US media's mixed approach to protests
Riots and outrage have the same face no matter where on the world map they take place. Be it Europe, or the Middle East – Britain or Egypt – when people are fed up enough to take their outrage onto the streets, the world should know it’s time to listen to what they have to say. What compares in recent protests in Britain and the public outcry in Egypt is the anger over a leadership deaf to the needs and desires of its people.
"What we are seeing play out in Tunisia, Egypt, is no different to what we saw in Greece, and Italy, and the UK," said investigative journalist Wayne Madsen.
What is different is how the media choose to approach their coverage, depending on what country has its streets in chaos.
"Look at the double standards. If you burn a bank in Greece – you are a villain. If you burn the party headquarters in Cairo – you are a hero of democracy,” said investigative journalist Webster Tarpley.
When recently tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Britain in reaction to tuition hikes in an economy that was dwindling, the U.S. media downplayed what was happening.
Stressing the young age factor, spinning the “bad kids at play” aspect, focusing on the attack on the car Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were in as protesters attacked it, and underlining the “criminal” aspects of what went on in London.
What did not see mention on any channel was the symbolism of attacking the King in waiting, seen by many of the British as a remnant of a deeply unfair class system. Could this under-reporting of substance by the US media have been a way to make sure the message from Britain – that the common people are not prepared to pay for the folly of the ruling elite did not ring too close to home?
Meanwhile, as the streets of Egypt erupt in chaos, US media portray the events as a struggle of the disenfranchised masses, and stressing the need for the Egyptian leadership to address the grievances of the population
Much less attention has been drawn to US support of this leadership.
“The United states taxpayers have pumped billions of dollars for the past thirty years,” said Ahmed Fathi, the chairman of the Alliance of Egyptian Americans.
Unlike Britain, Egypt is a country seen as too different to reflect on the US, speaking of the people’s will and a need for responsive government may therefore be less scary for the media.
Information is a word that seems to be long forgotten by the mainstream American media. Instead – what viewers have been receiving are opinions of people far away from events on the ground – but close to a political agenda that fluctuates depending on what kind of impact occurring world events can have on America.
Andrew Gavin Marshall, a research associate at the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montréal, Canada argued the unrest in Egypt is actually part of a growing global political awakening; which will eventually bring about a global revolution. He further explained the situation in Egypt has the US playing both sides, seeking their own agenda.
“The idea of promoting democracy for America is promoting the American brand of Democracy, which is essentially democracy incorporated. This is supported by the media,” he argued. “We saw this through the color revolutions in Eastern Europe and also through the democratization of Latin America.”
Adrienne Pine, an assistant professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, DC explained the US is recognizing there has been a turn in Egypt. She explained the US rhetoric and media has moved from unilateral support, to the middle.
“This has turned and there is no going back. Mubarak is going to end up getting thrown out,” she said. “They [US] have to stay on the winning side.”
In addition, the US has a history of funding both sides of a movement to ensure either way, the US interest can prevail, Pine said.
She explained US policy has looked at Mubarak as the key holding Israel in place, including maintaining oppressive policies against Palestinians and his own people. In the US, There is a fear Israel won’t be as protected.
“It’s important to the State Department to make sure who ever is going to come and take his [Mubarak] place will also be an ally of the United States,” Pine said.
“It’s about hedging your bets,” Marshall added. “They have to position themselves accordingly.”
He explained the US wants a safe controlled democracy, and are going to keep a close eye on who emerges as possible leaders in order to insure the US has a hand in the outcome.
“Clearly Mubarak’s reign is over,” Pine said. “This is going to continue until he leaves.”
What’s next is unsure however, it could range from a populous democracy to a US imposed government. She explained the future is dubious.
“Egyptians need to speak for themselves,” she commented.