American Journalism’s Blind Spot – Egypt As Case Study

American journalism’s coverage of Egyptian events is flawed in many ways. Two salient mistakes are: (a) the simplistic and incorrect assumption that Facebook and Twitter are proximate causes to the uprising; and more seriously, (b) ongoing and inappropriate focus on Mubarak individually. Everyday it’s the same — the dictator is the regime/government/ruling elite. For flavor, ‘sophisticated’ analysis separates out the Army as an independent actor — meanwhile assuming that some unified, monolithic, single minded entity called ‘the Army’ even exists. You’d think we’d collectively learned something since 1989. Apparently not.

American journalism is surprised by recent events despite its inevitability. Why? Besides Mubarak, over the decades tens of thousands enriched themselves at the Egyptian people’s expense. This entire strata is under threat by Mubarak’s removal. Obama’s push on Mubarak poses a potential fight or flight instinct for the entire apparat and threatens their ill-gotten wealth. It’s utterly wrong for cable talking heads to toss out seemingly broad words like ‘the government needs to be stopped from causing violence.’ The ‘government’ proper is only one constituency of entrenched interests under threat. And ‘the Army’ another among many if clearly primus inter pares.

It’s all fine for the new Prime Minister to declare the planned chaos, violence and crackdown ‘a catastrophe.’ Better still when the new government freezes the assets of the former Interior Minister and other minions and revokes their passports. Not all would agree. Some Israelis likely were quietly pleased with the riposte.

Haven’t you noticed how Americans still think about decapitation as an individual’s fate? Meanwhile the entrenched apparat is scrambling to transfer, hide or otherwise preserve its wealth. Mubarak agreed to a transfer of power in September reluctantly. That was ok. His health was failing. His ruling apparat-approved successor wouldn’t rock the boat. Plus, September granted a breathing period. Not only to for another throw of the dice. It’s enough time for wealth transfer. The Internet was not just restored for media manipulation.

Is more time for Mubarak ‘right’ or ‘moral’? If you’re reading this, then you, like the Stiftung, would answer no. But the harder question is whether some time is ‘necessary’. Mubarak gone now without more could trigger essentially a ‘stand or die’ threat to strata far beyond Mubarak’s immediate entourage. Mubarak’s replacement by his appointed VP might be enough to forestall that reaction. We support the Administration’s ‘now means yesterday’. A shame American journalism doesn’t understand this situation transcends the fate of one man.

Naturally, Mubarak’s pride, ego and vanity are involved. We don’t doubt he’s being encouraged by peers in the region. And factions within the ruling strata are doubtless splintered. Meanwhile, a corned opponent is the most dangerous — doubly so when that opponent is more than one man or institution, etc. By that light, with an entire ruling strata at risk, recent events follow an inexorable logic.