Internet and elusive search for truth

Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves. – Eric Hoffer

It was believed that with the advent and ubiquity of internet and the huge information resources that internet puts at everyone’s disposal, creation of propaganda will become hard as people will easily seek out truths and will easily separate fact from fiction. However, recent events have shown that is hardly the case. Moreover, the arrival of social media such as Facebook and Twitter actually adds to the problem.

This was most notable in Pakistan during the Elections 2013 season. Columns were fabricated under the names of well known columnists and political analysts and shared via email, Facebook and Twitter. In pre-Internet times such fake news stories or columns circulated as faded photocopies. Very few people had access to news archives to be able to verify themselves whether such news item or column was ever written.

Now newspapers have their archives online and all one has to do is to visit the newspaper website and verify for oneself if such a column or news item had ever appeared on its pages. If recent experience has taught us anything, no one makes the effort of doing so. Whereas in earlier cases, spreading such false information required us to expend money and energy by photocopying and then delivering such papers, now it can be just done with a simple click of send or share button.

However, Pakistani nation eventually caught up to it as shown by election results and the supporters of political party that were faking such news items and columns lost sympathy of these journalists.

In case of Pakistan, the propaganda remained affected or deceived the Pakistani population. Probably because it was being done by a few die hard media savvy supporters of a particular political party. However, recent coup and subsequent events have shown that if there is a state machinery and intelligentsia behind a propaganda campaign, one can almost fool the whole world.

The campaign against the incumbent president started by “Tamarod” (arabic for Rebelion) by claiming that they have collected 22 million signatures nationwide from people demanding that the president step down. Whereas doubts were raised about authenticity of the signatures or even the numbers, they weren’t taken seriously. June 30, 2013 was announced as a day of protest against the president. A large number of people did come out and it was reported by local media and subsequently picked up by international media that more than 30 million Egyptians are protesting against the government which was also claimed as largest number of people protesting together in history of the world. This was repeated so much by the protestors themselves and the local channels sympathetic to them that they started believing it themselves.

From BBC

Pro-coup claims of 30M people is “gross exaggeration” and “impossible”

It has been claimed that Egyptians staged the biggest uprising in history in the last few weeks. It has been claimed that 30 million people took to the streets.

“I think that’s a gross exaggeration,” says Middle East correspondent Wyre Davies, from Cairo. “I think nationwide there were millions of people this time protesting against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, but nothing like the 30 or 40 million people some people quoted. That’s 45% of the population – that’s impossible; there are too many young people in Egypt for the maths to work.”

So where has the figure of 30 million protesters come from? It’s difficult to find a source for it, or for any of the other estimates for that matter.

“What we saw last week was a military coup – there’s no two ways about it,” he says. “And therefore the only justification for that logically is that this was a popularly-backed military coup. So it’s in the interests of the people who supported the overthrow of the president to say that they had these millions of people supporting them.”

The BBC website above does not allow for comments. When the absurdity of such huge numbers protesting was pointed out on other websites or blog posts, the authors were branded as stooges of Muslim Brotherhood or USA who do not want to see Egyptians progress. Moreover, unless someone goes to the original source of the estimate and checks its credibility, it is very hard to verify the numbers.

Finally, award winning journalist Max Blumenthal does a deep dive and proves it the numbers were fabricated and social media was used to full affect to forward this.

People, power, or propaganda? Unraveling the Egyptian opposition

Among the first major Egyptian public figures to marvel at the historic size of the June 30 demonstrations was the billionaire tycoon Naguib Sawiris. On June 30, Sawiris informed his nearly one million Twitter followers that the BBC had just reported, “The number of people protesting today is the largest number in a political event in the history of mankind.” Sawiris exhorted the protesters: “Keep impressing…Egypt.”

Two days after Sawiris’ remarkable statement, BBC Arabic’s lead anchor, Nour-Eddine Zorgui, responded to a query about it on Twitter by stating, “seen nothing to this effect, beware, only report on this from Egypt itself.” Sawiris seemed to have fabricated the riveting BBC dispatch from whole cloth.

On June 30, one of the most recognisable faces of Egypt’s revolutionary socialist youth movement, Gigi Ibrahim, echoed the remarkable claim, declaring on Twitter, “I think this might be the largest protest in terms of numbers in history and definitely in Egypt ever!” Over 100 Twitter users retweeted Ibrahim, while a BBC dispatch reporting that only “tens of thousands of people [had] massed in Tahrir Square” flew below the radar.

Some Egyptian opponents to Morsi appear to have fabricated Western media reports to validate the crowd estimates. Jihan Mansour, a presenter for Dream TV, a private Egyptian network owned by the longtime Mubarak business associate Ahmad Bahgat, announced, “CNN says 33 million people were in the streets today. BBC says the biggest gathering in history.”

There is no record of CNN or BBC reporting any such figure. But that did not stop a former Egyptian army general, Sameh Seif Elyazal, from declaring during a live CNN broadcast on July 3, just as the military seized power from Morsi, “This is not a military coup at all. It is the will of the Egyptians who are supported by the army. We haven’t seen in the last — even in modern history, any country in the world driving 33 million people in the street for four days asking the president for an early presidential election.” CNN hosts Jake Tapper and Christian Amanpour did not question Elyazal’s claim, or demand supporting evidence.

Three days later, Quartet’s Middle East special envoy Tony Blair hyped a drastically different, but equally curious, crowd estimate. In an editorial for the Observer (reprinted by the Guardian), Blair stated, “Seventeen million people on the street is not the same as an election. But it is an awesome manifestation of people power.” The former UK Prime Minister concluded that if a protest of a proportionate size occurred in his country, “the government wouldn’t survive either.”

