Jadaliyya co-editor Bassam Haddad reflects on various points surrounding the discourses that have shaped how Egypt is covered and discussed:

“Good Morning, I’m Late, But an Egypt Expert Now!”

Many commentators, on all sides of the political spectrum, come to the Egyptian scene as spectators who did not closely follow the events between 11 February 2011 and 30 June 2013. And they know much, much less about the Egyptian polity prior to 2011. Thus, judgments often proceed from a priori positions regarding false binaries such as “Islamism” vs. “secularism,” as though there is no history prior to 2011, or as though there was no record of policies to judge during Morsi’s presidency. More often than not, analyses embrace all-encompassing narratives that present Egypt as a battlefield featuring only a few actors (“Islamists vs. liberals”; “Army vs. Muslim Brotherhood”;  “Revolutionaries vs. Counter-Revolutionaries”). Such accounts effectively erase the many processes and actors that do not fit into these binary categories. As with Syria, we end up witnessing entrenched ideational/impression-based camps rather than dynamic analysis that is amenable to revision. The discourse on Egypt becomes more important than what is actually happening in Egypt. The same applies to local Egyptian media if observers are glued to one venue.

“The Brotherhood is Only a Party that Opposed Dictatorship”

Many commentators know about the Egyptian state or dictatorship under Mubarak, including its economic exploits and the marriage of money and power; concessions to, and collaboration with, Israel; and the repression of political alternatives. However, most know little about the history of the Muslim Brotherhood nor for that matter the organization’s preferences, behavior, and policies after Morsi’s election. The most egregious common mis-analysis is the jettisoning of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in cajoling the army and re-entrenching the security state and some of its social and political corollaries under Morsi’s leadership, and before. The idea that the Brotherhood was also being used by the army (as Tamarod was) is noted. More important, however, is that there were explicit decisions by the Brotherhood/Morsi to strengthen the hand of the ancient regime and a near absence of an institutional curtailing of the security state’s power or the probability of its abuse of power. The Brotherhood, for those who only see a past of an underdog opposing authoritarian rule, is much more than and much less than that. Their social and economic record prior to 2011, notwithstanding the services they provided, is very much of a black box, or irrelevant, to many commentators and instant “experts.”

The Media’s Binary

The media have played an exceptionally delusional role inside and outside Egypt, supporting partisan narrative in their maximalist version. Unending and thorough demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood was countered by most Brotherhood supporters/defenders with utter neglect of their excesses, complicity with the army/fuloul, and transgressions, especially after 2011. Watching one or the other type of television stations (or reading one or the other publication) exclusively prejudices outcomes beyond reason. Most dangerous has been the vitriol in most liberal Egyptian media against the Muslim Brotherhood and pretty much everything they stand for today or stood for in the past. This discourse mobilized not just bodies, but minds, preparing them to anticipate, accept, and perhaps justify violent and brutal action against them. The reactionary Muslim Brotherhood equivalent about the “other” is and was at play, in media and action. Perhaps we are accustomed to it and were unmoved. Yet this reactionary equivalent of the Brotherhood pales in comparison with the institutional and coercive action-backed discourse against them.

Continue reading here.

From the Introduction:

From a Western media perspective, coverage of the uprisings has metamorphosed and evolved in intriguing ways. What began as initial alarm at these acts of protestation in the region and the knee-jerk paranoia and condemnation (which leveled accusations of extremism against many dissident movements) eventually turned into favorable cheerleading. In the end, the conduct of Western media is a crescendo of divergent confusion vis-à-vis the particularities in each country’s patterns of public action. Admittedly, the Western media were forced by the uprisings to forgo their reliance on typical motifs because what was happening on the ground was more nuanced than any of the prototypes often depicted and also in response to a strategic shift in Western governments’ tackling of the uprisings.
At first taken by surprise and forced into a state of reactionary caution, Western media quickly adapted their depiction of the uprisings from concern to advocacy for the demands of the dissident movements. The pro-activist representational frames they employed were a unique and welcomed departure from the Orientalist tropes that manufacture Arab dissent as an act of unruly barbaric irrationality. However, they are often prefaced with the latent fear that these revolutionary movements will produce unfavorable “results for Western governments and their interests in the region. For this reason, the international media still have the archetypal repertoires of Arabo- and Islamophobic categories on standby like “first-aid kits” to remedy the anomalously-positive coverage, particularly when these revolutions go awry and no longer seem so fairytale-like. And when it happens, as it has in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with the rise of Islamist political forces to the forefront, the media can easily revert to tried and tested modalities.

