Among the least analyzed aspects of the Egyptian revolution has been the
significance of the widespread violence against the foreign media covering the
demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The Western media have been
unanimous in their sympathetic coverage of the demonstrators in Egypt. Why would
the demonstrators want to brutalize them? And why have Western media outlets
been so reticent in discussing the significance of their own reporters’
brutalization at the hands of the Egyptian demonstrators?
To date the most
egregious attack on a foreign journalist in Cairo’s Tahrir Square took place
last Friday, when CBS’s senior foreign correspondent Lara Logan was sexually
assaulted and brutally beaten by a mob of Egyptian men. Her own network, CBS,
took several days to even report the story, and when it did, it left out
important information. The fact that Logan was brutalized for 20 to 30 minutes
and that her attackers screamed out “Jew, Jew, Jew” as they ravaged her was
absent from the CBS report and from most other follow-on reports in the US
The media’s treatment of Logan’s victimization specifically and
its treatment of the widescale mob violence against foreign reporters in Cairo
generally tells us a great deal about the nature of today’s media
But before we consider the significance of the coverage, a
word must be said about Logan and her colleagues in Tahrir Square. For some
time, the common wisdom about journalists has been that they are cowards.
Multiple instances of journalistic malpractice led many to conclude that
reporters are prisoners of their fears.
For instance, recall the story of
the Palestinian lynching of IDF reservists Vadim Nozhitz and Yosef Avrahami at
the Palestinian Authority police station in Ramallah on October 1,
There were dozens of reporters on the scene that day as the
Palestinian police-led mob murdered and dismembered Nozhitz and
But only one camera crew – from Italy’s privately owned
Mediaset television network – risked life and limb to film the
After Mediaset’s footage was published, Ricardo Cristiani, a
reporter for RAI television, Mediaset’s state-owned competitor, published an
apology in the PA’s official trumpet Al-Hayat al-Jadida.
things, Cristiani wrote, “We [RAI] emphasize to all of you that the events did
not happen this way, because we always respect... the journalistic procedures
with the Palestinian Authority for work in Palestine and we are credible in our
Cristiani’s behavior, like that of his colleagues who
failed to film the lynching, led many to believe that the international media
are nothing but a bunch of cowards.
Then there was then-CNN news chief
Eason Jordan’s remarkable op-ed in The New York Times
in April 2003. In that
article, Jordan informed the public that for more than a decade, CNN had
systematically covered up the brutality and criminality of Saddam Hussein’s
regime. CNN hid the information from the public because it thought it was more
important to maintain access to senior Iraqi officials – who fed the network a
diet of lies – than to lose that access by reporting the truth.
stories and many like them are what caused many to believe that that journalists
are cowards. But the behavior of the international media in Tahrir Square proves
that reporters are by and large brave. Logan and her colleagues willingly went
to Tahrir Square to cover the demonstrations in spite of the
While the reporters on the scene in Cairo serve as a rebuke to
the notion of journalistic cowardice, the international media’s tepid and
superficial coverage of their brutalization at the hands of the demonstrators
shares important features with the negligence of CNN in Iraq and the reporters
TO BEGIN to understand those common components, it is worth
considering another story about sexual misconduct that hit the presses in the US
around the time the story about Logan’s victimization was first
This week, a group of female US soldiers filed a class action
lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his predecessor Donald
Rumsfeld. The plaintiffs allege that both men and the US defense establishment
are responsible for the sexual assaults they suffered during their military
service. They claim that the men who abused them were a product of US military
The US media has provided blanket coverage of the story, which
effectively places the entire US military on trial for rape.
interesting about the lawsuit story is that it highlights the alleged
perpetrator. Coverage of the lawsuit has been heavy on details about the alleged
misogyny of US military culture.
In stark contrast, coverage of Logan’s
sexual assault makes almost no mention of the perpetrators.
issue of Egypt’s societal misogyny has been ignored.
What makes the
distinction between coverage of the two stores so remarkable is that there is
there is no comparison between the alleged anti-female bias in the US military
and the actual misogyny of Egyptian society.
According to a 1999 report
from the World Health Organization, 97 percent of Egyptian women and girls have
undergone the barbaric practice of genital mutilation. A 2005 report by the
Cairo-based Association for Legal Rights of Women submitted to the UN explained
that Egyptian women are constitutionally deprived of their basic rights,
including their rights to control their bodies and property. Males who murder
their female relatives are often unpunished.
