The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Egypt in TV

Sometimes when one does not get enough attention, one is pushed to strange things to get it. This is presumably what motivated Gaber el-Karmouty to give up thirteen minutes of his talk show to play the national anthems of all the Egyptian-regime-friendly Arab states while sporting a dishdasha (complete with a shemagh,a keffiyeh and the Egyptian flag one on top of the other at minute 11) and holding up the flags of said countries, except for Jordan’s. "(They) tried to send someone to the Jordanian embassy to get a big flag but failed." Hence, the print out.

The purpose of this abuse of symbolism, el-Karmouty tells us, is to thank Gulf states for their support of the July 3 coup and take the opportunity to contrast that with Qatar’s pro-MB stance and ask their royal family about the origins of their malevolence towards Egypt -- something he has done virtually every day since July 3, but suddenly requires a costume and flags to do.

That was not the last time el-Karmouty did something strange for no good reason. Earlier last week, he rode a bicycle around his cramped studio on air to demonstrate to his viewers how General AbdelFatah el-Sisi’s rode his in last Friday’s cycling marathon. When not ringing the bike bell, el-Karmouty pointed out his helmet, his backpack, his bottle cage and listed various presidents who rode bicycles in public before.

The weirdest presentation el-Karmouty has given so far, however, was reenacting the latest group sexual assault in Tahrir via standing up, occasionally hiding his crotch and drawing circles in the air to show where her attackers stood surrounding her. Next to el-Karmouty, on the desk, was a bouquet of red roses identical to the ones el-Sisi gave the victim during his televised hospital visit because apparently that too required illustration.

The Tahrir rape has inspired more explanations from other TV presenters. By explanations I mean conspiracy theories, of course. The Muslim Brotherhood did it to spread terror in society and punish women for voting for Sisi. Could that be why the pro-MB Rassd network had the best footage of the assault, OnTV’s Youssef el-Husseiny encouraged us to wonder. The Stepford Wives of Egyptian TV, Hala Sarhan, Lamis el-Hadidi and Ahmed Moussa, however, were even less subtle than him.  

Sarhan reported that one of the assailants called the victim’s daughter an infidel and put out a cigarette in her face (after she was in police custody, I might add), according to the victim’s friend, Soha Hosny, who was at the scene. The victim Ahmed Moussa interviewed, Rania Abdel-Nasser, also said her attackers referred to her as a Sisi supporter and said they would show her. This was taken as proof of an MB conspiracy. 

But it does not necessarily mean these attacks are politically motivated. My sister was sexually assaulted earlier this week by a group of men in the virtually empty streets of New Cairo; one of her attackers stopped to recall out loud how el-Sisi said recently that men who so much as let their eyes linger too long on a woman will be arrested, and to wonder what he was doing to do about it now. Surely, that does not mean that Khairat el-Shater is plotting away in prison to orchestrate random sexual assaults on women in New Cairo. Could the Tahrir attacks have been organized? Yes. But could they also be the natural result of a sexual harassment problem that has gotten worse and has never been seriously addressed? Yes.

It is worth noting that the other Tahrir victim, Hosny, told el-Hadidi in a separate interview that the Presumed Brother later said that he only extinguished his cigarette with a girl's face because he was under the impression they were beating up a Muslim Sister, not a fellow Sisi supporter. It's all just a misunderstanding. Anyway, who hasn’t burned the face of someone they mistook for a demonized political opponent?

Something else, Amany el-Khayat and all other TV presenters didn’t appreciate last week were the flyers that now dot Cairo asking people: Have you prayed for the Prophet today? They all believe it as a sign that the MB is gearing up for the parliamentary elections and is trying to win people over with religious slogans again. Ibrahim Eissa likened the flyers to an annoying chain mail asking you to pray 70 times or become one of the 3% who go to hell. Eissa then put his microphone up to the camera for the viewers to defy physics and tell him what to do if Christians start putting up flyers of their own (hence igniting a sectarian flyer-war). 

On the other hand, Ahmed Moussa shared a video of uniformed Caucasian people stripping and restraining a woman as evidence of the US police's disregard for human rights, while Hala Sarhan, Lamis el-Hadidi and Amr Adeeb used comparisons between Morsi and his successor to fill air time with comic relief. Morsi used to eat on the floor in the presidential places and wipe his hands clean on the curtains and the furniture with his friends like the savages they were, according to Sarhan. El-Sisi probably uses cutlery and napkins. Morsi touched his crotch on TV. El-Sisi didn’t. Morsi gave notoriously boring speeches and said the word ‘legitimacy’ 58 times in one of them. El-Sisi gave – well, he didn’t say the word ‘legitimacy’ 58 times. One time Morsi had a security detail that consisted of 36 cars – Adeeb counted – as opposed to the handful of bodyguards el-Sisi had with him in his cycling marathon. Though one could argue that all the participants in the marathon count as bodyguards given that they are students from the military and police academies. 

Meanwhile in the MB camp, Al Jazeera’s Ayman Azzam butchered a stolen Bassem Youssef joke – the one where he begins a swear word and ends with a regular one, eg: "Ayman Azzam’s mother is a whor...rible painter". And aired this very, very weird song (45:17).

PostsNour Youssefegypt, tv