Day By Day

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Spread of Democracy in the Middle East -- A WaPo Perspective

Scott Wilson and Daniel Williams have a long piece in the WaPo on democratization in the Middle East. It is particularly informative on the extent to which Lebanon's opposition has been guided by professional public relations experts.
BEIRUT -- Early this year, a small group of advertising executives, journalists and political operatives began meeting around the crowded tables of a popular cafe here to plot an opposition media strategy for Lebanon's spring parliamentary elections.

Among them was Said Francis, whose urbane crew cut and black turtleneck sweater suggested his position as the regional creative director of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. Employing reams of scratch paper, cigarettes and coffee, the group members argued over color schemes and slogans.

The mission was a long, almost hopeless quest to upend years of Syrian political domination. "Like all Lebanese, we thought we were experts on politics," recalled Francis, who volunteered outside his agency on the politically sensitive campaign. "But progress was slow."

Then a bomb exploded Feb. 14 along Beirut's waterfront, killing former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The media group immediately put its election strategy into action as tens of thousands of protesters flooded Beirut's central square demanding that Syria pull out of Lebanon. The group's choices -- the red-and-white color scheme and "Independence '05" slogan -- were broadcast across the Middle East.

Suddenly, Francis and his colleagues were at the cutting edge of the Arab world's democratic spring.

There was a reason that all those gorgeous protest babes found themselves in front of cameras.

Of course this is the WaPo and the authors go to great, one might say ridiculous, lengths to deny that Bush's foreign policy had any positive effect on the spread of democracy. They even go so far as to feature one activist whom they say would be a "liberal Democrat" if he lived in the US. The most that they will say in Bush's favor is that Iraq has had a "mixed" effect on the minds of the peoples of the region. They choose to quote one activist who says that "democracy is spreading in the region not because of George Bush but despite him." You can guess the man's political orientation because he follows that with the statement that the true inspiration emanates from the striving of the Palestinian people. With regard to Egypt they claim that hatred of Bush and Israel fueled anti-Mubarak demonstrations. You see, it was not that Hosni was a despicable tyrant but the fact that he was an ally of Bush that really got the demonstrators stirred up.

And so it goes, and so it goes....

But, if you can get past the blatant partisanship of the writers, you will find a lot of interesting and informative material in the article. Read it here.


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