Monday, July 1, 2013

Scaremongering in the Media: Egypt, Orientalism and the Abuse of Facts

Cairo: 7AM

A few headlines from the News this morning:
The Image from the New York Times

Tension roils Egypt as protests grow

At least four dead as violence erupts in Egypt and clerics warn of civil war 

Egyptians Pour Into Streets, Demanding Morsi’s Ouster


A side by side comparison of two articles about yesterday's events in Cairo:

  1. In an outpouring of rage against the president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, a core of demonstrators set fire to the headquarters of Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement. 

  2. Millions of opposition protesters hit the streets across Egypt to call for the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday (which marked the end of his first year in office), with violence in leaving at least seven dead.

The first quotation is the opening paragraph of the of the New York Times and the second is from the English website of the Egypt newspaper Ahram. In general, I disagree with the emphasis on violence in both paragraphs but that is a questions for another day. The quotation from the New York Times clearly highlights conflict and anger over any other emotions from yesterday's demonstrations. The unprecedented size of the protests does not even merit a mention in the opening lines. Somehow two million people marching in the streets is an afterthought, a footnotes, to the larger narrative that they have been crafting for days now. It does not fit with the story they are trying to tell so they bury it.

The emotions that I would use to describe yesterdays protests are joy, elation, happiness, excitement. It was quite possibly the largest single demonstration ever seen. Period. While there was of course anger against Morsi and his government, this was not the only emotion in Midan al-Tahrir. Speaking with friends and following events from my apartment, rage was not diving Egyptians into the streets in the millions.  They were seeking fundamental change to an incompetent government that they felt did not represent their interests and did provide a way forward given the current political and economic crises facing Egypt. In spite of this, the media continued to drag out its tired narrative of the Arab street, characterized by irrationality, violence and chaos.

Photo by Hasan Amin

I do not want to downplay the fact that there was some violence yesterday. The burning of Muslim Brotherhood office is unfortunate but not surprising. We should mourn the lives lost yesterday and honor those that died fighting for the future of their country. However, we should not let a few isolate acts of violence become the primary focus of our understanding of the events that are unfolding in Egypt. 

Egypt is Rising and the Revolution Continues....

For more photos by Karim Hesham go to and for more on Hasan Amin go to