Friday, February 4, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Egypt, Dealing With Criticism, and Getting a Grip

It's the Lemming's opinion that Egypt just hasn't been the same, since the Persians took over about 23½ centuries back. It's also the Lemming's opinion that President Hosni Mubarak hasn't been the worst possible leader, since he took over on October 14, 1981.

Still, Egypt's citizens could have done a lot better, in terms of leadership. In the Lemming's opinion.

(More about the last 50 centuries or so of Egyptian history - highly condensed - at "Egypt," CIA World Factbook (last updated February 1, 2011))

Criticizing Government Policy Isn't Necessarily Treason

It would be nice if a country could have an all-wise leader who never made mistakes, thoroughly understood what each citizen needed, and spent every waking moment striving to improve the lot of everyone in all the land.

That'd be nice.

It's not gonna happen. Not any time soon - in the Lemming's opinion, again.

President Mubarak seems to like being president. News and backgrounders suggest that he's arranged for elections at regular intervals. And made sure that the rules guarantee that nothing short of a miracle will let anybody but Mr. M. win.

So, he's been re-elected. A lot.

A country run along those lines might work - provided that whoever was in charge had the good sense to listen to complaints and do something about the ones that made sense.

President Mubarak doesn't seem to have been doing that.

In fact, his supporters - some of them - seem to be implying that disagreeing with the president is treason.

Big, big mistake, in both cases. In - what else? - the Lemming's opinion.

Egypt: Protests; the Establishment, and Disinformation

"Trolls Pounce on Facebook's Tahrir Square"
Spencer Ackerman, Danger Room, Wired (February 4, 2011)

"Cairo's Tahrir Square is a warzone, thanks to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's goon squad. But the crackdown isn't limited to physical spaces where the protest movement congregates. Ever since Mubarak restored Internet service on Wednesday, the most important dissident Facebook page has seen a curious flood of pro-regime Wall posts, sowing disinformation.

"Some of the new up-with-Mubarak commentary at We Are All Khalid Said is classic concern-trolling: people wringing their hands over how Egypt's dictator deserves better than calls for his downfall. Some is pure abuse, questioning the loyalties of the page's administrator. And some are blatant attempts to disrupt the protests by claiming upcoming rallies have been canceled.

"It's hard not to see the trolling as part of a larger effort by Mubarak's allies to win the propaganda battle surrounding Egypt's unrest. They're detaining and beating foreign journalists in order to control the information flow. On Thursday, it arrested online activists...."

Mr. Ackerman has a fairly well-defined attitude toward President Mubarak, and the anti-Mubarak protest. The Lemming tends - strongly - to agree with him.

The next bit isn't as off-topic as it seems. Remember: The Lemming thinks that human beings act pretty much like human beings, no matter what country they're in. For good or ill.
Kent State Isn't in Egypt
The Lemming's teens happened during the sixties. By the end of that period, the Indochina involvement, police action, Vietnam War - whatever it eventually gets called - was being disastrously micromanaged by Washington: and quite a few Americans were getting fed up.

Including those crazy college kids: like the Lemming. Eventually I'd be in a peace march - although I had my own reasons. Back in high school, I'd designed my own protest sign - as a sort of art class project. The original is lost, but this is a pretty close imitation:

What can I say? The Lemming never was particularly good at doing 'conventional.'
Kent State, May 4, 1970: Sad, Avoidable, Heavily Mythologized
There's a pretty good recap of what actually happened at Kent State University in May of 1970. The Lemming's hat is off to whoever dared put this page together, and post it on a university website:
Odds are what you read there isn't the version you've been given before. Folks who are convinced that the commies were behind the Kent State shootings, and those who are equally convinced that it was a plot by the military-industrial complex - won't be convinced.

The Lemming's father once said, 'never attribute to malice, what can be explained by stupidity.' He had a point.
Custer's Last Stand, Kent State Massacre, Trolls on Facebook: Not Much has Changed
Americans, in particular, may be surprised by Lewis and Hensley's account of what actually happened at Kent State. The versions that many Americans were fed - including one which found its way into textbooks used in America's government schools - is, to be polite, factually inaccurate:

" 'In May 1970, at Kent State University in Ohio, National Guardsmen confronted student antiwar protestors with a tear gas barrage. Soon afterward, with no provocation, soldiers opened fire into a group of fleeing students. Four young people were killed, shot in the back, including two women who had been walking to class.' "
(A People and a Nation: A History of the United States. Fourth Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1994), cited by Lewis and Hensley - and alternatively accurate)

At least the text put Kent State U. in the right state.