Like the massive crowd estimates, Tamarod’s signature counts were impossible to independently verify. Increasingly it appeared that the numbers were products of a clever public relations campaign, with the Egyptian army and its political supporters relying on the international press and Western diplomats to amplify their Mighty Wurlitzer.

As stated above, it is important to go to the original source to verify numbers, facts etc. Though CNN and BBC carried themselves quite respectively above, however, in these days of Breaking News and ratings game, even they can fall victim to such propaganda.

Osama bin Laden corpse photo is fake

An image apparently showing a dead Osama bin Laden broadcast on Pakistani television and picked up by British newspaper websites is a fake.

The bloodied image of a man with matted hair and a blank, half-opened eye has been circulating on the internet for the past two years. It was used on the front pages of the Mail, Times, Telegraph, Sun and Mirror websites, though swiftly removed after the fake was exposed on Twitter.

In addition, our searching habits and Google ensure that we continue to believe in the propaganda. In his book, Filter Bubble, Eli Parser makes a very convincing case that Google is our gatekeeper to the information. As such, we now see the world through Google. If Google chooses only to show us results skewed towards one viewpoint, it will be swaying our opinion on that issue towards that side. It is a very powerful power that Google exercises over us and we freely allow it to exercise it.

Moreover, in order to improve its search results, Google continuously strives to personalize the search results for us. As such, when we are logged in at our personal or office computer, through cookies Google has an idea of our tastes, viewpoints, location etc and throws up the results that it thinks we want to see. By showing us those results that it considers we are looking for, it plays a crucial role in reinforcing our beliefs about certain topics by not showing opposite opinions or showing them in further down the results list.

Google’s filtering systems, for example, rely heavily on Web history and what you click on (click signals) to infer what you like and dislike…. it’s that behavior that determines what content you see in Google News, what ads Google displays—what determines, in other words, Google’s theory of you.

…According to the New Republic’s Jon Chait, the answer lies with the media: “Partisans are more likely to consume news sources that confirm their ideological beliefs. People with more education are more likely to follow political news. Therefore, people with more education can actually become mis-educated.”

Even if Google does not engage in personalization, websites and activists by using such processes as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Google Bombing can ensure that for some search terms, certain results always appear on top thus creating a false image of websphere and consequently the world.

Whereas in theory Internet, social media and world’s most power search engine should have been making us better informed and bringing the world closer, the truth is that its actually quite an efficient medium to spread information and to reinforce our wrongly held notions.


Egypt: Revolution will not be televised

This post is going to be a major link dump. Please visit all the links I post here by visiting the sites to get the fuller picture. After the first week of euphoria wherein the western press was at pains whether to describe what happened in Egypt as coup or not, information and news is finally coming out of Egypt that how it was a long planned coup executed through naive and glassy eyed young educated revolutionaries of Tamarrod who failed to see that Egypt had become a #CoupCoupLand.

I did mention some theories in my earlier post ( Egypt Coup : Engineered by military and supported by elite and West) that how the coup seems to be engineered. Whereas the previous post focused more on definition of coup and theories, this one will comprise of evidences.

Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi

Working behind the scenes, members of the old establishment, some of them close to Mr. Mubarak and the country’s top generals, also helped finance, advise and organize those determined to topple the Islamist leadership, including Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire and an outspoken foe of the Brotherhood; Tahani el-Gebali, a former judge on the Supreme Constitutional Court who is close to the ruling generals; and Shawki al-Sayed, a legal adviser to Ahmed Shafik, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, who lost the presidential race to Mr. Morsi.But it is the police returning to the streets that offers the most blatant sign that the institutions once loyal to Mr. Mubarak held back while Mr. Morsi was in power. Throughout his one-year tenure, Mr. Morsi struggled to appease the police, even alienating his own supporters rather than trying to overhaul the Interior Ministry. But as crime increased and traffic clogged roads — undermining not only the quality of life, but the economy — the police refused to deploy fully.

Until now.

Mr. Sawiris, one of Egypt’s richest men and a titan of the old establishment, said Wednesday that he had supported an upstart group called “tamarrod,” Arabic for “rebellion,” that led a petition drive seeking Mr. Morsi’s ouster. He donated use of the nationwide offices and infrastructure of the political party he built, the Free Egyptians. He provided publicity through a popular television network he founded and his major interest in Egypt’s largest private newspaper. He even commissioned the production of a popular music video that played heavily on the network. “Tamarrod did not even know it was me!” he said. “I am not ashamed of it.”

Ms. Gebali, the former judge, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that she and other legal experts helped tamarrod create its strategy to appeal directly to the military to oust Mr. Morsi and pass the interim presidency to the chief of the constitutional court.

Ahmed Nabawi, a gas station manager, said he had heard several reasons for the gas crisis: technical glitches at a storage facility, a shipment of low-quality gas from abroad and unnecessary stockpiling by the public. Still, he was amazed at how quickly the crisis disappeared.“We went to sleep one night, woke up the next day, and the crisis was gone,” he said, casually sipping tea in his office with his colleagues.

Regardless of the reasons behind the crisis, he said, Mr. Morsi’s rule had not helped.

“No one wanted to cooperate with his people because they didn’t accept him,” he said. “Now that he is gone, they are working like they’re supposed to.

You might be naive in considering that NYTimes is the only one reporting it. Subsequently, Wall Street Journal also fired up its journalists and produced this:

In Egypt, the ‘Deep State’ Rises Again

In the months before the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s top generals met regularly with opposition leaders, often at the Navy Officers’ Club nestled on the Nile.

The message: If the opposition could put enough protesters in the streets, the military would step in—and forcibly remove the president.

“It was a simple question the opposition put to the military,” said Ahmed Samih, who is close to several opposition attendees. “Will you be with us again?” The military said it would. Others familiar with the meetings described them similarly.

