Framing the protester

The Egyptian media insist, ‘either you are with the government, or you are with terror.’

August 19, 2013 23:22
2 minute read.
Anti-Morsi protesters hold up anti-Obama sign in Tahrir square, July 29, 2013.

Anti Morsi protest 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

In cognitive science, “frames” are mental constructs. The more a frame is used, the more its circuitry is strengthened and made prominent.

Such frames can become so strong they essentially create realities, and, in turn, constrain and direct policies.

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Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper, considered loyal to the state, appears to have a good understanding of this concept. In its Sunday issue, it published a report about what it calls “the Zionist-American-Muslim-Brotherhood conspiracy” against Egypt.

The newspaper argues that “America, Israel and the Muslim Brotherhood have one goal in common: to demolish the Egyptian army and to balkanize the country.”

Furthermore, Al-Ahram claimed Britain “has contributed to establishing the Muslim Brotherhood in 1930s” and that America “has used al-Qaida in 1980s... to stop the communist threat.”

In another headline, Al-Ahram employs the phrase “American escalation” in reference to the American response to the massacres committed by the Egyptian police and the army against peaceful protesters on Wednesday of last week, next to the words “a criminal plot to demolish the pillars of Egypt.”

This is not the first time that the newspaper has argued that there is “an American conspiracy” against Egypt and that America “sponsors” terror.

Reinforcing such a frame is very dangerous as it stresses that America (as well as the UK and Israel) is an enemy and supporter of terror, and thus encourages violence against innocent people of the United States, and needless to say of the west as a whole.

Furthermore, it hides the fact that America, like many countries in the world, has been a victim of terror, and has even waged war against al- Qaida in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seems that, like all Egyptian newspapers, Al-Ahram adopts the one-track policy that says “either you are with the government policies, or you are a terrorist or in league with terrorists.” In other words, if you condemn the violence committed against pro-Morsi protesters – who, from the government’s perspective, are terrorists – you are an enemy of Egypt and collaborating to destroy the Egyptian army.

Yesterday, Al-Akhbar ran a cartoon showing Egyptian vice president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei (who resigned yesterday), stabbing a woman, representing Egypt, in the back. Another cartoon, in Al-Ahram, has ElBaradei saying, “I won’t take the responsibility of a single drop of blood,” while he is sitting on a chair sinking in blood and bearing the inscription “Iraq.” The message is clear: ElBaradei is a terrorist and a collaborator.

Similarly, in a front-page story today, Al-Ahram depicted US President Barack Obama as encouraging and supporting terror. Moreover, it ran a picture, next to that of ElBaradei, portraying Obama as asking an MP activist to help him, from the newspaper’s perspective, to spread anarchy and terror.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and its king Abdullah bin Abdul- Aziz have been praised by the Egyptian media for supporting government policies.

All this being the case, I’ve one question to ask: are you with what the Egyptian army and police think, want and implement? It is healthier to say yes.

The writer is an Egyptian artist and a PhD student.

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