I can’t tear myself away from the scenes in Cairo. I’m alternately moved, exhilarated and terrified. To all of you out there: Allah ma’akum and you have all solidarity and support from Britain. I just got a text saying that the entire student anti-cuts march in London today has headed to the Egyptian embassy. We are right behind you and, more importantly, we are watching.
The uprising has been unexpected, unbelievable, and as AlJazeera’s anchors keep reminding us, unprecedented. But let’s be clear: there are three things this is NOT about.
[a] the Muslim Brotherhood.
No-one is arguing that the MB have not been representing on the streets, even if not all of them are sporting ‘the beard-without-mustache “uniform” we associate with the Muslim Brothers’. (Lots of non-Brothers have the neck beard going on, just to point out. It’s a guy thing.) Yet their organisational and official capacity has been limited, which isn’t surprising given their typically unconfrontational stance. One of them is on AJE at the moment talking a load of monkey feathers about unity governments. The only people who seem at all convinced of their significant involvement are worried Zionists and Washingtonians pontificating about an Islamist takeover in Egypt.
[b] Mohamed ElBaradei.
Duktuur Change had been a notable non-presence up until yesterday when he whimsically jetted into Cairo after finishing off his last Viennese whirl. I have absolutely no doubt that ElBaradei has the best interests of Egypt at heart but he has seemed out of touch and remote, both personally and geographically. Western news reports suggesting he has any chance of leading this seem to miss the point. This isn’t led by anyone – yet – and it’s unlikely ElBaradei has the popular support or even a fucking clue of how to lead it.
[c] social media.
To read the breathless accounts of several journalists one would think that every fellah in Egypt is all up on Twitter and Facebook like Fayoum is bloody Silicon Valley. There’s been an internet blackout in Egypt for the past 40 hours or so and astonishingly Egyptians have managed to keep the momentum going rather than standing around scratching their heads and saying ‘gee, I’d love to protest but I haven’t joined a Facebook group so I have no idea what to do’. Obviously it’s played a role but one of the great things about the past few days is that it’s disproved wanky social media trend pieces where white middle-class Westerners gawp in astonishment at how Arabs can blog too. You know what else Arabs can do? Get out on the street and make it happen.
The AlJazeera coverage of Egypt really puts every other news organisation to shame. The awesome Laila Soueif is speaking right now. Stop what you’re doing and tune in.