By June 30, millions of Egyptians took to the streets, calling for Mr. Morsi to go. Three days later, the military unseated him.

..As agitation against the Muslim Brotherhood grew, the Brotherhood formally asked the Minister of Interior for protection of their offices nationwide. Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim, Minister of Interior, publicly declined.Gen. Ibrahim faced pressure from powerful figures in the former Mubarak camp. On June 24, Ahmed Shafiq—the last prime minister appointed by Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Morsi’s closest rival for president—said in a television interview that he warned the general to not show support for the Brotherhood.

“I told him…the coming days will not be on your side if you do, and these days will be very soon,” Mr. Shafiq said on TV. “They will see black days,” he said, referring to the Brotherhood.

Days later, Mr. Shafiq’s warning materialized. Armed young men began ransacking Muslim Brotherhood offices nationwide.

However, this is only reported in few international outlets and then restricted only to newspapers. The television channels didn’t air any such report. Moreover, the local Egyptian media is so skewed towards pro-coup crowd that any thing referring to it as a coup have been blacked out by revolutionaries themselves.

These are the two screenshots of live sit in being staged yesterday in Rabea Adwaya. Neither international media nor the liberal and educated tweeps considered it worth tweeting about it. Because the channels they are plugged into are ignoring it. This is around 2am in the morning.

This was one of the two channels that was reporting it. It was total media silence on other channels. So that it may not be considered a fake photo, here is a picture from the other channel

This is how the game is being played. By shutting down pro-democracy outlets and providing no coverage to them, they want to give the impression that Morsi has lost his legitimacy to rule. Nothing could be farther from truth.

Fashioning a Coup

The massive protests of June 30 came in conjunction with a much larger scheme that began very soon after Morsi took office. This long term project by entrenched state elites seeks more than simply ejecting the Muslim Brothers from power, although that’s a highly prized outcome.

Media covered the political conflict in alarmist tones, and was a conduit for deep state messages. A major daily “leaked” a supposedly top-secret intelligence document reporting widespread discontent at worsening economic conditions “that threatens national security.” The language of “endangering national security” is a recurrent trope in all of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s speeches this year, including his 48-hour ultimatum of July 1. The October report warned that “citizens are eager for political participation, but fear single-party dominance of the political process.” Read: the Ikhwan are taking over.

Another surreal scene was the military’s use of the June 30 protests to put on a grotesque display of military prowess. Fighter jets flew above Tahrir Square, not to intimidate the massed citizens into going home as in 2011 but to package their mobilization as an assent to military rule. The planes streaked colors of the Egyptian flag in the sky and drew giant high schoolish hearts (never underestimate the mawkishness of military PR). Helicopters dropped flags on the masses, lending a martial visual uniformity to an essentially diverse populace. Posters of General El-Sisi were held aloft. Police officers in their summer whites gleefully engaged in protest, some theatrically revealing Tamarrod T-shirts beneath their uniforms.

Aerial footage (only of the anti-Morsi crowds, of course) was sent to anti-Morsi television channels, which broadcast it to the tunes of triumphal cinematic music. Naturally, the protests of those icky other people didn’t exist. A military plane was put at the disposal of a film director who’s a fixture of the anti-Morsi cultural elite, presumably to make a movie about “Egypt’s second revolution,” as State TV swiftly christened the June 30 protests. The equally massive June 25 2012 protests against military rule are conveniently dropped from this emerging canonization.

The revolutionary invention of the Tahrir Square protest as an authentic political performance was recast as state-sanctioned spectacle.

The next act of the pageant was to control the message. Officials enlisted media personalities to banish the term “coup” and hound anyone who used it. A few hours before General El-Sisi’s declaration of the coup on July 3, Egyptian media luminaries were contacting foreign media outlets to insist that they not call his imminent announcement a coup. Military spokesmen and anti-Morsi activists repeatedly and defensively asserted that “15 million protesters” and “30 million protesters” had come out on June 30, not citing the source of their numbers. A former police chief called the numbers “unprecedented in Egyptian history.” A giant message saying “It is not a coup” was reflected with green laser on the front of the Mugamma building in Tahrir on July 5.

It was quite the bizarre display of hysterical chauvinism. Government officials and establishment elites huffily insisted that the whole world acquiesce in their construction of reality. Foreign ministry officials rounded up ambassadors fromthe Americas to “explain” to them that it’s not a coup. Unnamed government officials were tasked with intensifying contact with US Congressmen in Washington for the same purpose. The Ministry of Defense in Cairo invited foreign journalists for more slideshows of the June 30 protests. And now youth activists are being sent on an official mission to London and Washington to “clarify for Western nations and the whole world that the June 30 revolution is an extension of the January 25, 2011 revolution.”

Rarely has a tenacious establishment been so keen to proclaim its own alleged overthrow. What that establishment wants, of course, is to turn the practice of the Egyptian revolution into a folkloric carnival of people filling Tahrir Square to wave flags and chant “Egypt! Egypt!”

Egyptian army clearly showing what its intentions are

Video: Egyptian army helicopter drops flags over anti-government protests

In one of the more surprising and symbolically powerful moments during Egypt’s mass protests on Sunday against President Mohamed Morsi, military helicopters circling overhead dropped Egyptian national flags on the crowds gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. A video of the moment, embedded above, shows the TV journalist reporting from Tahrir visibly surprised.

However, when it comes to pro-democracy pro-Morsi protestors, this is what they drop on them

But this is not all. The whole narrative of 22 million signatures of Tamarod and 30 million protestors filling out Tahrir Square is wrong. However, it is repeated so many times in local media by the coup supporters that it has become part of the lore.