Click to read a longer excerpt from the introduction, including an interview with the editors (and Jadaliyya co-editors) Adel Iskandar and Bassam Haddad.

From the Introduction:

From a Western media perspective, coverage of the uprisings has metamorphosed and evolved in intriguing ways. What began as initial alarm at these acts of protestation in the region and the knee-jerk paranoia and condemnation (which leveled accusations of extremism against many dissident movements) eventually turned into favorable cheerleading. In the end, the conduct of Western media is a crescendo of divergent confusion vis-à-vis the particularities in each country’s patterns of public action. Admittedly, the Western media were forced by the uprisings to forgo their reliance on typical motifs because what was happening on the ground was more nuanced than any of the prototypes often depicted and also in response to a strategic shift in Western governments’ tackling of the uprisings.

At first taken by surprise and forced into a state of reactionary caution, Western media quickly adapted their depiction of the uprisings from concern to advocacy for the demands of the dissident movements. The pro-activist representational frames they employed were a unique and welcomed departure from the Orientalist tropes that manufacture Arab dissent as an act of unruly barbaric irrationality. However, they are often prefaced with the latent fear that these revolutionary movements will produce unfavorable “results for Western governments and their interests in the region. For this reason, the international media still have the archetypal repertoires of Arabo- and Islamophobic categories on standby like “first-aid kits” to remedy the anomalously-positive coverage, particularly when these revolutions go awry and no longer seem so fairytale-like. And when it happens, as it has in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with the rise of Islamist political forces to the forefront, the media can easily revert to tried and tested modalities.

Click to read a longer excerpt from the introduction, including an interview with the editors (and Jadaliyya co-editors) Adel Iskandar and Bassam Haddad.

Mainstream Taboo on Criticizing Israel Suffers Visible Cracks (Video)

For those of us in the United States who have been advocating for Palestinian rights for many years, our impact can seem dismal by looking only at the unshakable bias of US foreign policy on the issue. However, since real political change happens from the ground up, and the political establishment is often the last element to respond to social change, the impact of our activism can be more accurately measured by looking at how public discourse has changed over the last decade.

A decade ago, sympathy for the Palestinian quest for justice was virtually nonexistent in the United States. But in the last ten years, some noteworthy signs of change have appeared: a former President wrote a book about Israeli apartheid in the occupied territories; leading academics at Harvard and the University of Chicago wrote a book criticizing the Israel lobby’s influence in Washington; and major Jewish American organizations emerged to challenge the fiction that AIPAC speaks for a singular American Jewish community on U.S. policy towards Israel. Also, a plurality of Americans and a majority of Democrats now believe that Israeli settlements should be dismantled and the land returned to Palestinians. We certainly still have a lot of work ahead of us in expanding the debate further as well as translating the shift in discourse into an actual shift in policy. Still, it is important to remember that we are making a difference. The following video shows the extent to which our efforts have penetrated mainstream American media.

