The Spectacle Blog

Who Are the Egyptian Protesters?

By on 2.10.11 | 1:28PM

Reports out of Cairo and Washington indicate that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is relinquishing power and acceding to the demands of the protesters.

If true -- and we don't know for sure yet that it is -- this is stunning and positive news. Yet despite some truly extraordinary news coverage by the cable news channels, especially CNN, few Americans have any idea who these protesters are. And so, an incredible amount of disinformation has been spread about them.

Why, even here at The American Spectator, we've had the very unfair and unwarranted suggestion that the protesters are motivate by anti-Semitism and a hatred for Israel.

But there is no real evidence to support this view other than some anti-Semitic signs whose origins are in doubt, and which, in any case, are hardly representative of the animating spirit of the Egyptian uprising.

Indeed, for all we know, these relatively few anti-Semitic signs were produced by pro-Mubarak thugs determined to discredit the protesters in the eyes of the Western media.

That's not as far-fetched as it might sound. Recall that last week Mubarak unleashed his thugs into the streets of Cairo precisely to inflict violence on the peaceful Egyptian protesters.

And independent Western journalists, too, were roughed up, and for good reason: by reporting to the world the truth about the Egyptian protesters, the free media helps to sustain the uprising while undermining the regime.

"I actually blame certain friendly nations who have television channels," said Egyptian Vice President, Omar Suleiman, on Egyptian state television. "They are not friendly at all. [They] have intensified the youth against the nation and the state...

"There are countless poisonous thoughts that are entering the thoughts of these youths," Suleiman warned.

CNN, thankfully, has been all over this story. Anderson Cooper and Ivan Watson in particular deserve journalistic awards for brave and intrepid reporting.

"Well, that's the government's line," Cooper noted last night. "Their list of culprits also seems to include Hezbollah, Shiites, agents of Israel [emphasis added], and other sinister foreign elements."

But who, in fact, are the protesters? I think Fouad Ajami, a CNN analyst, put it best. Ajami, of course, is a well known and well respected professor at John Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

These are young people; these are good people, middle-class people, orderly people. They're not interested in anti-Americanism. They're not interested in Islamic fundamentalism. They just simply want the normal life that they're entitled to, and that this regime is denying them.

Watson interviewed one of the protesters, Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who has since take a leave of absence from his employer to help lead his country's revolution.

Here's what Ghonim said after enduring 10 days of confinement at the hands of the Egyptian secret police. (And please watch the video for yourself, because Ghonim's facial expressions and body language demonstrate, I think, his and his fellow protesters' sincerity and earnestness.)

Watson: Did you plan the revolution?

Ghonim: Yeah. We did.

Watson: What was the plan?

The plan was to get everyone on the street. Number one is that we're gonna start from, you know, poor areas. Our demands are gonna be all about what touches people's daily life.

Watson: There's been a lot of speculation about [the] Muslim Brotherhood being involved in this uprising. How would you describe yourself and your friends who helped mobilize for the first protests on January 25?

Ghonim: [The] Muslim Brotherhood was not involved at all in the organization of this [protest. The] Muslim Brotherhood announced that they are not going to participate officially. And they said if the young guys want to join -- if their young guys want to join, they're not going to tell them no.

If you want to free a society, just give them Internet access: Because people are gonna -- you know, the young crowds are gonna, are gonna all go out and see and hear the unbiased media.

[They're gonna] see the truth about, you know, other nations and their own nation. And they're going to be able to communicate and collaborate together.

Watson: Was this an Internet revolution?

Ghonim: Definitely this is the Internet revolution. I'll call it Revolution 2.0...

This is no longer the time to negotiate, unfortunately. We went on the street on the 25th [of January], and we wanted to negotiate. We wanted to talk to our government. We were, you know, knocking [on] the door.

They [the Mubark regime] decided to negotiate with us at night -- with rubber bullets, with police sticks, with, you know, water hoses, with tear gas, and with arresting about 500 people. Tanks. You know, we got the message.

Now, when we escalated this and it became really big, they started listening to us...

[Ghonim breaks down and tears up.] They [the Egyptian protesters] were killed. They were killed...

And those people who were killed... did not really look like, you know, they're gonna attack anyone. They [the Egyptian police] were just shooting them. They were shooting them...

You know, a lot of the times... the policeman would stand on the bridge and shoot people down.

This is a crime. This president needs to step down, because this is a crime.

And I, I -- I'm telling you I am ready to die. I have a lot to lose in this life. I, you know, I, I, I work, or you know, now as -- I'm on a leave of absence.

[But] I work in the best company to work for in the world. I have the best wife, and I have -- I love my kids. But I'm willing to lose all of that for my dream to happen. And no one is gonna go against our desire. No one.

And I telling this to Omar Suleiman: He is going to watch this. You are not going to stop us. Kidnap me; kidnap all of my colleagues; put us in jail. Kill us. Do whatever you want to do. We are getting back our country. You guys have been ruining this country for 30 years. Enough. Enough. Enough.

I haven't endured any of the torment that young Mr. Ghonim has; but whenever I hear American conservatives run down Muslims, Arabs and the Egyptian protesters, I feel the same way. Enough. These people deserve our support -- now.

One way Congress and the Obama administration could start would be to pledge a $2.5-billion aid package to Egyptian civil society elements to help initiate the transition toward liberal democracy. The aid should be conditioned upon Mubarak stepping down and contingent upon the establishment, at a date certain, of free and fair elections.

The point of this aid package is not to "impose" democracy on Egypt. The point, instead is to empower the Egyptian people, so that they can chart their own path and select their own rulers. The United States should be unabashedly on the side of liberal democracy; and we absolutely should work to tilt the scales of Egyptian power in that direction -- now.

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