Mathematics and Egyptians Don’t Mix: June 30 Protests Figures

After being irritated for over two years now by how Egyptians throw numbers around without meaning I have finally decided to prove that the daily numerical allegations in Egypt are usually false. What motivated me to do so is hearing the funniest figures ever, the 17 to 33 million protesters with regards to the events that unfolded on the 30th of June.

Adding up the presence at Tahrir Square and Ittihadiya we will get a total of (378,124 + 286,602) 664,726 protesters and for the purpose of extreme generosity in figures, I will round them up to 700,000 to make up even more for circulation in both areas.

Now in a simple Algebraic manner, knowing that Cairo includes over 25% of the Egyptian population, a quick extrapolation will show that Egypt as a whole wouldn’t have had more than 2.8 million protesters on the streets during the June 30 event, if not even less than these 2.8 million due to my generosity in rounding up figures like crazy.

0.25X = 700,000 protesters where X is the total number of protesters.
X = 700,000/0.25 = 2,800,000 protesters in Egypt as a whole.

My point is this annuls the claimed legitimacy of the Tamarod (Rebel) movement, takes away their right to speak on behalf of the entirety of the Egyptian population. It also raises a big question mark around the number of the signatures they claim to have obtained.

More importantly these calculations raise a claim as to how a democratically elected president was removed from office due to protests by what does not even represent 5% of the entire Egyptian population and barely represents 5% of the portion of said population that has a right to vote in Egypt.

This just tells you that how much of the narrative is manufactured or fabricated. I had a discussion with the author on twitter for a similar numbers for pro-democracy crowd:

Here are the author says that since its a Friday, a weekly holiday, it is easier to collect such large numbers. To which I say,

What is being lost here is that crowd is large, reaching the numbers reached on June 30 yet there is absolutely no mention of this anywhere like the coverage June 30 protests received or even the many times small Taksim protests received.

Egypt’s Fake Mass ‘Rebellion’?

Since Egypt’s military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi last week, the job of trying to coax the Egyptian military to restore order and democracy in ways that satisfy Washington’s standards has largely fallen to newly minted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

But Hagel has little leverage to work with, and the Journal adds that before the coup last week the Pentagon specifically urged Egypt’s generals to avoid a takeover:

But the current crisis has exposed the limits of the military relationship. The army overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected president despite US objections, which were conveyed privately by Mr. Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US officials said.

Hagel’s efforts won’t be made easier if Hagel’s Pentagon goes ahead and delivers fighter jets to Egypt, as seems likely:

The US is moving ahead with plans to deliver four F-16s to Egypt despite the ongoing debate about the military’s overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi and whether it legally constitutes a coup that could shut off aid to the country.

Defense officials say senior administration leaders discussed the delivery and decided to let it continue.

But the generals are flush, since Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have agreed to give or loan Egypt $12 billion. According to Bloomberg:

Kuwait will deposit $2 billion with the Egyptian central bank, give a $1 billion grant and offer $1 billion worth of oil and oil products, state-run Kuna said in a text message today. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. pledged $5 billion and $3 billion respectively yesterday.

The money from the Gulf Arab kleptocracies means that Egypt doesn’t have to worry if the United States cuts off aid.

The question is why the military, bureaucracy and others came together to stage this coup and what it means for future of Egypt. The author of fashioning a coup piece above said it best and I can only paste it below in bold to highlight how succinctly it captures its essence

With their July 3 coup, Egypt’s new military overlords and their staunch American backers are playing an age-old game, the game of turning the public against the ineluctable bickering, inefficiency, gridlock, and intense conflict that is part and parcel of a free political life, so that a disillusioned, fatigued people will pine for the stability and order that the military then swoops in to provide.

The acute but generative political conflict during Morsi’s blink-of-an-eye presidency was constantly amplified and then pathologized by the jealous custodians of the Egyptian state, with their repeated invocations of civil war and mass chaos to frighten people away from the vagaries of self-rule.

Like clockwork every few months, state agents facilitated the conditions for collective violence, dispatching provocateurs to demonstrations, removing police from the streets, standing back as communal violence broke out, resisting civilian oversight, and then ominously forecasting an impending breakdown of social order. The message is clear: left to your own devices, you will kill each other.

The ethos of collective self-confidence, cross-class cooperation, religious co-existence, and creative problem-solving on such magnificent display in the January 25 uprising spells the beginning of the end for the ruling military and civilian bureaucracy. So it had to be replaced with a manufactured mood of resignation and “realism,” the false realism that says: accept tutelage or face chaos.

As the recently self-designated “eminence grise” Mohamed ElBaradie summed it up, “Without Morsi’s removal from office, we would have been headed toward a fascist state, or there would have been a civil war.”

And that is the essence of the anti-political doctrine that worships order, fears political struggle, mistrusts popular striving, and kowtows to force majeure.

Further Reading

Egypt Coup : Engineered by military and supported by elite and West

The purpose of this post is to have a record for posterity as everything will be lost in the narrative and media barrage.

First things first. Was the removal of Morsi in Egypt was a coup or not. Well, if you go by the definitions collected, it definitely was a coup

Yes, That’s a Coup in Egypt

  • A coup d’état is defined as a forceful seizure of executive authority and office by a dissident/opposition faction within the country’s ruling or political elites that results in a substantial change in the executive leadership and the policies of the prior regime (although not necessarily in the nature of regime authority or mode of governance).
  • [Coups d’etat are defined as] overt attempts by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting head of state using unconstitutional means…there is no minimal death threshold for defining a coup. A coup attempt is defined as successful if the coup perpetrators seize and hold power for at least seven days.
  • The distinguishing characteristics of the coup coup d’état as a political technique are that: (a) it is the effort by a political coalition illegally to replace the existing governmental leaders by violence or the threat of violence; (b) the violence employed is usually small; (c) the number of people involved is small; (d) the participants already possess institutional bases of power within the political system.