Thus far, Algerian press coverage and reactions are divided on France’s military intervention in northern Mali, Operation SERVAL, as well as the additional thrusts in the south by Mali’s jihadist coalition. Skepticism that has been prevalent in Algerian media coverage of calls for the internationalization of the Malian crisis remains a strong thread in opinion and editorial writing nonetheless. While significant strands of elite opinion—especially at the political level—appear to have somewhat rallied to support military intervention in northern Mali. At the same time, the Algerian government’s longstanding position in favor of “dialogue” and a “political solution” to the crisis remains evident in press reports, government statements, and skepticism over the prospects that the intervention will successfully resolve Mali’s troubles persists. Comments from Algerian intellectuals depicting the campaign as a “proxy war” of the United States or as destined for failure, and highlights given to the opinions of certain French voices suggest some level of discomfort over France’s intentions and the Algerian government’s role in the crisis; this is to be expected to some extent given the background of distrust between Paris and Algiers over Mali, as well as the nature of Franco-Algerian relations in general. Outside of the major dailies, some confusion does appear to exist over Algiers’ position in the ongoing struggle. This post only reviews French-language media and looks at perspectives through the beginning of the week of 13 January.

Read more for a summary of the discussions going on in Algerian press, featuring excerpts from Tut Sur Algerie, El Watan, Le Temps, Le Soir d’Algerie, and Algerie-Focus.

[The words listed within the category of “Terrorism”]
US Department of Homeland Security’s Media Monitoring Manual

The following link directs you to portions of the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) 2011 Media Monitoring Desktop Reference. It was made available through the efforts of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent law suit to obtain the documents. The manual identifies many of the problematic monitoring practices of DHS and contains a (broad) list of (extremely vague) key words DHS uses to monitor the internet (including search engines and social media communications). Unclear from the released documents is how exactly DHS is able to access the data from search engines and social media communications in its efforts to “track” the use of these keywords. However, as several reports have indicated, this is most probably achieved through the agreements with host sites such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

Read more

[The words listed within the category of “Terrorism”]

US Department of Homeland Security’s Media Monitoring Manual

The following link directs you to portions of the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) 2011 Media Monitoring Desktop Reference. It was made available through the efforts of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent law suit to obtain the documents. The manual identifies many of the problematic monitoring practices of DHS and contains a (broad) list of (extremely vague) key words DHS uses to monitor the internet (including search engines and social media communications). Unclear from the released documents is how exactly DHS is able to access the data from search engines and social media communications in its efforts to “track” the use of these keywords. However, as several reports have indicated, this is most probably achieved through the agreements with host sites such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

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[Front page of the 15 November edition of the Washington Post newspaper featuring Majed Hamdan’s photo of Jihad Masharawi mourning his son’s death.]

Whether one sees it as an image of universal suffering as a result of war or as a particularly Palestinian image, photographs like this summon honest introspection and difficult feelings, perhaps even more than the bloody images of conflict that often cause viewers to avert their eyes. Given news standards that lead journalists all too often to focus on leaders’ statements and casualty statistics, it is a small moral breakthrough that this image should take up space on the front page of a major paper. It is an invitation to feel something about a Palestinian family far removed from Washington, DC.
Yet, photographs like this one have provoked the argument that dead children are part of Hamas’ media strategy. According to this argument, Hamas baits Israel into killing Palestinian children in order to make Israel look bad. On 18 November, 2012, a post on Honest Reporting concluded, “The media must acknowledge that dead babies and children play an essential role in Hamas’ propaganda war.” A few days later, in a blog entry entitled “The Media Bear Some Responsibility for Civilian Deaths in Gaza,” law professor Alan Dershowitz took the argument a step further by asserting that the media are complicit in the deaths of Palestinian children: “If the international community and the media want the conflict between Hamas and Israel to end, they (OR: we) must stop encouraging this gruesome Hamas tactic.”
On 28 November, 2012 in The Washington Post’s op-ed pages, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, picked up the argument. Oren asserted that Hamas has a strategy of making it seem as though Israel is perpetrating war crimes, and that the US media “help advance its strategy.” “Hamas knows,” he writes, “that it cannot destroy us militarily but believes that it might do so through the media.” In other words, while Israeli missiles killed an estimated 103 civilians—including three journalists and 33 children—and Hamas rockets killed four Israeli civilians during the November fighting, and even though Israel has been carrying out a crippling economic blockade against Gaza for five years, it is Hamas that poses the existential threat to the state of Israel via its media strategy.

