Do Americans have to screw up everything?
Leave it to the American media to all but ruin what could have been an otherwise decent uprising against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. They just couldn't leave well enough alone when the young men and women of Egypt took to the streets in Cairo to protest his 30-year rule that has been keeping so many of them in poverty and mistreating them in so many other ways.
While the Egyptians were doing a great and peaceful job of demanding that Mubarak step down, American journalists, so eager to boost their ratings, trampled their way in and tried to steal the show the minute they encountered the first problem. In no time, they were broadcasting from "undisclosed locations" because of the "danger" they were in and were reduced to interviewing each other instead of the Egyptians, because the Egyptians obviously didn't care what they had to say and if they had interviewed the protesters it would have taken the limelight off of the traumatic clashes the journalists were encountering. Problem was, it wasn't just the pro-Mubarak protesters trying to shut them up. Even the anti-government factions they were there to cover weren't keen on the journalists getting their way as protesters went about the business of trying to change the destiny of their country. The Americans came off like Nebraskans claiming they can play the blues.
One of my favorite scenes so far, one that has been shown over and over and over, was the one in which NBC's Katie Couric seemed to be trying to make it through a small crowd of protesters but was having trouble stampeding her way in. It was probably the cameraman juggling the lens around to make it look much worse than it really was (Lights! Action! Ratings!), but what difference does it make? Who cares if Couric gets hit in the head by a rock? She has no business interfering over there. Katie, this is not about you, just this once. Just get the hair and makeup people to spruce you up again (or make you look worse, if that's the look you're going for) and stop whining. I'm shocked Oprah didn't make an entrance into Tahrir Square being carried atop a float by a group of bronzed musclemen, so she could try to tell the Egyptian protesters which books to read.
Even Anderson Cooper managed to make an ass out of himself, hiding out in the dark to interview other journalists just because someone popped him upside the head a little. SO WHAT? If you are going to try to cover a real protest, the kind we no longer have in the United States, what do you expect? Sorry, Anderson, but you didn't really get attacked. Daniel Pearl got attacked. And this wasn't really even that bad of a scene until the American and other foreign journalists enflamed it. I've seen — no, I have been in — worse riots in East St. Louis. I guess I shouldn't be so hard on Americans for not having real protests anymore, though, especially about poverty. The last time they really tried to do that, Martin Luther King got assassinated here in Memphis.
And maybe things wouldn't have gotten so out of hand if the media — mostly Americans — hadn't instantly started tossing around the idea that this was all because of the Muslim Brotherhood. Muslim, Muslim, Muslim, bad, bad, bad. Do they ever take the needle off that record? I loved it when I saw CNN's Piers Morgan. (There's a hard-hitting journalist for you. He probably thought he was filming a pilot for Cairo's Got Talent!) He asked someone in Egypt how dangerous the Muslim Brotherhood was, just baiting him for the dramatic answer he seemed sure would follow, to which the man replied: "Actually, not at all." He went on to tell Morgan that if the journalists weren't so narcissistic and would spend less time trying to make the protests and violence a story about themselves they would have the time to research such matters and get things right. I thought Morgan was going to cry, but instead he just got huffy and immediately went off the air.
I also love when one of our "journalists" in their comfy newsrooms sets up a forthcoming segment by talking about how gruelingly dangerous the conditions are for the journalist he is about to interview next, and then the journalist appears in one of the "undisclosed locations" talking in hushed tones about the danger he was in — all the while dressed in a designer sports jacket and crisp linen shirt and not one single hair out of place. Tough times. I would have given anything to see a camel run up and bite him.
I will, however, give unbridled kudos to The Washington Post for an article it published this past Friday. Writers Will Englund and Debbi Wilgoren reported on an incident in which some of the anti-government protesters apparently detained some pro-Mubarak protesters in a travel agency office:
"Among their captives Thursday morning were two burly men who were stripped to the waist and seated on the floor. ... One of those detained yipped in pain as the protesters yanked upward on his arms, which were secured by plastic handcuffs. 'Drama queen,' one of the captors said."
Hmm. Hairy, half-naked men in handcuffs being drama queens? I knew this was a gay thing.
Now it looks like Katie and Anderson et al. survived intact. They all made it home and were able to Tweet their fans and see their faces on Access Hollywood and make the next few nights' stories about themselves. Let's just hope the people of Luxembourg don't get testy next.