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BARBARA WALTERS TELLS PIERS: “I AM NOT A MIDDLE EAST EXPERT,” BUT IN FIVE MINUTES OR LESS, SHE OFFERS MORE HISTORY AND CONTEXT THAN ANYONE ELSE
I’m totally exhausted. After nearly two weeks of Egyptian protests which has included the promise of the President to step down in September and begin democratic reforms right away, followed by “thugs” entering Tahrir Square, the molotov cocktails and the roughing up and intimidation of foreign journalists, I’ve been busier than ever digging daily for research to supplement our great 24/7 American media.
Yes, we all love a demonstration by people yearning for democracy. But the coverage of Egypt as some kind of Woodstock has left me scrambling for something more. One of the low points for me was stumbling across Elliot Spitzer, excitedly telling viewers he can’t wait to see what happens next in Alexandria. Continuing on the primetime schedule for CNN was Piers Morgan, covering his first ever live news story. (Perhaps they might have tried breaking their new anchors in on a car chase or two.)
Over on Fox, Shep Smith was blaming Mubarak for sending thugs into the main square to attack peaceful demonstrators journalists. First I wondered how anyone knew who was behind the “thugs,” and then I wondered, as I did all week, why not one journalist worried in advance that it might turn as ugly as the 2009 protests in Iran.
Perhaps they subliminally knew not to paint Mubarak with the same brush stroke as Ahmadinejad who put an end to his country’s pro-democracy demonstrations in 2009 by cutting down people like Neda, the Iranian girl shot in the heart in front of her father.
What a joy it was to finally hear Barbara Walters join Piers Morgan mid-week and offer him, and us viewers, a history lesson. As he pressed with indignation to find out why Obama wasn’t insisting Mubarak step down immediately Barbara Walters gently, respectfully and very clearly, explained that the region is full of dictators and always has been. We support the ones who share our interests.
Yes, yes, yes! Finally someone spoke who was not giddy about the overthrow of Mubarak.
Like Barbara Walters, I will qualify my observations as those not of a mideast expert, but as a journalist with strong interest in the region who has covered stories there… certainly not as many as Barbara Walters who has sat down one on one with many or most of their 20th century titans.
Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote this weekend in the Daily Beast, “all who ignore this history are naive... The Muslim Brotherhood jumps immediately to mind… (for the potential to hijack democracy) but don’t overlook the potentially equal or greater threat … from Egypt’s beloved armed forces. The history of venomous domestic and foreign-policy pronouncements by the MB should keep us all awake at night. And never forget that the murderers of the great President Anwar Sadat were Muslim Brothers embedded in the army.”
Now I didn’t watch all channels all the time, so I might have missed the coverage where you get context and keen insights. But I’ve felt pretty much on my own. So as someone who has more than an average interest in both the story and how it’s covered, here’s my own personal briefing book for anyone else who might need it. Read the rest of this entry »