Read more on Do Photographs Pose an Existential Threat to Israel?

[Front page of the 15 November edition of the Washington Post newspaper featuring Majed Hamdan’s photo of Jihad Masharawi mourning his son’s death.]

Whether one sees it as an image of universal suffering as a result of war or as a particularly Palestinian image, photographs like this summon honest introspection and difficult feelings, perhaps even more than the bloody images of conflict that often cause viewers to avert their eyes. Given news standards that lead journalists all too often to focus on leaders’ statements and casualty statistics, it is a small moral breakthrough that this image should take up space on the front page of a major paper. It is an invitation to feel something about a Palestinian family far removed from Washington, DC.

Yet, photographs like this one have provoked the argument that dead children are part of Hamas’ media strategy. According to this argument, Hamas baits Israel into killing Palestinian children in order to make Israel look bad. On 18 November, 2012, a post on Honest Reporting concluded, “The media must acknowledge that dead babies and children play an essential role in Hamas’ propaganda war.” A few days later, in a blog entry entitled “The Media Bear Some Responsibility for Civilian Deaths in Gaza,” law professor Alan Dershowitz took the argument a step further by asserting that the media are complicit in the deaths of Palestinian children: “If the international community and the media want the conflict between Hamas and Israel to end, they (OR: we) must stop encouraging this gruesome Hamas tactic.”

On 28 November, 2012 in The Washington Post’s op-ed pages, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, picked up the argument. Oren asserted that Hamas has a strategy of making it seem as though Israel is perpetrating war crimes, and that the US media “help advance its strategy.” “Hamas knows,” he writes, “that it cannot destroy us militarily but believes that it might do so through the media.” In other words, while Israeli missiles killed an estimated 103 civilians—including three journalists and 33 children—and Hamas rockets killed four Israeli civilians during the November fighting, and even though Israel has been carrying out a crippling economic blockade against Gaza for five years, it is Hamas that poses the existential threat to the state of Israel via its media strategy.

Read more on Do Photographs Pose an Existential Threat to Israel?

tadweenpublishing
tadweenpublishing:

Mediating the Arab UprisingsCo-edited by Adel Iskander and Bassam Haddad

The objective behind “Mediating the Arab Uprisings” is to interrupt the seemingly uninterrogated terrain of media in and on the Arab uprisings at this crucial moment in the living history of the region. By problematizing the relationships between power and information production/dissemination both in the Arab world and beyond, we can begin to reconfigure the discussion in a manner that renders it more informative, reflexive, and accurate in its depiction of the conditions in each of the region’s public spaces.

To purchase your own copy, click here! Both paperback and e-book versions are available.

tadweenpublishing:

Mediating the Arab Uprisings
Co-edited by Adel Iskander and Bassam Haddad

The objective behind “Mediating the Arab Uprisings” is to interrupt the seemingly uninterrogated terrain of media in and on the Arab uprisings at this crucial moment in the living history of the region. By problematizing the relationships between power and information production/dissemination both in the Arab world and beyond, we can begin to reconfigure the discussion in a manner that renders it more informative, reflexive, and accurate in its depiction of the conditions in each of the region’s public spaces.

To purchase your own copy, click here! Both paperback and e-book versions are available.

[Figure 1. “The Wife of Amin Yusuf Bek.” Source: Memory of Modern Egypt website.]

Archiving initiatives and concepts of photographic heritage currently emerging in the Middle East are shaped in very different ways than was the case over the past century. They are conceived along the lines of two models. One is a digitization model, as seen in the Library of Alexandria, which destroys artifacts in order to produce data. The second […] is a model of neoliberal fiefdoms where photographic heritage becomes the privilege of the select few. In both cases, public interest, in the form of open access, and research interests—the two aspects that framed public archives throughout the twentieth century—remain strikingly absent.

Read more on “I Have the Picture!” Egypt’s Photographic Heritage between Digital Reproduction and Neoliberalism (Part I)

[Figure 1. “The Wife of Amin Yusuf Bek.” Source: Memory of Modern Egypt website.]

