Lao Tzu

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mubarak's Egypt Had Nothing on Us

During the afternoon of the day Mubarak stepped down, I was driving to an appointment and listening to NPR, an interview of a supposed expert on Egypt.  Just that morning, I had watched Al Jazeera English and Democracy Now!’s coverage of the celebrations in Tahrir Square and the various interviews they had on the same subject, where I learned from Lisa Hajjar, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on Democracy Now!, that Omar Suleiman was/is “...the CIA’s Man in Cairo and Egypt’s Torturer-in-Chief,” that he had, in fact, tortured a person himself.

Imagine my disgust, therefore, when, listening to NPR that afternoon, I was told Suleiman was not the bad guy his “critics” said he was. Instead, it went something like this, from another NPR story:

“Suleiman brings to these discussions a long history of involvement in delicate Middle East negotiations. He has been Mubarak's principal representative in discussions with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and he has mediated between the rival Fatah and Hamas factions of the Palestinian leadership. He also has close contacts with Saudi and Iraqi leaders, and he has met often with top U.S. military and political officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. David Petraeus, formerly the head of the U.S. military's Central Command.

"Omar Suleiman is careful, calculating, shrewd, obviously extremely intelligent," said David Mack, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs in the administration of George H.W. Bush. "That comes across when you speak to him."

Suleiman's leadership in crafting a way out of Egypt's dangerous political stalemate is characteristic of his experience, Cohen says.

"He's a strategic thinker," he said. "He is trying to design a strategy that would allow the changes in Egypt to take place peacefully without further bloodshed and would not split the army and the people. They know that if there is a split between the army and the people that would damage the whole structure of the legitimacy of the Egyptian state." 

Notice the difference? Nothing about torture. This is what is known as lies by omission, and that is NPR’s journalistic ethic these days—no ethical or moral compunction to tell the whole truth at all. Don’t expect the truth about Egypt’s “Torturer in Chief;” you’re going to be protected from all those pesky little details.

This is, in part, an aspect of what Chris Hedges is talking about, when he refers to the “death of the liberal class.” This is why ordinary Democrats, those who only read the New York Times, or listen to “liberal” NPR —mainstream media— will never rise up in anger against the status quo as did the Egyptians—because the status quo looks so rosy to them, compliments of a mainstream media that is designed to keep them ignorant of reality. Try to tell them about Dish Network’s Free Speech TV, or Link TV, or Democracy Now!, and you’ll get, “Well, those are biased,” as if lies by omission are not reflective of bias.

Really, oppressions against the people by clumsy dictatorships, such as that of Mubarak’s Egypt, can’t compare for effectiveness to America’s more advanced, sophisticated means of oppression. Keep the people fat and happy, and you can do anything you like.

This is the reason it will be a long, long wait, before Americans will rise up in a passionate defense of democratic freedoms—they’ve got their perky local TV personalities, their Oprah, their magical, optimistic will power, and no news station will ever disabuse them of their delusions of living in a democracy. Even conservative "news" stations such as Fox will fail to criticize, for example, the Obama Administration for torturing detainees. But even they, as much as they wish to destroy Obama, must be silent on torture.  Call him a "socialist," but torture?  Sh-h-h-h...



  1. Zenzoe, I heard the same professor from U.C. Santa Barbara on Pacifica Radio (I think it was Ian Masters' show) making the same comments about Suleiman.

    I think the key difference between here and Egypt is that people are truly desperate in Egypt, plus the unsophisticated brutality of the Mubarak regime, compared to us well fed Americans who manage to maintain a certain relatively high standard of living by exploiting cheap foreign labor and a huge budget deficit. That makes it easy for Americans to ignore the reality of corporate control of our society and the gradual erosion of our standard of living or ability to dig ourselves out from the hole that big business and militarism has put us in.

  2. And in this Internet age most USANs remain woefully, willfully ignorant. Apparently they intend to stay that way. How many, do you suppose, watch Al Jazeera or Democracy now? Sadly, everything you say here is all too true.

  3. Right—Pacifica Radio is another good alternative news source. To be fair, as well, this info on Suleiman has appeared on mainstream news shows, such as CNN, but often it gets dampened by an opposing voice, as if the truth is a matter of opinion.

    So, we agree, yes? You've put it well, just a bit differently. I think your piece on Advertising is relevant here, yes?

    I'm reading Hedges' "Death of the Liberal Class," the book, right now. I'm thinking it's the most important book of the century. Anyway, it is going to influence my perceptions, for sure, from here on out. So, be ready for that.

  4. Anonymous—sorry your comment went unseen for so long. Didn't know it was there.

    Yes, but don't you know Lady Gaga is more important than what's happening around the world? Isn't she our savior— "I want women -- and men -- to feel empowered by a deeper and more psychotic part of themselves" ??? sequin at a time...

  5. Lisa Hajjar, in fact, said that one innocent victim of torture in an infamous case in Egypt had the cloth covering his face fall off during torture, and saw that his torturer was Suleiman himself. There's not much disputing something like that, unless it was a case of mistaken identity. What can the pro-Suleiman commentator say? "Oh, he's not such a bad guy. He was only doing his job as torturer-in-chief."

    Yes, the media can take a disgusting individual, and if that person cooperates with the media's self-serving plans, advertise that person as a "good guy," or at least "the best available alternative." I don't think Suleiman has landed at the top of the heap in Egypt, fortunately.

    Dang, I thought Lady Gaga was pretty cute until I started reading about her here, not that I really pay attention to pop stars like her.