That doesn't prove that 'those liberals always lie.'

Imaginative re-tellings of what happened at Kent State are, in the Lemming's opinion, another example that human beings tend to believe what they want to believe - and don't always let facts get in the way.

Like what really happened because of General George Armstrong Custer's enthusiastic and lethally flawed handling of tactics at the Little Bighorn. (New Perspectives on the West, PBS, "George Armstrong Custer") The Lemming remembers when "Custer's Last Stand" was taught in schools - with quite a few important details left out. Which isn't quite another topic.

The Lemming likes living in America - but this country is run by human beings, just like every other one on the planet. And where you've got human beings, you've got trouble. And, all too often, a certain diffidence when it comes to being truthful. Particularly when the facts are unpleasant.

Wrapping up the Kent State fiasco: The Lemming doesn't think it was right that four people were shot at Kent State. But the Lemming also thinks that teaching America's students a bowdlerized version that suits America's dominant culture isn't right, either. Little wonder that the Lemming's kids have been home schooled. Which is another topic. (see a Catholic Citizen in America, "Home Schooling: It May Not be What You Think" (May 20, 2010))

Back to Egypt, Mubarak, and fighting the powers that be in today's Egypt.

Reporters: How Not to Handle Them

CNN's Anderson Cooper attacked again in Egypt"
Bikya Masr (February 3, 2011)

"CNN's Anderson Cooper was again attacked in Egypt. According to a tweet by the American network's star journalist, he said that he is okay after plain clothes thugs attacked the vehicle he was riding in.

"'Situation on ground in #egypt very tense. Vehicle I was in attacked. My window smashed. All ok. #Jan25,' he wrote on Twitter.

"According to a CNN producer, Anderson Cooper was “hit in the head 10 times” by pro-government supporters on Wednesday.

"In central Cairo, the army continues to not attempt to stop the pro-Mubarak demonstrators from attacking the thousands of anti-government protesters, sparking one activists to lament, 'the army has failed us.'..."
The Lemming opines
It's the Lemming's opinion that some Egyptians really do support Mubarak's reign. It's a rare leader, the Lemming thinks, who doesn't manage to elicit loyalty from at least a few of the subjects.

On the other hand, the pro-Mubarak demonstrators seem to have shown up - very much not wearing uniforms - right about the same time that the Egyptian army apparently decided that shooting protesters wasn't winning them any friends. Or deciding to cease fire, at any rate.

Coincidences happen - but when they conveniently happen just when a deeply-entrenched monarch (or apparently-permanent president) needs them: The Lemming becomes dubious.

Death Toll, so Far, About 300: and Counting

"Is a Human Tragedy Unfolding in Egypt?"
Dr. Manny Alvarez, (February 2, 2011)

"Much like every other American, I am watching the events unfolding in the Middle East with great concern. Egypt, as of late, has erupted into chaos after thousands of citizens have demanded change.

"Just recently, I had a conversation with a dear friend who is an Egyptian doctor with very close ties to the country and with family members living in Cairo. I spoke to him to hear his thoughts on the situation and to express my concern for his family members still in Egypt.

"According to the United Nations, as many as 300 people have died in the past week as citizens have led violent demonstrations against the 30-year reign of their president, Hosni Mubarak. Stock, bond and oil markets have been rocked by the unrest. Mubarak, for his part, has refused to step down until September, infuriating protesters even further...."
President Mubarak: Or, How Not to Run a Country
No way around it: What's happening in Egypt is a sad situation.

President Mubarak could, in the Lemming's opinion, have kept this debacle from happening - by listening to complaints since his reign started, back in 1981.

Instead of apparently letting - or having - his supporters assert that folks who don't agree with the president are traitors.

That didn't work for red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans back in the sixties and seventies: and the Lemming doesn't think it'll work in Egypt today.

Related posts, about:


Brigid said...

Feels like there's a word missing: "the Lemming's opinion President Hosni Mubarak hasn't been"

And? "attitude toward President Mubarak, the anti-Mubarak protest."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Right you are! Both times.

Found and fixed. Thanks!

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