Thursday, November 24, 2011

When The Heart And Mind Collide

Should I vote or boycott the upcoming elections in Egypt? This might seem to be an illogical question to most of you, it was illogical to me myself a while ago, till I witnessed that debate on twitter and then participated in the same debate with about 70 other people in Goethe Institute days ago [Ar]. In brief, those who are calling for boycotting the elections see it as a cosmetic surgery for the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, they believe that there might also be corruption and the parliament is not going to represent the revolutionaries. On the other hand, some others see it as a fight that we shouldn't run away from, and even if the elections aren't going to be as good as we want it, let's not give in, vote for our best options there, and for sure pursuit other forms of struggle later on.

Down with SCAF

For me, it's like a struggle between my heart and mind. My heart wants me to boycott the elections. Seeing people murdered by the regime, makes me hate to participate in elections sponsored by such regime. Also, it's hard to imagine the SCAF too naive to facilitate elections for a parliament that is meant to remove them from power later on. But as I wrote earlier, it's just a fight in an ongoing war, so why boycott while we can vote for our best options then continue our struggle everywhere else later on. Who said the elections are the end of the story!?

This struggle between heart and mind takes me to another bigger question. I sometimes feel that the revolutionaries are also afraid of the elections because they are sure that they have very small chance to make it to the parliament, and most of the seats will end up in the hands of the Islamists, the remnants of the regime and businessmen. I know, we might hate to say this in public, and many people will call those who say this out loud anti-democrats. But isn't it a shame when democracy cannot differentiate between those who participated in the revolution and those who are against it!? When it comes to elections, they all have equal votes, right? My heart says that the vote of someone like Malek Mostafa who lost an eye, or Ahmed Harara who lost his two eyes in the revolution should be weighted more than the vote of someone like myself whose only participation in the revolution was marching to Tahrir square and smelling some tear gas. My heart might be more fascist and say that those who participated in the revolution should be given more weight in the elections vs. those who were against it. But my mind on the other hand find it unacceptable and all people should be treated equally. Who on earth has the right to give people's votes weights!? Isn't this as bad as those who wanted to limit the right for voting to only those who can read and write? People are pushing to have a law that bans the remnants of the former regime from running in the elections, such law has been issued recently but it's still not clear how it will be applied. And this law is a another example of how my heart accepts it while my mind isn't really in favour of it.

The same struggle between heart and mind is what happens now when people around me are debating the Islamic movements choice not to officially participate in the protests against the recent attack of the security forces on the peaceful sit-in in Tahrir. In fact, the term Islamists here might not be very accurate, because although the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood refused to participate, many of its members participated. Also many non-Islamists are against the protests. So let me use reformists to describe those against the protests and revolutionists for those who are protesting. It's obvious why the revolutionists are protesting, watching a video or two for the crimes committed by the security forces makes you protest. But the reformists on the other hand have their own argument, they say we have elections in few days, so why confront with the regime now while we can wait for the elections, get into the parliament, then when we become the regime we can punish them for their crimes later on? Why protest and risk the possibility of postponing the elections? Why confront with stronger entity and you are weaker than them? See, they have their own logic. Many minds - including mine - may accept their argument, however my heart refuses it. And thankfully I just ignored my mind and listened to my heart this time.

While we are still at this mind and heart struggle, let me move away from politics now, to end this post with something more interesting than politics. Don't you face that very same struggle when you fall in love with a girl, yet your mind tells you she is not that much into you? As Forrest Gump put it in the movie, "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is". You don't have to be smart to understand that a girt isn't into you when she never lets you do her any favours, never asks about you unless you ask about her first and takes her forever to get back to you. Your mind knows it, but your heart tries to find excuses for her, to deceive your mind. But you know what, you should always listen to your mind here. Isn't it ironic that when it comes to love matters, it's your mind that you should listen to, and when it comes to politics, listening to your heart is the best option in many cases!?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Recently I've read this research made by Summer Harlow and Thomas J. Johnson from the University of Texas at Austin. They compared how mainstream media (The New York Times) covered the Egyptian revolution (the period from January 23 till February 14, 2011) compared to the coverage of Global Voices Online. They realized that NYT where adherent more to the “protest paradigm”, by highlighting the drama, violence, and spectacle of the protests and de-valuing the protesters since they tended more to quote official sources, while GVO (and to some extent Nick Kristof’s Twitter feed) tended more to legitimizing the protesters. GVO also tended more to put the protests into their context and give the reader idea why all this happened rather then only focusing on the ongoing drama. I'd like to share here this part of their findings:

Results showed that The Times adhered to the paradigm by emphasizing the spectacle, quoting official sources, and de-valuing protesters as reporters maintained an impartial role. In contrast, Global Voices and Kristof’s Twitter feed took different approaches, legitimizing protesters and serving as commentators/analysts, even actors, in the unfolding events. Global Voices also provided more opportunities for reader interactivity.
This study has shown that the NYT, in general, falls short in its protest coverage. Rather than adequately explaining why there is a problem that has driven citizens to protest, the NYT falls back on routine and formulaic reporting, highlighting the drama, violence, and spectacle of the protests and reducing protesters’ grievances to one or two sentences about Mubarak’s autocratic 30-year reign. Although many articles made it clear that the protesters were fighting for democracy—theoretically a good thing—in several cases, such as those stories about the economy, protesters were portrayed negatively, blamed for travel delays or rising oil prices.

While Global Voices and Twitter provided the commentary and analysis that The Times did not, Global Voices and Twitter still can do more. First, both must be careful that, like the NYT, they do not get caught up in the drama and report just about the spectacle of the protests. Additionally, Global Voices, with its writers stationed around the world, quoting from local citizen blogs and Twitter feeds, is in a position to better contextualize and explain the history leading up to the protests than it did. Further, authors from Global Voices and Twitter, free from the burden of impartiality, have the potential to serve more as actors, even catalysts for change, influencing others to get involved and right a wrong. They did not live up to this potential in Egypt.

Related Links: