The Terrors of Democracy


For the Western media and Western policy makers, it seems the story of what’s been happening in Egypt is a simple one. Having deposed and taken into custody a democratically elected president on July 3, the army went ahead and forcibly disbanded two large sit-ins staged in protest of the coup, killing over 500 civilians on August 14, then hunting down the remaining leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and allied groups, whence both president and protesters hail.

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Something wrong with the wires

Revolution gives way to security breakdown. The people vote for the Sheikh. The Israeli Embassy is ringed with protesters, but so—eventually—is its Saudi counterpart. False prophets take over Tahrir Square. Thousands die; millions grow beards. Previously unseen gods of the sect bless the public sphere with fatal ministrations. The traffic is worse and worse. Petrol shortages give way to mortal combat, but not before a president is elected do arbitrary power cuts set in, apparently for the good of Islam. It turns out the General has been in league with the Brother all along. The Dissident preaches self-hatred. Then, electricity allowing, the people gather before the television to see how 18 months of turmoil may have affected the content and style of the sine qua non of their yearly month of devotion: the serial drama. Somehow, in spite of the economic slump, social uncertainty and political depravity, the makers of programmes have been busier than ever. “Revolutionaries” are still in jail, incarcerated murderers of the “Islamic” stripe are being set free by presidential decree—but it is all about thugs and Israel.

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Me and my TV

For some 24 hours now, every time I switch on my television, a message takes up three quarters of the screen: my Showtime subscription has expired. If I do not renew it immediately – so the white-on-grey writing tells me, in no uncertain terms – the service will be discontinued in five days. Five days, I cogitate: Why should this be happening exactly 45 days before I am due to leave the country? It is as if some incredibly ironic force is timing things so that, having decided to leave Abu Dhabi, I must go through the traditional Egyptian mourning period of 40 days, whether I like it or not.

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