When they are tried and
convicted for premeditated murder, their sentences average from two to four
years in prison.
So far the only culprit the US media have managed to
find for the sexual assault perpetrated against Lara Logan by a mob of Egyptian
men has been a radical leftist reporter named Nir Rosen.
Rosen wrote defamatory attacks against Logan on his Twitter account. He mocked
her suffering and bemoaned the fame the attack would win her.
statements on Twitter set off a feeding frenzy of reporters and commentators who
raced to condemn him. New York University’s Center for Law and Security, where
Rosen served as a fellow, hastened to demand his resignation.
onslaught against Rosen for his anti-Logan statements is extremely revealing
about the nature of the international media. Rosen’s writings reveal him as an
anti-Semite and an anti- American. Rosen has written prolifically about his hope
to see Israel destroyed. His war reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq unfailingly
takes the side of America’s enemies. He was an embedded reporter with the
Taliban and is an outspoken champion of Hezbollah, Hamas and the
Rosen’s hateful politics have brought him book contracts,
prestigious fellowships, interviews on influential television shows and even a
request to give testimony before the US Senate. His work has been published in
elite magazines and newspapers.
No one batted a lash when he called for
Israel to be destroyed or supported the Taliban – whose treatment of women and
girls is among the most brutal in history. But for attacking Logan, he was
excommunicated from polite society.
In the hopes of rehabilitating
himself, Rosen gave a groveling interview to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday
night in which he called himself “a jerk.”
But it is too late. He broke
THE STORY of the media at Tahrir Square exposes those rules
for all to see. The bravery of the journalists on the scene, the media’s
determination to ignore Islamic misogyny, and their expulsion of Rosen from
polite society all tell us that what drives the international media is not a
quest for truth. It is a quest to advance the ideology of identity
Identity politics revolve around the narrative of
victimization. For adherents to identity politics, the victim is not a person,
but a member of a privileged victim group. That is, the status of victimhood is
not determined by facts, but by membership in an identity group. Stories about
victims are not dictated by facts. Victim stories are tailored to fit the
victim. Facts, values and individual responsibility are all
In light of this, a person’s membership in specific victim
groups is far more important than his behavior. And there is a clear pecking
order of victimhood in identity politics.
Anti-American Third World
national, religious and ethnic groups are at the top of the victim food chain.
They out-victim everyone else.
After them come the Western victims:
Racial minorities, women, homosexuals, children and animals.
Jews, Americans, white males and rich people are the predetermined perpetrators.
No matter how badly they are victimized, brave reporters will go to heroic
lengths to ignore, underplay or explain away their suffering.
when victim groups are attacked by victim groups – for instance when Iraqis were
attacked by Saddam, or Palestinians are attacked by the PA, the media tend to
ignore the story.
When members of Western victim groups are attacked by
Third World victims, the story can be reported, but with as little mention of
the identity of the victim-perpetrators as possible. So it was with coverage of
Logan and the rest of the foreign reporters assaulted in Egypt. They were
attacked by invisible attackers with no identities, no barbaric values, no moral
responsibility, and no criminal culpability. CBS went so far as to blur the
faces of the men who surrounded Logan in the moments before she was
When we understand the rules of reportage as dictated by
adherents to identity politics, we understand why Rosen was excommunicated when
he mocked Logan and not when he called for Israel’s destruction, condemned the
commemoration of the September 11 attacks, or sided with the Taliban and the
Iraqi insurgents killing Americans. In those cases, he followed the rules –
preferring the cause of “victims” over the lives of “perpetrators.”
when he mocked Logan, he crossed the line. He treated Logan as a perpetrator
because he thought of her as an insufficiently anti-American reporter. He didn’t
realize that when she was brutalized, she had slid into the victim
Identity politics are nothing more than socially acceptable
bigotry. Those who practice it are racist bigots who have replaced liberal
values that hold everyone to the same moral and criminal standards with
illiberal values that judge people’s morality and criminality by the identity
group with which they are most readily associated.
When we understand
identity politics, we understand how it is that the wholesale assaults against
foreign journalists have received so little analysis. Lara Logan and the other
hundred reporters attacked in Tahrir Square are real victims, not because of who
they are, but because of what happened to them. The Egyptians who attacked them
are real criminals, not because of who they are, but because of what they
But until reporters are willing to admit this – that is, until they
dump their ideological attachment to identity politics in favor of the truth –
news consumers worldwide will continue to receive news reports that obfuscate
more than they tell us about the world we live