The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Last week in Egypt in TV

This is a sporadic column by Arabist contributor Nour Youssef. 

Lately, a rekindled hate for repetition has prevented me from watching television and not fighting with taxi drivers. Little has changed in the media scene since July 3. The West, led by the US, the Ottomans and the matchbox that is Qatar, is still intimidated by Egypt's potential for greatness and so it continues to plague it with corruption, poverty and injustice, giving the protesters it pays to paralyze traffic something to chant about. Only thing that has changed is that the narrative is no longer funny.

Even Tawfik Okasha is sick of repeating it. The owner of the Faraeen channel gave his viewers an ultimatum: if they don't join him on April 11 in al-Abbasiya Square to -- well, he hasn't really specified what, but he knows that if the population doesn't show up, the terrorists win, and he will quit the whole nationalism thing and punish them with BBC-like uncaring professionalism because it is not worth it anymore. It's worth noting that Okasha's good friend, lawyer Mortada Mansour -- the man who has cursed and slandered more people on air than Okasha himself -- is running for president.

It may come as a shock, but Okasha is not the only TV host in Egypt who is aware of the existence of professionalism and his deliberate failure to meet its standards. Others like Lamis el-Hadidi admit to it too, only passive-aggressively to silence critics. (After yelling on air at a former Egyptian colleague for “selling himself” and being a “traitor” for working for Jazeera, Hadidi grumbles sarcastically about those who would reign in her patriotic fervor by holding her to a journalistic code of ethics..) 

Lamis el-Hadidi is sick of "traitors"

Equally angry, but minus the helmet of hair, was el-Hadidi’s husband, Amr Adeeb, who was infuriated by novelist Alaa Al Aswany saying that the upcoming presidential elections will probably be like Mubarak’s 2005 rigged election -- which is an unnecessary shame, Al Aswany thinks, because Field Marshal Abdel Fatah El Sisi is popular and has a great chance of winning on his own, even if the elections were supervised by the UK’s House of Commons. “MB feloul (remnant)!” Adeeb bellowed and went on to demand to know why the ungrateful al-Aswany gave Morsi a chance and supported him (which he didn’t), but won’t do the same for Sisi, even though “if it weren’t for him, (al-Aswany) and (Adeeb) would be sharing a cell now.” 

Speaking of elections and Sisi, in case you were worried, the latter has a thought-through program (in his head, that is), according to filmmaker and now presidential adviser Khaled Youssef, who Sisi invited over about two months ago along with Hassanein Heikal, Mostafa Hegazi and Abdel Galeel Mostafa and instructed to work on his program and campaign, if they felt like it, while he tended to few a conspiracies before announcing his bid. Judging by Heikal’s “Sisi doesn’t need a program” statements and Youssef’s description of the program as something with “features,” no one seems to have taken him up on his offer. The features, Youssef revealed, include specific things like “a focus on security,” the “application of the constitution,” fighting corruption, distributing resources fairly among the people and opening up the country for investment, while looking out for the workforce. As for freedoms, its guarantee is the people’s desire to keep it. And since the program is uniquely original and its methods of application are anything but vague, Sisi is probably going to skip the campaigning, debating other candidates and touring the country bits, Youssef says.

Director Khaled Youssef talks about Sisi's electoral program

While Sisi wonders whether or not two televised interviews are enough to educate his voters on his non-program program, TV hosts like Mostafa Bakry are busy unveiling the details of the documents Morsi and his secretary tried to smuggle to Qatar. The documents allegedly contain important national security secrets, but no proof of the existence of the documents; history of how they were obtained; or explanation of their actual significance has been forthcoming. 

Bakry made more discoveries recently. Two weeks ago, a smiling Bakry received a phone call from Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim telling him that there are 1400 (no-longer) secret MB agents at loose in the cabinet. Gen. Ibrahim then revealed that the recent power cuts are not the result of an electricity shortage, they are the work of the MB…who are putting small boxes on electrical cables that damage the cables without sundering them, to cause power cuts  -- making it look like there is an electricity crisis and the government is incompetent. The problem with these matchbox-sized, cable-crippling boxes is that they are hard to find, the general explained in a tone that implied they can’t possibly be expected to look for them. The general then left us with another example of MB terrorism from el-Marg, where they were caught polluting the crystal clear drinking water, before answering a long forgotten question: who burnt down the Institute for Scientific Research during the cabinet clashes of 2011?

You should be able to guess the answer. But in case you, like Moses and the Egyptian people, are exasperatingly argumentative and tend to ask too many favors and questions (according to expert on religious affairs Amany el-Khayat) the Institute was targeted because it contained the only documents to prove that the Armenian genocide happened (apart from this Independent article and the rest of the Internet) which Turkey, the MB’s partner, didn’t couldn't risk leaving to gather dust in a building hardly anyone heard of before its combustion. And if you want to smell the smoke coming out of the barrel, the Israeli and the US governments were mad at the UNESCO for recognizing Palestine and were clearly going to burn a building loaded with historical valuables to get back at the agency. 

When not uncovering conspiracies and boxes on cables, Bakry can be found bemoaning satirist Bassem Youssef’s lack of shame, running pixelated footage (because Bassem Youssef is a female nipple now) of El Barnameg’s dirty jokes. 

Mustafa Bakry gives Bassem Youssef a hard time

Although the Egyptian media generally don’t report on anything outside Egypt (i.e. Cairo, unless there is a bloodbath somewhere), an exception was made for the alleged protest that took place in Qatar which the Egyptian media is now calling a revolution, whose freedom fighters Sada el-Badad’s Ahmed Moussa ardently supports.

If you have more Internet to waste, either try these songs about Bassem Youssef [the first one is a plagiarized Nancy Ajram song to make fun of BY for plagiarizing articles and the second calls him fake and homosexual] or watch Rola Kharsa remind Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal that he owns land in Egypt, which he presumably doesn’t want any harm to come to, so he should have his channel, LBC, apologize for running a report on the vote for the pimp hashtag (#انتخبوا_العرص) in which they actually said the word.

PostsNour Youssefegypt, tv