Archiving initiatives and concepts of photographic heritage currently emerging in the Middle East are shaped in very different ways than was the case over the past century. They are conceived along the lines of two models. One is a digitization model, as seen in the Library of Alexandria, which destroys artifacts in order to produce data. The second […] is a model of neoliberal fiefdoms where photographic heritage becomes the privilege of the select few. In both cases, public interest, in the form of open access, and research interests—the two aspects that framed public archives throughout the twentieth century—remain strikingly absent.

Read more on “I Have the Picture!” Egypt’s Photographic Heritage between Digital Reproduction and Neoliberalism (Part I)

Jadaliyya is hereby launching its new Media page! This page provides a critical lens from which to explore and analyze the media landscape in and about the Middle East and North Africa. It spotlights new and traditional media players, platforms, and reporting at the local, regional, and global levels. Original articles featured in this page expand the disciplinary boundaries of media studies and communication to look at the intersections of the arts and all forms of representation. The page also features audio interviews and extensive video segments on various topics pertaining to the Middle East. Also forthcoming from the page is a weekly radio show "Media on the Margins" led by VOMENA’s award-winning host and Jadaliyya co-editor Malihe Razazan.

Our first bouquet of articles include a stellar report from Basma Guthrie and Fida Adely titled "Is the Sky Falling? Press and Internet Censorship Rises in Jordan," a critical intervention from VJ Um Amel on the methodologies of social media analysis "Studying Social Streams: Cultural Analytics in Arabic," a telling case study by Donatella Della Ratta about regime and opposition discourses in Syria titled "Syrian Hands Raised: User-Generated Creativity Between Citizenship and Dissent," Adel Iskandar’s an assessment of Egypt’s military performance in "Year of the Ostrich: SCAF’s Media Experiment," and an interview and preview of Linda Herrera’s recently published "Youth and Citizenship in the Digital Age: A View from Egypt" from Jadaliyya's NEWTON page. It also includes the latest media roundup on Syria  (November 1).

Click here to visit the MEDIA PAGE

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A selection of articles and blogposts this past week on Syria:

Barbarians Arrive as UN Judges Syria Vijay Prashad says the status quo will persist in Syria, because those who voiced the need for a united stance to solve the crisis are sidelined by the UN Security Council.

A Regional Solution for Syria Kayhan Barzegar argues that “more proximity between Iran and Egypt can be the key as to solving the Syrian crisis in a regional context.”

The West Conspires Against Bahrain While Exploiting Syria Ali Mushaima outlines “six important facts to consider regarding the Western position on Syria and Bahrain, and the future of the peoples and regimes of both countries – amid Western duplicity and double standards.”

Syrian Conflict Makes Palestinians Into Both Refugees and Combatants Nicholas Blanford on the developments in Syria and how they further fragmented the Palestinian stance inside the country.

In Syria’s Continuing Tragedy, Dignity is the Latest Victim Rym Ghazal tells the story of a dental student from Syria who is now working as a maid for a Lebanese family, to show how the experience affected her life beyond the trauma of physical displacement.

Syrians on Hunger Strike Sarah el Sirgany on Syrian women’s hunger strike, its disappointing reception in Egypt and unintended consequences.

حوار خاص على قناة الميادين
This is the transcript of Al-Mayadin Channel’s dialogue with Dr.Haitham Mannaa on the National Conference to Save Syria that was held in Damascus.

هل حسم المسيحيون أمرهم مع النظام؟!
Haytham Khouri writes about the stance of Syrian Christians on the revolution in the country. 

تسوية تاريخية.. نعم ولكن
Hussein Al Awdat writes about the importance of dialogue and reaching a settlement between the opposition and the regime in Syria. 

الشعب السوري يستحق الحياة ايضا
And Al-Bari Atwan writes about the international community’s stance on the struggle in Syria, while analyzing the present and the future of the situation in the country.

Click for more.