Ideology in a time of crisis: Egypt, Washington and the TV networks

Published on Pambazuka News, by Adrian Crewe, Febr. 3, 2011.

The dubious coverage of events in Egypt reveal the extent to which Western media outlets remain mere neoliberal cheerleaders, incapable of conceiving that the Egyptian people have both the right and capacity to determine their own direction, writes Adrian Crewe … //

… Washington – and its European acolytes – talk human rights and freedom but think market freedom, mineral resources and geopolitical order. The spectre of the demos is as powerful a bogeyman to them as it was to their 19th century imperialist predecessors, as encapsulated (in an interview with Sky TV) by the fading satrap of the Washington consensus, Tony Blair: ‘What is inevitable is that there’s going to be change and the question is; what change and how do you [sic] manage it? … So the change that people want to get to [sic] is a situation where the Egyptian government evolves and you have full, fair and free elections at a certain point in time… It must be managed in a way that means that they will have a proper democracy, but also means that the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians is not adversely affected, but rather improved by what happens.’ 

The gritting of teeth is almost audible as the grudging admissions are forced out: ‘change’, ‘evolution of governance’ and full, free and fair elections ‘at a certain point in time’! Five years? Ten years? After the military has restored order and got business back up and running (though ‘deploring the bloodshed’)? Crucially, however: ‘We’ must manage the process; ‘they’ are incapable of doing so; indeed, have no fundamental right to decide on any process for themselves). Enter, stage left, the spectre of ‘Islamism’ – here in the guise of the Muslim Brotherhood – the ‘irrational’, the ‘pre-modern’ beguiler of the naïve oriental masses, the ‘foreign body’ that has to be excluded, or surgically removed – together with its mistaken adherents, at whatever cost – from the emerging polis. Crisis has a way of making the silences of neoliberal geopolitics speak. What is now on full display is not only what Slavoj …iek has called ‘the shameless cynicism of a global order whose agents only imagine that they believe in their (own) ideas of democracy and human rights’, but its underlying, constitutive aporia.

In summary, the issue of ‘Egypt itself’, as articulated by the leaders and commentator-cheerleaders of the stuttering global neoliberal order, has in fact very little to do with the condition or aspirations of the Egyptian people. It is not, indeed, – even in its own terms – ultimately about ‘Islamism’. The West has been able to cohabit just fine for the last decade with the ‘Islamist’ Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdoan, which has, in turn, been extraordinarily accommodating towards Israeli regional policy. The governing discourse is of course that which constructs the couplet Israel–Palestine, and legislates the maintenance of that order, that brutal ‘balance’, at any cost. It is about who will remain the regional hegemon in the oil-rich Middle East, which secondary regimes will buttress that form of hegemony – if, indeed a form of control that relies so little on consent can be termed ‘hegemonic’ – and how the present (dramatically weakening) regional regime of ‘stability’ will be maintained, even as it provokes ever more dangerous forms of instability and fresh possibilities of regional war. Forget ‘the people’ – if the stability of the regional system is at stake, anything goes. (full text).

Link – also on Pambazuka News: Military and intelligence at Egypt’s democratic dawn, by Mozn Hassan, Febr. 3, 2011.

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