Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Expectations for Tomorrow in The Huffington Post


At an International Press Gathering last week, foreign journalists came to hear remarks by a few Egyptian counterparts about what to expect on January 25th, the first anniversary of one of the most reported revolutions in recent history. The nervous joke passing between the crisply dressed Americans and Europeans was that if the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, currently running the country, wanted to get rid of negative coverage in one fell swoop, all it would take is a well placed bomb here, in a warehouse hidden among the downtown blocks.
Amid the stark concrete walls, a handful of influential Egyptian journalists and editors described what they thought might happen when big numbers return to Tahrir next week.
"I think it will pass quietly," former Al Jazeera bureau chief Amr El Kahky said. Hisham Kassem, an oft-quoted source in American articles about Egypt and a lifetime newspaperman-dissident, looked out over the expectant faces and said, "In the past, I was the revolutionary at these kinds of things. Now, I'm going to be a wet blanket."
"I don't think very much is going to happen," he continued, explaining that contrary to many versions of the story, he believes that the military deployed last January not to help the protesters topple the Mubarak regime, but actually to save it. When they realized that the regime, in fact, could not be saved, they pushed the leader out of power to save themselves and got stuck running the country.
And then, Kassem argued, "the media took this on as a revolution," and "raised the expectations," when in fact a regime change, a real revolution was, and is, far from over. The media focused on young, camera-friendly revolutionaries and led them to expect instant leadership. "But politics is cruel," he said, filling his role as a wet blanket. "You will find yourselves irrelevant."

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