The outcome of last week’s Egyptian presidential elections was about as preordained as it gets when it comes to predicting foreign events, yet somehow most of the major media outlets seemed to miss it. The Telegraph, on May 25th after the first round of Presidential voting, described the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi as headed to a “surprise” victory. In the end, the M.B. candidate finished with 25% of the vote, former Air force commander and one time Mubarak Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq finished second with 23%, Former M.B. Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh held 20%, and leftist Hamdeen Sabahy was at 19%.
Surprise for who exactly?
Eric Traeger wasn’t surprised, pointing to the Muslim Brotherhood’s deep organizational talents and strict hierarchy in an excellent New Republic piece, and comparing it to the complete lack of organization by any other group or candidate. We at the Endowment for Middle East Truth were certainly not surprised; arguing as we have for months of the inevitability of a Muslim Brotherhood dominated Egyptian government.
Nor is it likely that the old autocrats of the Middle East, represented by men like Shafiq, were surprised either. They had long warned that the choice was either military dictatorship (under their rule), or the Muslim Brotherhood. In Mubarak’s case, he knew this to be true since the Muslim Brotherhood remained the only organization which was able to function, despite arrests and harassment from his security services, while secular and liberal parties stood no such chance. He had made sure of it.
Indeed the story of much of the Arab Spring has been that the old dictators once again putting the choice to Washington, “Either us and our tyranny, or the Muslim Brothers and theirs.” Only this time, the Obama administration chose the Brotherhood.
The people of Egypt are presented with a choice between oppressions, autocratic, or theocratic. And once again the Western media can be expected to continue to ignore it. Leading up to the election, the western media continued to cover so-called front-runner Amr Moussa, who managed to place a dismal fifth, his support flocking to late entry Shafiq. They also ran repeated stories about allegedly dissolving Muslim Brotherhood support, supposing that an ex-Brother like Fotouh was likely to unite the secular left, and the Salafists against his former Ikhwan. The reality was that Fotouh left the brotherhood solely in order to violate its ban against running for president (back when the organization had sworn to run no presidential candidates). Never mind that no candidate who takes large portions of the Egyptian Salafist vote ought to be considered a “modernist” or a reformer.
But that is ever the way of Western reporting on the Middle East. Routinely the media expresses little interest in what the relevant players are actually saying, such as the recent report that Morsi has called for Copts to convert, pay the jizya or emigrate, following the support the Christian minority voters are believed to have given Shafiq, preferring instead to remain true to their narrative of both sides being forced to compete for some mythical “middle ground voter,” as if Egypt’s first free Presidential election was a mirror image of a typical American election, where two mainstream parties compete over a long existing political “center.”
Nor will any actual facts be permitted to disrupt the narrative. This is why a news article from Reuters or the Associated Press can reflect on the appeal of each candidate to supposed mainstream voters, and yet in the next paragraph discuss the riot which burned down the Cairo headquarters of the candidate that finished second.
They will continue to insist, as they did when the Palestinian elections were won by Hamas, and when Hezbollah triumphed politically in Lebanon, that political power moderates the extremist. That somehow hardened ideologues will be so busy managing train schedules and garbage pickups that they’ll forget about their real goals like the institution of oppressive Sharia law and the destruction of Israel. It is nonsense and it has always been nonsense. After all, Mussolini made the trains run on time, and yet still found time to execute his political enemies and impose his totalitarian program. He found time to conduct wars against his enemies abroad. So will the Muslim Brotherhood. As Egyptian philosopher Murad Wahba has warned, “The Muslim Brotherhood is ideologically required to start wars.”
But that doesn’t matter to the western media. Nor are they alone in the delusion that the solution to dictators is to elect them and hope they spring from their beds on inauguration day born-again democrats. This appears to be the deeply held opinion of numerous foreign affairs specialists and bureaucrats, who serve as the media’s experts and sources. What matters to such men is the process, not the outcome. They are all about the lipstick, never mind the pig.
Nevermind that the Muslim Brotherhood is an 80-year old totalitarian party whose organization has more in common with Corleone family then the Republican or Democratic parties. As long as they agree to participate in the machinery of democracy, our State Department, and the western media is more than happy to consider them moderate, and expresses no concern that they are likely to rule a one-party state, after having successfully participated in an election, one man, one vote, one time.
The process is what matters to them, not the ideologies of those taking part. Its why the State Department merrily provided electioneering training for any Egyptian organization that wished to take part, and ended up providing guidance to Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist campaigners, when it was the secularists, and the youth of Tahrir square which ought to have received our full support, in an attempt to dispel the pre-existing advantages held by the Brotherhood and the military’s preferred candidates.
Real change cannot come to the Middle East if we continue to allow the media and foreign policy specialists to play pretend. To dress up terrorists like statesmen and totalitarians like reformers. To insist that we must be even-handed in distributing our largesse to the secularist and the Islamist both. To pretend that America’s national interest is served by a democratic process, not a democratic outcome.
Unfortunately no such change is likely to come in time for Egypt.
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