February 8, 2011

No Silencing Egypt’s Revolution

Turn on Egyptian state T.V. and the government will inform you that Egyptians are tired of constant upheaval. Opposition demands have been met. Protesters no longer have a reason to stay in Tahrir Square.

In the streets themselves, protesters are deterred from reaching the square by rings of checkpoints; the inner set up by the military, the outer by “pro-Mubarak” supporters. Basically Central Security Forces and National Democratic Party (NDP) loyalists. Playing every card to quell protesters’ demands for regime change, President Hosni Mubarak and Vice President Omar Suleiman aim to shovel protesters out of Tahrir - and onto the back pages.

No surprise, then, that Washington has adopted a similar strategy to minimize public awareness in America.

With Egypt’s “Friday of Departure” passing without Mubarak’s resignation and protests seemingly losing momentum, it became immediately obvious on Monday that “Egypt” had become last week’s news. Business is back to normal this week, with economic activity regaining the U.S. media’s general narrative.

Egyptian protesters aren’t tired. But the White House looks tired of dealing with them, the U.S. media tired of covering them, and the U.S. public beginning to grow weary of their revolution.

To lay all the blame on the White House certainly rubs off as conspiratorial. After Egypt’s temporary cooling, the majority of Americans may simply be fatigued after 15 days. The media tailors its content to peoples’ interests and search results for Egypt fell off. Egyptian fever had momentarily arrested.

However, just as it is unrealistic to believe Washington pulls the strings on every media outlet, the converse also holds true. Washington surely wraps its fingers around some strings to editorial boards of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other news sources. The U.S. media also runs with a herd mentality and can be easily directed by a relatively few number of people. Such is already the case in demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood. And with Cairo and Washington frantically trying to reduce public pressure on Mubarak, the relative calm played into a depreciation in U.S. coverage.

Intimidation and violence continues day and night around Tahrir Square. Egyptian authorities have also raided the offices of human rights groups that were tracking death, injury, and missing figures. Dialogue with the opposition shows little promise. But a lesser degree of overt violence and its shift to Tahrir’s periphery has reduced Cairo’s spectacle from breaking to regular news.

Some U.S. media - NPR, CBS, McClatchy, Newsweek - continue to monitor the situation from their front pages. However the NYT, WSJ, Washington Post, ABC, Christian Science Monitor, Time, Yahoo!, Google, and many others have pushed the story to the bottom, or else reverted Egypt to their “world” sections.

Meanwhile a large segment of the international media, including but not limited to Al Jazeera, continues to broadcast Egypt as the heavyweight story that it is.

Yet the U.S. media will have no choice in rejoining its international counterparts, a move already in effect. Monday and Tuesday’s down coverage was nothing more than a brief parting in the sky, a few days of sun to help Americans forget the storm hovering over U.S. policy in the Middle East. Searches after Egypt's "Day of Love" are back up. Boosted by a Google shot and steadfastly determined to outlast Mubarak, the Egyptian opposition is organizing larger protests for the end of the week. And they’ve started a deathly clever campaign titled “Faces of the Fallen” to capture the spirit of Mohamed Bouazizi.

"This gives the revolution a face," said reporter Mai el-Wakil, who has begun writing a "Faces of the Fallen" column in the English-language daily Al Masry Al Youm.

Faces like 16-year old Amira el-Sayyed, killed by stray bullets when Egyptian security fired on protesters to intimidate them from joining Tahrir. She aspired to become a political scientist.

And Ahmed Basiony, injured in a previous protest only to return and meet death. Basiony wrote in his last Facebook post, "I have a lot of hope if we stay like this. Riot police beat me a lot. Nevertheless I will go down again tomorrow."

Contrary to the notion that they’re fatigued, protesters stand ready to wear Mubarak out until he quits. Although curfew has been set, hundreds of thousands flood Cairo’s streets to prevent the Egyptian military and police from denying them Tahrir Square. Millions have reportedly gathered across the country. Whether the government cracks down again or not, Egyptians will force America’s collective attention back to their liberation. Some even call it a rebirth.

Their revolution cannot be denied.

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