IT’S NOT YOUR MOTHER’S MOTHER JONES: OLD “LEFTY” HAS GREAT 24/7 COVERAGE , ANALYSIS
It’s been five days of hard work for many of us searching for the inside, untold, and full story of the revolution in Egypt and its global implications. I certainly didn’t find what I needed on any of the broadcast networks or even cable news channels.
CNN did have great video on Thursday and even convinced Piers Morgan to dump his Colin Firth interview and roll live with it. CNN has great reporters there led by Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson who live and breath the region and are the most nimble and knowledgeable.
But you can get their coverage and a whole lot more if you follow the Mother Jones updates 24/7 and link to YouTube.
You can also hear the silent screams of those frustrated by what they’re seeing day in and day out. Like those from the Abu Muqawama blog from the Center for a New American Security, an independent and non-partisan non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C.
Egypt: People Who Might Actually Know What The %$#@ They’re Talking About (Updated)
I was home in Tennessee for a brief 24 hours and woke up yesterday morning to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which Mama Muqawama likes to watch before work. Nothing against the people on that particular show, because it’s probably just representative of U.S. cable news in general*, but I was absolutely stunned by the willingness of the show’s guests to opine about Egypt without having any actual experience in or expertise on Egypt or the broader Middle East. Is it really that tough to say, “Hey, that’s a great question, Joe, but I am not really the best guy to give the viewers at home a good answer?”
Instead, guest after guest — most of whom are specialists in or pundits on U.S. domestic politics — made these broad, ridiculously sweeping statements about the meaning and direction of the protests.
I traveled to Egypt twice in 2005 and lived there between January and August of 2006 while studying Arabic after having completed my master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut. I am by no means an expert on Egypt. But I like to think I know the people who are, so as a service to the readers, I am providing you all a list of no-%$#@ experts on Egypt. This list is, happily, by no means exhaustive: unlike the lack of informed commentary on Afghanistan, the United States has thousands of people who have lived and studied in Egypt as civilian researchers and students and can thus provide some reasonably informed commentary on events there. The following list is filled with some people whose opinions matter and whose analysis might actually be informed by study and experience. This list is in no particular order except for the first two people on the list, who are both good friends as well as two of the world’s best experts on Egyptian politics.
Elijah Zarwan, Crisis Group
Michael Wahid Hanna, The Century Foundation, @mwhanna1
Samir Shehata, Georgetown University
Josh Stacher, Kent State University, @jstacher
Amil Khan, Abu Muqawama, @Londonstani
Max Rodenbeck, The Economist
If you can, follow the live feed on al-Jazeera Arabic, which has made for the most exciting television I have watched since the Red Sox came back from three games down in the 2004 ALCS. (These events are arguably more geostrategically significant.) If you can’t follow that feed, try al-Jazeera English or follow the updates on Robert Mackey’s most excellent New York Times blog The Lede.
*An exception to the rule: Ben Wedeman at CNN.
Update: Someone in the comments suggested Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid), and I second that. Again, my list was happily not exhaustive. There are a lot of very smart analysts out there who can thoughtfully opine on Egypt — in large part thanks to the legions of Arabic-language students who pass through Cairo at some point in their training.
Perhaps unsurprising for someone who grew up working in a newspaper, I spend a lot of time analyzing journalism and often criticize journalists. So I need to highlight when journalism is frankly awesome. Do yourself a favor and listen to this amazing audio recording of the Guardian‘s Jack Shenker reporting from inside an Egyptian paddywagonafter being beaten by plain-clothed state security thugs and imprisoned. Pretty freaking great.
On a related note, where the hell was al-Jazeera yesterday?
HERE’S MORE OF WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND ON MOTHER JONES
Here is a sample of 24/7 updates from Mother Jones:
UPDATE 26, Friday 12:20 p.m. EST: The White House has released a photo of President Obama receiving a briefing on the Egypt protests:
(What else have you missed?)
UPDATE 46, Saturday 10:25 a.m. EST: Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, has been sworn in as Egypt’s first Vice President in 30 years. Think tanker Andrew Exum warns “this will solve nothing.” And Foreign Policy‘s Marc Lynch makes the somewhat counterintuitive argument that Obama has actually been handling the Egypt crisis pretty well.
UPDATE 47, Saturday 10:30 a.m. EST: Andrew Exum has a great list of “people who might actually know what the &*^& they’re talking about” with regards to Egypt. Also, if you’re not watching Al Jazeera English’s live feed, you should be.
UPDATE 48, Saturday 10:40 a.m. EST/5:40 p.m. Cairo: Al Jazeera has two important updates: Protesters are trying to storm the Interior Ministry again, despite being repelled (with loss of life) earlier today; and (via Sultan Al Qassemi) Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, Mubarak’s sons, have arrived in London with their families.
UPDATE 62, Saturday 5:30 p.m. EST: It’s Sunday already in Cairo, but tens of thousands of protesters are still in the streets. Al Jazeera is reporting that 19 private jets carrying top Egyptian businessmen and their families have just departed from Cairo. And the New York Times just published a story datelined from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland: “Arab Executives Predict Regime Change in Egypt.” I’ll have my own report on the Egypt talk in Davos shortly.