You might wonder why this argument over whether its a coup or not goes on in media. Part of the reason is that Egypt gets aid to the tune of $1.5 Billion every year from US and if it is a coup against a democratically elected government, then that aid due to the laws prevailing in US will get suspended which neither the Egyptian Army nor US wants. On a different level, calling it a “revolution” and not a “coup” makes it palatable to its supporters.

Much of Rendon’s work is confidential—he enjoys a level of beyond–Top Secret clearance that even high-level intelligence analysts sometimes fail to get. His role in George W. Bush–era pro-U.S. propaganda in Iraq is unclear: While some sources claim he was a central figure in the effort, Rendon denies any involvement. But his dream is quite clear: “Rendon wants to see a world where television “can drive the policy process,” where border patrols [are] replaced by beaming patrols,” and where “you can win without fighting.”

Given all that, I was a bit surprised when the first weapon he referred me to was a very quotidian one: a thesaurus. The key to changing public opinion, Rendon said, is finding different ways to say the same thing. He described a matrix, with extreme language or opinion on one side and mild opinion on the other. By using sentiment analysis to figure out how people in a country felt about an event—say, a new arms deal with the United States—and identify the right synonyms to move them toward approval, you could “gradually nudge a debate.” “It’s a lot easier to be close to what reality is” and push it in the right direction, he said, than to make up a new reality entirely.”

Excerpted from Eli Parser, “Filter Bubble”

So if one sells the narrative that its continuation of revolution, one changes reality. No where this thesaurus is more prominent than the comments made by US. From NYT

America finds itself in a tight spot. After the coup, President Obama expressed “deep concern,” steering clear of any explicit condemnation. More troubling, he called for the restoration of “a” — not “the” — democratically elected government, an important distinction that won’t be lost on the Brotherhood.

Seeing that their narrative that this is not a coup is not getting traction, pro-coup Egyptians have resorted to calling it “soft coup” or “people-power-backed military coup” as if it is something unique or happened with Egyptian for first time in history.

Egypt’s misguided coup

Egyptians may claim there was something unique about the people-power-backed military coup that unfolded Wednesday in Cairo. But the world has witnessed many such putsches in the past half-century. From Buenos Aires to Bangkok, crowds have begged generals to oust democratically elected governments and cheered when they responded. Without exception, the results have been dismal: violence, if not civil wars; massive human rights violations; decades-long political conflicts.

Oh, and by the way, those removed from power sooner or later have returned.

The Islamic character of Egypt’s ousted government should not obscure the way the country resembles Argentina, Venezuela, Turkey, Thailand and other developing nations in which free elections after decades of autocracy have brought a new elite to power. The new rulers typically represent previously disenfranchised poor and rural populations, who often don’t share the cultural values of the capital’s middle and upper classes.

Once in office, new governments made up almost entirely of novice officials frequently overreach. They battle with the old establishment in the bureaucracy, judiciary and media. They write new constitutions in an attempt to lock in their electoral advantage. They tread on civil liberties. And, more often than not, they badly mismanage the economy by adopting populist measures that cater to their political bases.
Cairo’s secular middle class consequently had far less cause to take to the streets last weekend than did the pot-bangers in Allende’s Chile, the general strikers of Caracas or the yellow shirts of Bangkok. They can, however, expect much the same results — which will be anything but the liberal democracy they say they support.

Applauders of military coups have in common two illusions: that the generals share their agenda and that their hated opponents, despite their electoral victories, can be politically nullified. Invariably, neither turns out to be true. Armed forces aren’t good at convening roundtables or implementing liberal platforms; they are good at using force. Even if they don’t torture and kill, they sweep up nonviolent political leaders, shut down media they regard as troublesome and try to impose political rules protecting their own political and economic interests.
… the ultimate losers in this week’s coup will be those who cheered it on.

And here is another perspective from Authors of Why Nations Fail:

The Egyptian Paradox: Saving Democracy and Setting It Back

The first freely elected government of a country, where a large fraction of society is disenfranchised, disempowered and made to feel like second-class citizens, is ousted, in the name of saving democracy, by a military coup supported by former elites and “liberals”.

And the outcome? Three more military coups and more than 50 years later, a deep chasm in society that is still preventing the emergence of truly inclusive politics.

No, we are not talking about the future of Egypt (not directly in any case).

This is just a description of what happened in Turkey in 1960

…what Egypt needed was those ascended to power for the first time to peacefully lose an election — not because the other side cannot tolerate the very thought of those that have so far viewed as second-class sitting in the presidential palace but because they just messed up and weren’t governing well. Because they just lost the support of the ordinary people and had to leave the way they came, through the polls.

Just like in Turkey, Egypt needed assurances to both sides that inclusive politics in which every segment of society, regardless of creed, religion, gender and social status, can share power.

Instead, we have in our hands a military coup that confirms the worst fears of a very large fraction of the population — that the so-called liberal elites and the military that have ruled the country for so long will do anything not to share power with them (never mind that Mubarak and his cronies, together with the military, had also effectively sidelined the young and the liberals who have now turned into allies of the soldiers).

How will this segment of society ever trust democratic politics? How can we expect them not to work to undermine their opponents completely the moment they wrestle power nationally or locally? How can we now hope to end the Egyptian iron law of oligarchy?

As the authors have hinted above, Shadi Hamid also points to the fact that this will have a negative consequence for a large segment of society that decided to become part of mainstream and but the elites and military didn’t like it. And the consequences will be dangerous

Demoting Democracy in Egypt

The Brotherhood’s fall will have profound implications for the future of political Islam, reverberating across the region in potentially dangerous ways. One of the most important political developments of recent years was the decision of Islamist parties to make peace with democracy and commit to playing by the rules of the political game. Leaders counseled patience to their followers. Their time would come, they were told.

