MB is planning to get rid of Minister of Defense Abdelfattah al-Sisi, recurrent claims of a MB plot to settle Sinai with Palestinians, and much more of the sort. One might put it down to anti-MB hysteria, but what it really amounts to is a sustained campaign of destabilization via the private media, probably instigated by security agencies. It is becoming a very tiresome feature of the media-political landscape of Egypt, one that keeps the country constantly on edge.