Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The people in the stands are watching | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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When I first began as a journalist, a veteran in the field told me that when ideologues, vocal mobs, Islamists or liberals applaud you, this can be a dangerous sign. In fact, it is often better to be met with sweeping attacks from these groups, because our region is not used to objective opinions or rational visions.

Today I am recalling this advice as I read, or contemplate, the work of those who have made their names in the media as liberals, or faux-liberals, as my colleague Yousef Al-Dayni expressed recently when he said: “Oh faux-liberals, release the Muslim Brotherhood within you”! The problem that has been plaguing our region recently, specifically since the so-called “Arab Spring”, is that some Arab media figures or intellectuals are taking a liking to populism and seeking to keep pace with the street at the expense of their own convictions or the facts in front of them, subconsciously succumbing to the crowds watching from the stands. It makes no sense for the football coach to change his game plan, style of play, or formation, purely according to the wishes of the masses, who are watching in the stands. In football terms, what about the coach’s experience, accumulated knowledge, and the facts on the ground? How can you ignore the player with outstanding skills in favor of the crowd-pleaser, or the player who can implement the coach’s plan in favor of the one who can satisfy the masses?

In politics the story is more complicated. How can the West, for example, adopt a stance contrary to the Arab street during the occupation of Iraq, and then suddenly side with the Arab masses, going against all history, facts and the reality, when it encourages the falsely termed “revolution” in Bahrain, or supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt demanding that they be given an opportunity, even though they, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood, are yet to give anyone else a chance. Major General Mahmoud Shahin, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Egypt, recently said that he expected a clash with the Muslim Brotherhood but not so fast, so how can the media build up a history of opposing the Islamists and then say give them a chance “ because it is democracy”? Democracy brought Hitler, Nuri al-Maliki and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, so how after all that can you believe the visions of these people? Not all that glitters, in the eyes of the Americans in our region, is gold, and the reason is simple, namely because they are being influenced by those watching from the stands.

The problem lies in the simplification and reduction of political agendas, such as that of the Muslim Brotherhood, where the facts and realities are ignored. Democracy in Iraq has not improved the lives of the Iraqis, just like the Brotherhood in Egypt has not brought reassurance to the Egyptians. The events in Bahrain were nothing more than an extension of Iranian maneuvers throughout the region, as we saw previously in Lebanon. However, what is striking is how Arab intellectuals and media figures are unable to open their eyes in Lebanon or Yemen, or close them in Bahrain, Iraq, or Egypt. Some even preached that the year 2012 would be a difficult one for the Arab Gulf.

Either their vision is fundamentally distorted, or Arab media figures and intellectuals have fundamentally failed to grasp that they are pandering to the crowds in the stands, and that the greatest danger they face is when the applause of the masses goes to their head.