Now supporters of the Brotherhood will ask, with good reason, whether democracy still has anything to offer them. Mr. Morsi’s removal will breathe new life into the ideological claims of radicals. Al Qaeda and its followers have long argued that change can’t come through the democracy of “unbelievers”; violence is the only path. As the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri once said, “What is truly regrettable is the rallying of thousands of duped Muslim youth in voter queues before ballot boxes instead of lining them up to fight in the cause of Allah.”

The events of this week could have similarly profound implications. In the hours after Mr. Morsi’s ouster, the new military leadership suspended the Constitution, shut down at least three Islamist television stations, and, more ominously, issued arrest warrants for at least 300 Brotherhood members. Prominent liberal voices are calling for “dissolving” the Brotherhood and holding what would amount to dubious show trials.

Then the narrative that the locals sell you that MB was hand-in-hand with US and Anne Patterson was against Morsi’s removal is pure hogwash and part of propaganda. This from NYTimes

Morsi Spurned Deals, Seeing Military as Tamed

As President Mohamed Morsi huddled in his guard’s quarters during his last hours as Egypt’s first elected leader, he received a call from an Arab foreign minister with a final offer to end a standoff with the country’s top generals, senior advisers with the president said.

The foreign minister said he was acting as an emissary of Washington, the advisers said, and he asked if Mr. Morsi would accept the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet, one that would take over all legislative powers and replace his chosen provincial governors.

The aides said they already knew what Mr. Morsi’s answer would be. He had responded to a similar proposal by pointing at his neck. “This before that,” he had told his aides, repeating a vow to die before accepting what he considered a de facto coup and thus a crippling blow to Egyptian democracy.

His top foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, then left the room to call the United States ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, to say that Mr. Morsi refused. When he returned, he said he had spoken to Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, and that the military takeover was about to begin, senior aides said.

“Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour,” an aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression for the country’s Western patron, “Mother America.”

From Reuters:

What is clear is that despite Patterson’s public statements underlining Mursi’s democratic legitimacy – which drew sharp criticism in Egyptian media – there was no red light from Washington against military takeover.

It is not as if ouster was a surprise. In his own words, Mr. ElBaradei said that they were in touch with western powers before engaging the coup.

Prominent Egyptian Liberal Says He Sought West’s Support for Uprising

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat and Egypt’s most prominent liberal, said Thursday that he had worked hard to convince Western powers of what he called the necessity of forcibly ousting President Mohamed Morsi, contending that Mr. Morsi had bungled the country’s transition to an inclusive democracy.

What Morsi failed to realize or appreciate that he doesn’t control the military head on in your first year. Whereas Erdogan was successful in taming  military in Turkey but one has to remember that it was his third time, he is widely popular and most importantly he has distributed fruits of economic development widely thus strengthening his support base.

Cover Page of July 2012 Time Magazine

Mursi’s downfall

But relations between Mursi and his new generals deteriorated within months of his inauguration. Even Mursi’s apparent success in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip irked the military.

“Mursi’s intervention in the Gaza war made Egypt guarantee that Hamas would not carry out attacks on Israel. Which threatens Egyptian national security, because what if Hamas did? It could prompt Israel to retaliate against us,” the security source said.

Mursi also talked loosely about possible Egyptian participation in a jihad (holy war) to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and raised the prospect of military action over a Nile River dam in Ethiopia. As a result, distrust of him grew in Egypt’s high command, which saw him as recklessly risking their involvement in conflicts without properly consulting and respecting the generals.

“It reached a point where we began to be worried about putting important national security reports in front of someone we perceived as a threat to national security,” the security source said.

The generals became equally alarmed about political and sectarian polarization in Egypt, against a backdrop of a sharply worsening economy. They had secured their own position in an Islamist-tinged constitution rammed through by Mursi’s allies last December, ensuring they would remain a state within a state, with limited parliamentary scrutiny of their economic privileges, armaments contracts and control of the vital Suez Canal. But they were increasingly concerned by what they saw as a risk of civil war.

By the time Mursi took office, Egypt’s economy, which had boomed for the rich with scant improvement for the poor in the late Mubarak years, was already in deep trouble. The military council which ruled in the 16-month transition from Mubarak’s overthrow to Mursi’s inauguration had failed to carry out long-overdue reforms of food and fuel subsidies or to negotiate a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund for fear of sparking unrest. Tourism and investment had dried up because of political instability.

Mursi’s bumbling, do-little administration only made things worse. While the Muslim Brotherhood remained the most powerful political force and ran a social welfare network that provided services to the poor and needy, millions of Egyptians felt no one was representing their interests.

What is clear is that military has been the real rulers of Egypt.

Egypt’s Cunning General: How the Military Plans to Keep Power

Egyptian President Morsi has been toppled, and a judge will be the country’s new interim leader. But in reality, he’s just a puppet. Behind the scenes, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and his military apparatus will continue to call the shots.

Since it took power in a coup in 1952, the military has remained the most important political player in Egypt. Neither Mubarak’s fall in 2011, nor the short rule by Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, have changed this. El-Sissi demonstrated just how powerful the influence of the military’s generals is on Wednesday night, when, after giving Morsi 48 hours to leave office, he summarily informed the president that he was no longer the leader of the country. No matter that Morsi was the country’s first democratically elected head of state.

This time the head of the military has been trying from the outset to stay in the background. The events of Wednesday night are clearly a coup — the army has deposed a democratically elected president and suspended the constitution. Yet Sissi acted as if the generals had been compelled by the Egyptian people to intervene.