UPDATE 63, Saturday 5:40 p.m. EST: Two reports of note: Al Arabiya says 5000 prisoners have escaped from Fayoum prison. Mohamed El-Batran, the top general at the prison, has reportedly been killed. Also, there are multiple reports of a sniper firing live ammunition from the top of the Ministry of Information building in central Cairo.
UPDATE 64, Saturday 5:55 p.m. EST: I recently spoke via phone to an American CEO who is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (For those who don’t know, it’s basically a Woodstock for big-shot CEOs, world leaders, dignitaries, and so on.) That person detailed some of the Egypt-related discussions that have dominating the past few days of the conference. Here are my notes (edited for clarity) on the conversation:
I spoke to a private banker from Bahrain (who was also talking to [New York Times columnist] Tom Friedman) and he said the big picture is that almost everybody thinks Mubarak is gone, but the question is, is it a week, a month, or six months. Then the question becomes, there have never really been campaigns in Egypt or organized parties. What happens when you have the Muslim Brotherhood, the communists? No one really knows what the people really want, because [they’ve never had free elections before].
Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists.
In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard; the closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.
Al Jazeera assures its audiences in Egypt and across the world that it will continue its in-depth and comprehensive reporting on the events unfolding in Egypt.
UPDATE 74, Sunday 10:02 a.m. EST (Daniel Schulman) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making back-to-back appearances on the morning talk shows. On CNN, when asked what side the US government was on, Mubarak’s or the protestors on the street, Clinton said: “We are on the side, as we have been for more than 30 years, of a democratic Egypt that provides both political and economic rights to its people, that respects the universal human rights of all Egyptians.” She told Fox: “We have been very clear that we we want to see a transition to democracy and we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about.”
UPDATE 75, Sunday 10:05 a.m. EST/5:05 p.m. Cairo: As suggested in Update 70 and 71, Al Jazeera is continuing its great reporting from Egypt despite an official ban. In other important news, the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups have backed Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (and an Egyptian Nobel laureate) as their lead negotiator with the regime.
UPDATE 76, Sunday 10:12 a.m. EST (Daniel Schulman) On CNN, Mohamed ElBaradei tells Fareed Zakaria that Mubarak’s appointment of Omar Suleiman and attempt to convene a new government is a “hopeless, desperate attempt by Mubarak to stay in power. I think it is loud and clear from everyone in Egypt that he has to leave today. This is non-negotiable.” He adds, “If he wants to save his skin, if he has an iota of patriotism, I urge him to leave the country today.” Asked whether he’s interested in replacing Mubarak as president, ElBaradei replied: “I am wiling to do whatever I can do to save this country… If the Egyptian people want me to serve as a bridge… I will not let them down.”
UPDATE 78, Sunday 10:55 a.m. EST: Al Arabiya reports that ElBaradei is on his way to address the crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where around 100,000 protesters have gathered. And here, via ProPublica’s Eric Umansky, is a recent Al Jazeera English audio dispatch: “Live shots are no longer allowed.”
UPDATE 79, Sunday 11:05 a.m. EST: Haaretz and Al Jazeera report that ElBaradei plans to announce the formation of an alternative unity opposition government.
Now more than ever, there’s no more one-stop shopping for news. With massive lay-offs, shrinking budgets, and mismanagement for years at CBS News, ABC News, and CNN, it’s now up to the viewer to figure out the context, background, truth behind and within each story.
Fox News, which has not been terribly bullish on the Egyptian revolution, at least always lets viewers know the political leaning of each talking head. Does it not make a stronger statement to see the Mother Jones photo of Obama’s “white guy” White House briefing on Egypt when you know their progressive roots?
While CNN has had great video and, as I’ve said, has a couple of the best on-the-scene reporters in Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson, it was bothersome to learn their really smart pundit, who was critical of Obama’s lack of action, is a staunch Republican who served eight years at the U.N., appointed by George W. Bush.
So now, each time I see or hear someone or something really smart, I know to check online for more context. And, throughout the day, I been checking in with Mother Jones. The work produced for “up-to-the-minute guide to the uprising,” by its eight-person D.C. bureau headed by Nick Baumann, has been extraordinary. If you want to know what’s going on in Egypt at any time, it’s all collected there. If you’re lost in the story, just read from the top down.
WHERE THE STORY IS MOVING
It’s now day 6, Nic Roberts has just reported that the protesters in the street have a new gripe: they are now angry at the U.S. for propping up Mubarak to implement American policies in the region. He reports, they now want a change in that as well.
Will anyone be asking now if the “regime change” we instigated nearly a decade ago, wasn’t in the wrong country. And why were we so blind to the people who really hungered for democracy, where it had a real chance to take root? Okay, I know creating democratic footholds in the that region is far more complicated than my simple questions suggest. But as we begin to unravel the new mysteries of the Middle East, will anyone in the American media dare say a clue to some of our dilemas and difficulties lies in that White House briefing photo?