Day By Day

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Richard Miniter on the "Arab Spring"

Richard Miniter writes that the American public has been badly misinformed regarding the wave of insurrections that the press has labled the "Arab Spring". The result has been a far more optimistic take on the situation than is warranted. He writes:

“Arab Spring,” as it has been portrayed by the Western media, is an illusion.

Virtually every element of the media narrative — it is a spontaneous revolt, that it is Internet-driven, that it seeks democracy or income equality — is wrong or misleading.

After extensive interviews across the region and two visits to North Africa in July, it is clear that Western media and intelligence services have played a “Jedi Mind Trick” on themselves and us.

They have produced a number of myths that cloud our understanding.
More specifically:

1) The Western media have presented the disturbances that have swept through the Arab world as spontaneous uprisings, but there is reason to believe that Iran, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been instigating subversion in many of the Arab states. Miniter writes:
The role of Iran and other nations in fomenting “Arab Spring” is not fully known. But we know enough to say that the revolts are not the spontaneous mass uprisings that the media imagines.
2) Contrary to press reports and commentary it is quite clear that while the internet has been important to revolutionary elites, allowing them to coordinate their activities, it has had little impact on the Arab masses, most of whom are illiterate and who get their information from Al Jazeera. It is old media, not the new, that is driving the protests.

3) The uprisings are not primarily, nor possibly even tangentially, about democracy. He writes:

So far, the Arab revolutions have not produced a single democracy. In Tunisia and in Egypt, there is the hope that transitions will produce democracies in the coming months. But a new oligarchy of military and intelligence officers, tycoons and technocrats seems more likely.

In Algeria, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen the strongmen may survive or be replaced by other dictators. Democracy is not a foregone conclusion.

In all cases the Arab revolutions were unified in demanding the ouster of the current leaders and either confused or conflicted about what form of government should follow.

What unites revolutionaries across the Arab world is a loathing of their centralized, all-powerful states.

Such states, because they have the ability to dispense so many benefits, soon become completely corrupted. When a citizen has to rely on the state for every life-sustaining thing from housing to schooling, its officials do not have to ask for bribes. They know that desperate citizens will volunteer to pay them. Thus are a people made to grovel, beg and proffer gifts to the very officials who should be serving them, a condition that produces humiliation and disgust on one side and greed and entitlement on the other. When this indignation coats a country, it is as if every city has been soaked in petrol and awaits only a single spark to explode.
So it is dignity, not democracy that the revolutionaries are seeking.

4) It is far too soon to tell whether the Muslim Brotherhood or other extremist organizations will be able to control the revolutionary states that emerge from the current situation. At this point it is clear that they are not in control, and may never be.

5) Comparing the Arab revolts to the 1989 collapse of Communism is misleading.

6) Finally, not all Arab regimes are equally susceptible to revolution. Morocco, for instance, is doing just fine.

So what we have is a wave up uprisings that are not really spontaneous, are imperfectly controlled by their instigators, that are unlikely to produce democratic regimes, and the outcome of which cannot at present be determined. It is only on this last point that Miniter and the MSM are in agreement. We don't know what will come next, but if we are to be adequately prepared to face it, we must come to terms with what is happening now, and that is something the MSM has not done.

As Miniter writes, It is vital that we see “Arab Spring” for what it is, not what we want it to be.


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