Indeed, many Egyptians have welcomed the coup. The military envisions a power-sharing setup where civilians will hold primary authority. That way, they will be the ones to draw the ire of the population as they slave away to solve the country’s disastrous economic situation and mend deep political divisions.

Behind the scenes, Sissi and his colleagues set the tone, especially in two areas: Security policy is traditionally their domain, but the government should also keep clear of the generals’ monetary privileges. The army is one of the most important economic power brokers in Egypt.

It remains to be seen whether this power-sharing structure will actually work. This is exactly what the military already tried in vain with the Muslim Brotherhood. But Morsi was rebellious. He began to interfere in security policy and didn’t take the sharp warnings of the generals seriously. From their perspective, things will work out better this time under the duo of military chief and top judiciary.

Below is a small write up on the military’s historic relationship with Egypt’s civil society, patriotism,self-interest, victory and defeat. In this way, it is not much different than Pakistan Army

The Egyptian Military’s Huge Historical Role

Army’s fall from grace

“The Egyptian army’s history is very much defined in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” says Nezar Al-Sayyad, the chair of UC-Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

The defeat undermined Egyptian monarch King Farouk, whom the Egyptian military blamed for what it considered a fiasco, and in 1952 a group of military officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser staged a coup. The Egyptian Revolution of 1952, as it came to be known, established the modern Egyptian republic.

Under the charismatic and popular Nasser, the Egyptian Army sought to rebuild itself into a competent fighting force. It didn’t go well.

After a costly expeditionary campaign supporting Arab republican forces in Yemen’s civil war, Nasser led a second Arab coalition against Israel during the Six Day War of 1967. His forces suffered a spectacular defeat, losing the the entire Sinai peninsula—which Egypt had controlled—to Israeli forces.

The loss shredded the Egyptian army’s credibility. The military “not only withdrew [from Sinai], but in fact it lost its equipment and many soldiers came back running,” says Al-Sayyed. “The military became the butt of jokes within the Egyptian public.”

Army’s Redemption

In October 1973, Sadat led the third Arab coalition against Israel in the hopes of regaining the Sinai.

Although the war ended after three weeks with Israel in the advantage, the Egyptian Army enjoyed significant successes during its opening days, and Egypt later regained the Sinai peninsula as a result of the 1978 Camp David Accords.

The win destroyed the myth of Israeli invincibility and restored the reputation of the Egyptian army as a fighting force and defender of the nation’s interests.

Army discovers Capitalism

After Mubarak, a former general, took power following Sadat’s assassination in 1981, the military, backed by American aid, modernized and expanded its force. And when Mubarak launched economic liberalization in the 1990s, the military discovered something even better than American largesse: capitalism.

“The military became an economic company, if you will,” says Al-Sayyed. “It became an enterprise.”

Equipped with valuable and vast real estate and a conscript, low-paid workforce, the military began to insinuate itself into civil society through business, its holdings ranging from bread factories to chemical plants to hotels.

The armed forces’ public-private enterprises may account for up to 15 to 20 percent of GDP, according to Al-Sayyed, and the military took very good care of its officers with the wealth it accrued. As the military’s economic tentacles spread throughout society, its civil clout expanded, too.

What Way Forward?

During the massive protests that led to Mubarak’s ouster, the military—after a period of initial silence—publicly stated that its duty was above all to the people of Egypt, and soon wrested control from the 80-year-old autocrat.

During the period of military rule that followed, however, public opinion turned against the interim military government due to the widespread belief that it was dithering in relinquishing power.

The military seemed to recognize the fickle nature of voters in the drafting of Egypt’s 2012 constitution, ensuring that its privileges and powers were cemented in the new document.

Now, after unseating the unpopular Morsi, the military has public opinion back in its court.

“The majority of Egyptian people today see the army as a patriotic institution that can be trusted to act in the interests of the nation,” says Beinin. “The army has this reputation despite the fact that it has actually on many occasions, and especially in the recent years, acted to secure its own particular institutional interests and not acted for the interests of the nation.”

This tweet by Muslim Brotherhood spokesman makes it clear that how much of coup was engineered

But if you don’t want to buy what MB spokesman says, here it is coming from a journalist

The circus continues

Mohamed ElBaradei to be named Egypt’s interim PM: sources

Mansour held talks on Saturday with the army chief and political leaders, including ElBaradei, on how to pull the country out of crisis as the death toll from Islamist protests over the army’s overthrow of Mursi rose to at least 35.

Mansour later summoned ElBaradei back to the presidential palace, the state news agency reported, without giving more details.

The prime minister will be sworn in at 8 p.m. (2:00 p.m. EDT), state newspaper Al-Ahram reported, not naming who will be sworn in.

ElBaradei who is currently feeling no shame in accepting PM post in Egypt, had this to say in 2012

Mohamed ElBaradei quits Egyptian presidential race

“My conscience does not permit me to run for the presidency or any other official position unless it is within a democratic framework,”

But then this happens

Egypt PM dispute stalls government, Islamists call more protests

ElBaradei’s nomination had been confirmed by several sources and state media on Saturday, but just before midnight a presidential spokesman told reporters that the prime minister had not in fact been chosen.

The abrupt U-turn came amid opposition to the appointment by the Nour Party, Egypt’s second Islamist force after Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, highlighting the challenge the military faces in finding consensus among liberals and conservatives on who should run the country.

This made me tweet this

Why Do People Protest – Quote

From Foreign Policy magazine

“Next to sex, the activity combining bodily experience and intense emotion to the highest degree is the participation in a mass demonstration at a time of great public exaltation. Unlike sex, which is essentially individual, it is by its nature collective, and unlike the sexual climax, at any rate for men, it can be prolonged for hours. On the other hand, like sex it implies some physical action — marching chanting slogans, singing — through which the merger of the individual in the mass, which is the essence of the collective experience, finds expression.” – Eric Hobsbawm

Egypt Counter-revolution : End of a good thing

“In conversations with opposition politicians over the past six months, I have been struck by two things: their vehement hatred of the Brotherhood, and their inability to articulate solutions to the country’s problems.” – Newyorker

For Mr. Morsi and his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, a military intervention would be an epic defeat. It would deny them the chance to govern Egypt that they had struggled 80 years to finally win, in democratic elections, only to see their prize snatched away after less than a year.

