Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Protests in Egypt: A War Of Propaganda As Well As Bullets

"A bullet may kill a man, a lying camera kills a nation"
From a flyer dropped near Al Jazeera's offices in Egypt

After finally holding the reins of power after patiently waiting and planning for decades, the Muslim Brotherhood suddenly finds itself once again on the outside looking in.

But while Morsi has been removed from office, the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to take this lying down. After all, they also know how to organize and take to the streets.

They also know how to capitalize on opportunities.

And the Egyptian army may have handed them a major propaganda coup, as 51 pro-Morsi demonstrators have apparently been killed by the army.

Wendell Steavenson writes in The New Yorker After The Shooting in Cairo:

The Islamists remained adamant that the Army fired on peaceful demonstrators. The Army says that they were provoked. Although many eyewitnesses and video clips corroborate some details—tear gas was fired by the Army at the start; gunfire came from at least some people on both sides, even if the Army did most of the shooting—there’s no clear indication of what sparked the violence. It is clear, however, that the vast majority of fatal injuries were caused by live ammunition, and that most of the dead were protesters. (An Army officer, a policeman, and a soldier were also reported killed.) Over the past two and a half years in Egypt—melee and propaganda and obfuscation—it has always been nearly impossible to separate fact from conspiracy theory and actual conspiracy. Crowds are routinely seeded with paid thugs and provocateurs, guns have become much more prevalent, tensions and emotions are raw and ragged.
The questions remains as to how the media will present present the incident, at a time when the Egyptian army cannot afford to come across as aggressively grabbing power and being labeled as having staged a coup to overthrow what was seen as the democratic election of Morsi as president. Thus the Muslim Brotherhood insists the protesters were peaceful, while the army counters that they were throwing rocks and even shooting at the soldiers.

But while there are two sides to the story, we have seen the media following the lead of the Obama administration in dismissing the radical Islamist background of the Muslim Brotherhood.

And that is the reason that Jonathan S. Tobin insists: The Muslim Brotherhood Is Not the Victim:
Despite evidence of provocation and even violence on the part of the Brotherhood demonstrators, it is unlikely that the army will be able to avoid being labeled as murderers by the international press. Indeed, if the Egyptian generals have any doubt about that they should ask their colleagues in Israel who have been similarly branded as killers even though the Israel Defense Forces have never done anything remotely as irresponsible as what happened today in Cairo.
In fact, there are already accusations of manipulation by the media -- and by Al Jazeera in particular.

At one point it was reported that an Al Jazeera correspondent in Cairo quits:
A correspondent of the Al Jazeera network in Cairo on Monday resigned from the Qatari broadcaster, accusing it of airing lies and misleading viewers.

“Unfortunately, I was working in a place which I thought it had credibility, but it is credibility based on a despicable political position,” said Wessam Fadel.

He added that the broadcaster aired old footage from Cairo showing Tahrir Square, a focal point for opponents of the former Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, empty, while the channel claimed it was recent footage.
That report soon mushroomed beyond just one journalist, as 22 members of Al Jazeera quit and accused it of distorting the news:
The news channel Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr saw 22 members of staff resign on Monday in Egypt over what they alleged was coverage that was out of sync with real events in Egypt.

Anchor Karem Mahmoud announced that the staff had resigned in protest against what he called “biased coverage” of the events in Egypt by the Qatari broadcaster.

Mahmoud said that the resignations had been brought about by a perceived lack of commitment and Al Jazeera professionalism in media coverage, adding that “the management in Doha provokes sedition among the Egyptian people and has an agenda against Egypt and other Arab countries.”

Mahmoud added that the management used to instruct each staff member to favour the Muslim Brotherhood.
And the charges of media bias are not limited to either Arabic news stations nor to only pro-Morsi journalists:
Among American stations, CNN has come in for the most grief for what anti-Morsy demonstrators view as its unsympathetic coverage. Protesters criticized the network's immediate decision to call the events a "coup" and blasted the network for labeling an anti-Morsy demonstration in Tahrir as supporting the deposed president. Some protesters have carried signs reading "CNN supports terrorism," while Egyptians in New York City organized a march to protest the network's coverage.

Like Egyptian citizens themselves, the media increasingly appears to be operating in two separate universes. While Islamist channels were shuttered shortly after the military takeover, some anti-Morsy outlets have given their readers the impression that the nation was unanimously in support of the Muslim Brotherhood's fall from power.
Matters have reached the point that the Egyptian army has claimed that pictures of children killed in the chaos are fake -- a claim that has been substantiated.

This of course is reminiscent of attempts by Hamas terrorists to turn public sentiment against Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense by exploiting Photos of Syrian Massacres Recycled as Gaza Atrocities.

This has led Petra Marquardt-Bigman of The Warped Mirror to note on Twitter:

How soon will it be before we see Islamists in Egypt following the lead of the radical Islamist insurgents in Syria who have come out with a friendly video portraying the opposition as "Saviors."

Missing from those profiled in the video is Abu Sakkar, who killed a member of Assad's army, tore out his heart and took a bit out of it.

After honing their propaganda skills against Israel, Muslims will now have the opportunity to use their media -- and social media -- skills against each other.

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