Friday, February 11, 2011

Supporting Democracy

For the most part I have had little to say about the events in Egypt because I have not had a clear sense of what is actually going on. The American media is swooning over the peoples’ movement for democracy, but I have had some doubt about that. I remember the great media orgasm over the “Green Revolution” in Iran, and what a ludicrous misinterpretation of reality that was. European media has been referring to the events in Egypt as being based on economics rather then democratic revolution, and the only concrete demand that I have seen in Tahrir Square has been for the removal of Mubarek, which by itself falls a bit short of a demand for democracy.

Daniel Larison has also been leery of the democracy issue, and he points out that a poll was taken during the uprising and the issue of democracy was checked as the most important issue by only 3% of people in the uprising and as the second most important by only 6% of them. Economic conditions, corruption and lack of job opportunities added up to 60% of first choices, and to 47% of second choices.

That makes all of our media’s hyperventilation about “supporting democracy” and their demands for Obama to “come out in support of the people’s demand for democracy” because “this nation stands for democracy and must be in support of democracy” more than a little bit ridiculous, since the people of Egypt do not appear actually to be making a demand for democracy, but merely for economic justice. That doesn’t mean that we should not support them, we most certainly should, but we should have some idea of what we are supporting, and our media clearly has no clue what is going on in Egypt.

Even before reading the poll, I had a feeling of the surreal last evening as I watched Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow having a mutual case of the vapours over Egyptian events, engaging in rapturous discussion of the miraculous wonders of “a peoples’ desire for democracy” and how “they will not give up.” Maddow declaimed that “this is not a story about us” and then babbled at length about how much Americans love democracy, thereby making the story “about us.” Both of them were utterly thrilled that the Army seemed to be taking charge of the government, which seemed to me to be a little bit at odds with their rapturous excitement about democracy. All of this despite the fact that absolutely nothing was actually happening in Egypt at the time.

They missed that this is an uprising, not a revolution. They missed that it is about economic conditions, not democratic reform of governance. They missed that the Army is not "taking over," the Army has been in control of Egyptian government for more than thirty years.

As they were swanning on about how much “America loves democracy” I had to wonder which America they were talking about, because they were not talking about the one that I live in. When we hold an election well under half of those eligible to vote bother to do so, and they elect people like Michele Bachmann, for God’s sake. Voters profess to disapprove of Congress by a margin of 85 to 15, and then they reelect 95% of its members because challengers did not run enough television commercials to plant their names in the voters’ memories during “American Idol” episodes.

Maybe our media should try “supporting democracy” at home.

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