CAIRO: Those who made the revolution are themselves the counter revolution, not the military council. That was a comment posted on a Facebook page. It’s part of a cyber war between supporters of the Jan.25 uprising on one side and on the other a group united under a vague, elusive manifesto, combining Mubarak-supporters-turned-military-supporters with a bunch that wants to prove the uprising was Egypt’s worst news. Theoretically in between, but in reality leaning towards group 2, are voices that just want everyone else to shut up so stability would reign supreme.
The resulting war of words, therefore, tends to stray into the surreal. The conversation is often reactionary, a fault of both sides. Discussions that address grievances in a debate format rarely occur. Thus, the majority of the back and forth can be only described as a clash intent on overlooking logic. For the latter, I can comfortably lay most of the blame on group 2. Since the ties that pull together members of the group lack the basics of logical unity or agreement, the resulting rhetoric in debate aims at just denying what the other side says, regardless of actually debating facts. Even in the rare occasions that facts are cited, they usually represent a parrot-like repetition of ill researched claims propagated by state-media. There are interesting debates happening, but only on the fringes, and definitely not with the core members of group 2. Comments as the one mentioned above, outline the reactionary nature of the group’s “logic” and its blind rhetoric of rejection. The story, however, goes back to the very start of the uprising, if not before.
In order to quell demands of social justice on the micro level, the ruling military council and the interim government propagated the “counter-revolution” threat in March and April. Some are conspiring against Egypt’s budding revolution, they said, and the evil plan entails fueling workers’ protests and strikes. Thus all non-political protests and strikes were lumped together under the now-vilified “sectorial demand” banner. Eventually, a law was passed criminalizing strikes. And the blame for this “counter-revolution” plan started to shift from those who would benefit from the continuation of the old regime to the pro-change camp.
The shift was subtle. But coupled with a tendency in state-media to portray political reform demands as a danger threatening the security of this country at this critical transitional phase, public opinion was ready to associate any form of protest with instability or insecurity. The plan started by ousted Hosni Mubarak late January was finally working.
During the 18 days from Jan. 25 to Feb.11, before Mubarak was forced to step down, a ferocious campaign accused the protesters of being foreign agents working against an Egypt that can only be summed up in Mubarak. Even when state-media was later ridiculed for propagating the lies, even after promises were made to reform the media, the fear from foreign intervention lingered and remained glued to the protesters. It built upon years of regime-sponsored conspiracy theories that Egypt is maliciously targeted by all powers in the world.
The factors shaping this strange shift in opinion are numerous and sometimes hard to pin down. But since the shift was based on change of perception rather than the accumulation of facts, at least for the majority of group 2, logic has been sacrificed. This is evident in the comment mentioned earlier. In order to absolve the ruling military council of any wrongdoing, or even the possibility of it, the revolutionaries themselves are blamed for conspiring to sabotage the revolution they started.
Examples where such skewed logic makes an unashamed appearance are countless. In addition to the resulting name calling and the aggressive back and forth, this type of logic helps in justifying government policies. This logic aims at rewriting the obvious into a conspiracy form, into any far-fetched explanation that absolves the government and blames the protesters.
Even the police that is yet to fully return to the streets after its shameless withdrawal in January – in an attempt to pressure the population to renounce demands for change in return for security – is rarely blamed by group 2, whose members are content pointing the finger at the protesters for messing up the fragile psyche of the entire police force on the first Friday of Anger on Jan. 28.
When solely blaming the protesters for fiascos seems too far-fetched for group 2, an explanation of an “unknown third party” or “invisible hands” is ready. In an attempt to absolve the military from the guilt of killing more than 25 protesters at a mostly Coptic demonstration on Oct. 9, the bloodiest since January, explanations offered the simultaneous scenarios of soldiers panicked by the attack of the protesters that they drove the APCs right into the crowd and protesters taking over the APCs to run themselves over. An official fact finding mission, while blaming the military for running over people, blamed a third party for firing live ammo at both the protesters and the army. The unidentified “third party”, they said matter-of-factly, was a recurrent element in all violent protests.
This type of logic escapes the online bubble of this group to reach Egyptians with no social media access. While it could provide easy explanations for events, it doesn’t mean that everyone who repeats it is a group 2 loyalist. Gauging what the masses think or claiming to know what the majority believes in, especially in the absence of enough reliable polls, would be the equivalent of lying. It’s difficult to determine for sure the number of each group, but it’s clear that deconstructing this illogic is easy when discussing it with those who repeat it rather than those who devise and propagate it.
(Picture via Mosa'aberising)