“Romanticism is man’s revolt against reason,” wrote the great classical liberal economist Ludwig von Mises. Minds ravaged by the rot of romanticism were everywhere on display in mainstream media’s coverage of the revolt that began in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and swept the Egyptian president, Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, from office.
I’ve finally figured out what it was that repulsed me so about American opinion-makers’ slobbering response to this anti-authoritarian upheaval.
It was not so much that the media ignored the likely possibility that democracy in a country that has become progressively more Islamic since the 1950s might not have a happy ending.
It was not that the media pretended that the Muslim Brotherhood, also the “best organized opposition force in the country,” would not field a viable presidential candidate.
It was not that, in their jubilation, Anderson Cooper (CNN), Neil Cavuto (Fox News) and Christiane Amanpour (ABC) failed to mention the precedent set in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has deployed the democratic process to get the better of the country’s Maronite Christians.
It was not even the fact that the journalistic imperative to provide nuance, detail, and an economic and historic backdrop to the unfolding events was replaced by the journalistic jet-set, with the telegenic drama of the man on the street.
None of this bothered me as much as the patronizing position these American reporters adopted; the neat bifurcation they managed to maintain between “Us” (the “free” men and women of America) and “Them” (those pathetic, shackled Egyptians).
The fact is that the heroic movement for democracy in Egypt dovetails with an ongoing flirtation with fascism in the U.S.; the twilight of individual sovereignty in the U.S. contrasts with its rise in Egypt.
So it was that America’s intellectual “Idiocracy” pontificated about the obvious need for liberty in Egypt, as its political masters worked to refine Mubarak’s methods. No sooner had Mubarak pulled the switch on the Internet than Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, re-introduced a bill designed to give Obama similar Internet-killing powers. All under the cover of democracy.
Foolish reporters fulminated about Egyptian freedoms, but hardly flinched when a Republican-led House of Representatives extended certain provisions of the Patriot Act. All the better to help the homegrown terrorists of the TSA obliterate those pesky Fourth-Amendment rights.
The same intrepid reporters failed to mention that, when he was not ordering rendition and torture in the service of the U.S., Mubarak’s dictatorial powers were directed, unjustly indubitably, against the Islamic fundamentalists of the Muslim Brotherhood.
American justice, on the other hand, proceeds boldly against … tokers, 750,000 of whom languish in our prisons. By Wikipedia estimates, “The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world.” By logical extension, the U.S. imprisons more individuals than Mubarak did, millions of whom are innocent (arrested for behavior that is licit in natural law). According to 420Magazine, “Approximately 4 million Americans are arrested each year for victimless crimes.”
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Egyptian unemployment hovers around 9.7 percent. How different is that from American jobless rates? The Egyptian government’s debt is 80.5 percent of GDP (an admittedly iffy measure of economic Brownian Motion, or expenditure). At $14.13 trillion, the debt our government has incurred stands at 96.4 percent of GDP.
For a while, the gilded elites had reason to worry. The natives were growing restless over being manhandled at the nation’s federally controlled airports. But American travelers soon relaxed and turned, instead – and with a vengeance – on a freedom fighter: WikiLeaks proprietor Julian Assange.
Genghis Bush lied us into war in Iraq, causing the direct and indirect deaths of 108,864 Iraqi civilians and of 4,436 (mostly working-class) American men. At least 32,977 of our soldiers were maimed and disfigured for life in that escapade. Most Americans were as upbeat about the carnage as comedian Dennis Miller still is.
Tame tea partiers (who were easily cowed when called racists) excepted, Americans last took to the streets in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War protests.
American media seem to color events by refracting them through a sickeningly sentimental prism. Their efforts to create reality on the ground – instead of reporting on it – notwithstanding, here’s what we know about the inchoate Egyptian uprising: The movement’s members hated their ruler and did what was necessary to be rid of him. Egyptians united in nonpartisan detestation of their dictator.
Whereas the Egyptians held no delusions about their top dog, we in the U.S. lionize ours, mistaking political overlords for benefactors.