If you have been following the Egypt protests of last few days, you will realize that Egypt is on the cusp of toppling Morsi’s presidency and this might also mean the end of Muslim Brotherhood government. What Egyptians don’t realize that they are playing in the hands of their intelligentsia who have nothing better to offer them. I will let others do the talking for me here. All these links should be read in full to appreciate what is being lost here.

The movement is organized by Tamarod (which is translated in Arabic as Rebellion) and this is the list of their misgivings with Morsi regime.

Rebel Campaign
(For the destitution of Mohamed Mursi Al Ayat)

We reject you … Because Security has not been recovered so far
We reject you… Because the deprived one has still no place to fit
We reject you … Because we are still begging loans from the outside
We reject you … Because no justice has been brought to the martyrs
We reject you. .. Because no dignity was left neither for me nor for my country
We reject you… Because the economy has collapsed, and depends only on begging
We reject you… Because Egypt is still following the footsteps of the USA

Since the arrival of Mohamed Mursi to power, the average citizen still has the feeling that nothing has been achieved so far from the revolution goals which were life in dignity, freedom, social justice and national independence. Mursi was a total failure in achieving every single goal, no security has been reestablished and no social security realized, thus and gave clear proof that he is not fit for the governance of such a country as Egypt.

From The Atlantic magazine

Is a Second Revolution Really What Egypt Needs?

Opting for a revolutionary course this late in the game — after more than two years of transition and five elections — means starting from scratch with little guarantee that the second time will be much better. At some point, the past cannot be undone, except perhaps through mass violence on an unprecedented scale. If the first elected Islamist president is toppled, then what will keep others from trying to topple a future liberal president? If one looks at Tamarod’s justifications for seeking Morsi’s overthrow, the entire list consists of problems that will almost certainly plague his successor. They have little to do with a flawed transition process and a rushed constitution that ran roughshod over opposition objections and everything to do with performance (“Morsi was a total failure in achieving every single goal, no security has been reestablished and no social security realized, [giving] clear proof that he is not fit for the governance of such a country as Egypt,” reads the Tamarod statement of principles). Legitimacy cannot depend solely or even primarily on effectiveness or competence. If it did, revolution could be justified anywhere at any time, including in at least several European democracies.

That said, there is little doubt that Morsi suffers, perhaps more than anything else, from a legitimacy deficit, which, in an un-virtuous cycle, undermines governance, and so on.

The best column on the topic is written by Patrick Gealy and its rich with links. I recommend that everyone reads it in full. I am just pasting the concluding paragraph below which delivers the punch.

The day the revolution died

……I’ve learned a basic and terrifying truth today: That many would rather see a military junta rule with impunity and autocracy than see a democratic administration govern with fecklessness and error. That many people who call themselves revolutionaries and advocates of democracy simply hate Islamism more than they love freedom. That people are fully prepared to welcome the army back to political life, with a cheer, two fingers up to those killed since 2011, and a good riddance to Egypt’s first experiment with democracyFuck that for a revolution.

The following is from Newyorker magazine

Egypt’s Petition Rebellion

Is this the future of Egypt? In fact, Tamarod represents a big step backward in the country’s political evolution. In the two and a half years since the revolution that ousted Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood has won every election: parliamentary polls at the end of 2011, a Presidential vote last June, and a referendum, in December, on a constitution drafted by Brotherhood members and their allies.

But established opposition parties have done little to build political organizations and grassroots networks that might exploit this discontent. Instead of pushing for new parliamentary elections (the previously elected parliament was dissolved after a court ruled that some seats had been illegally contested), opposition leaders have already said they will boycott any new elections. Their default mode is to call for street protests when things don’t go their way.

The Tamarod movement is an extension of this civic disengagement.

Following the June 30th protests, Tamarod organizers are calling for a prolonged sit-in and boycotts of payments to the government of electricity, water, gas, taxes, and certain taxi fees. If the President does step down, the group proposes that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court serve as acting President until new elections are held in six months.

Below is the video captured by military helicopter which should make you question why is military releasing such videos to press. What is the agenda of military high command known as Supreme Command of Armed Forces (SCAF)?

If anyone believe that SCAF is for the people, they have forgotten that SCAF or military was the one who ensured that Mubarak remains an absolute dictator for 30 years. Below is the documentary on SCAF crimes with English subtitles

People are cheering for SCAF intervention in Tahrir Square. They have so quickly forgotten the crimes/atrocities committed by SCAF last year. The below link is a must read with links and pictures of crimes of SCAF. People have so quickly forgotten the blue bra girl and virginity tests administered by SCAF.

SCAF Crimes in Egypt: A Revolutionary Timeline in Photos

Only one year ago, Egyptians were cheering another milestone: the end of military rule. After 18 months in power, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had done little for the country other than shoot at, arrest, and kill protesters. To say the least, these actions did not seem to cause the military much “moral and psychological burden” at the time.

The media backed by Egypts powerful business tycoons and Arab journalists are at the forefront of this dirty game

Below line from the Newyorker article sums up Egypt quite nicely

In a country with an increasingly repressive regime and no democratic culture to draw on, protest has become an end in itself—more satisfying than the hard work of governance, organizing, and negotiation. This is politics as emotional catharsis, a way to register rage and frustration without getting involved in the system.