Sunday 4 December 2011

Egypt: The Other battlefields.

With media focus on Tahrir, violence and so many other media friendly events it’s very easy to overlook the other battle grounds in the clash between anti-SCAF groups, and SCAF or pro-SCAF groups. But before I get to those battlefields and what SCAF is doing to win them, let’s see a few facts (if you're only interested in knowing what the other battlegrounds are, Jump to the second part) ;

It’s no secret that SCAF is waging a full blown conventional media war against protesters, especially those calling for a National salvation government, using state controlled media. They’ve been doing the same since after Mubarak stepped down.

The state owned and SCAF controlled media has even been demonizing & attacking privately owned networks that are critical of its actions, be it through raiding their offices, slandering their presenters, stopping shows from airing, or even just interrupting their broadcast occasionally.

Some of the methods they’ve been using are primarily associated with the Economy (The often laughed at term “Wheel of production” often used), and security. In both cases they tend to blame the protesters for deficiency in both.

The Economy:

Considering the Economy for example, they often broadcast widely how much the stock market has lost due to protests or strikes….etc. while mostly failing to even mention when the stock market recovers whether completely or partially. Newsflash: Stock markets go up and down. Especially in turbulent times. 

They make up random figures about how much the protests cost Egypt per day, but fail to mention the cost of the tons of tear gas they used to gas the protesters (in 2009 33,770 units were valued at $458,090, how many units do you think they used in November, and how much has the cost per unit risen since 2009?). Keeping in mind, that some of the gas used was British made, meaning the purchase of said items does not fall under the US-Egypt Military Aid agreement. Also bearing in mind, that according to US state department spokesperson Mike Toner, the gas was paid for by Egyptian funds, not by US Aid money, since the shipments were for the Ministry of Interior, not the Egyptian Army. Of course this is all not keeping in consideration that the negative health effects of the CS gas used can last for up to a year, a fact that led five Port workers to try to block part of the 21 tons of tear gas that were being shipped into Egypt for fear that it would be used against protesters.

They always fail to mention that the Internet black out during the January 25th protests, cost Egypt around an estimated 90 $ million not counting that international companies continue to pull out investments from Egypt in the absence of guarantees that this scenario (the Internet black out) will not be repeated. To put it in the words of a Paris Based think tank Organization for EconomicCooperation and Development: "(it is) much more difficult in the future to attract foreign companies and assure them that the networks will remain reliable."

They fail to mention the effect of tormenting Egyptian expats on their right to vote (playing a game of cat and mouse until finally allowing expats to vote) on remittances, which according to the World Bank reached 9.75Billion Dollars in 2010. Keeping in mind that according to Abu Bakr al-Guindy,director of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS)  “net remittances from January to June 2011 reached about US$6.31 billion, a 2.3 percent increase over the US$6.17 billion earned during the same period in 2010.

They fail to mention that Suez Canal revenue has actually increased during the first 6 months of 2011 brining in 2.55 Billion us Dollars as opposed to 2.26 billion in the same period in 2010

They fail to mention that "exports have increased since February 2011. August exports were up 4.7 percent over the same month last year. "

They blame protesters for the drop of Tourism, which the Egyptian economy is highly dependent on, even though they constantly run xenophobic campaigns against anyone that looks “Foreign”, asking for “Honest citizens” to help capture those “Foreign looking” people and turn them in to the authorities where the authorities proceed to brutally abuse them physically and sexually, or at the very least, hold them in detention on fabricated charges. Not only that, but the officials themselves are basically telling “telling travelers to stay away or go home” by making it hard for them to come or even stay in Egypt. Even Egypt's tourism minister has blamed the media for the situation. Amusingly enough, the tourism industry has lost a grand total of 1.94$ Million (34.8%) in the first 6 months of 2011, in comparison to the same period in 2010.

They will cry out against the closure of the Egyptian nitrogen plant in Damietta after residents got it shut down through protesting, saying it costs Egypt millions, even scaring the residents into accepting it, but conveniently ignore that the pollution the plant causes due to lack of enforcement of environmental protection measures costs the area millions to billions in long term damage to the environment, be it agriculture, animal life, fishing and marine life, or otherwise.

No one questioned the cost of the “celebrations” by the military during several occasions.

No one questions the fact that Maspero, as well as other government owned media institutions, Cost Egyptians millions upon millions.

Amusingly enough, the Government itself (Finance Minister Hazem El-Beblawy ) says that while Egypt is going through a rough time, it is not going to go bankrupt… even while the media constantly scares people into thinking we’re going to go broke.

They claim they don’t have the funds to increase government worker salaries or impose a minimum wage, while at the same time increasing police force wages by up to 200% costing millions, or running an ad campaign to improve the image of the police costing millions if not billions, even though the police have not done their jobs since January 24th (or if we’re being picky, they haven’t really done their jobs in years)

They fail to address the cost of lack of security on Egypt’s economy, leading me to…


They love to blame the lack of security on protests and strikes. But ask yourself this; if the protests really do cause a lack of security, how many days in the last 10 months have there been protests? Why is there a lack of security on days that don’t have protests?

It is entirely silly to believe that a police force of over 1.5 million is unable to maintain security.  It’s interesting to note that while there are incidents, the security situation in general is a largely manufactured fear, be it by the police refusal to do their job (or at least do it properly), or by a recent Gallup poll that states that the crime rate has gone down to around 3-4% and yet up to around 50% of Egyptian people feel unsafe. Perhaps suggesting that the crime rate hasn't actually gone up. Instead it's spread to areas that weren't known for high rates of crime (There are areas in Egypt that have been known to have rampant crime for almost a decade, with little to no police presence whatsoever.)

Why is it Activists are cracked down on, even though they previously said they wouldn’t crackdown on activists, while thugs are still supposedly running rampant according to their media?

On a side-note. A personal friend of mine that owns a factory in Egypt, had an entire truck full of merchandise worth 3 million Egyptian pounds get stolen on a well populated road that the Ministry of Interior have claimed to have secured. He has had to stomach the loss of the merchandise and the truck, send out another truck with merchandise of the same value, as well as pay a 500,000 L.E contractual fine because the merchandise was delivered late. Yes, of course it's all the protesters fault. If they were protesting on that road, we might have seen more police there than ever necessary. 

I'm already aware of all this, What are the battlefields you spoke of?

While the Regime (i.e SCAF), have always had the stronger bases of power, including actually being in power & controlling the media, Anti-Regime activists have only had three basis of power; The streets, the protests, and the internet.

The power of anti-regime activists in Streets & or in protesting have either been lost or severely diminished, mainly due to the violent media campaigns against protesters and their demands.

What about the Internet?

Well, SCAF is currently trying to shatter that power base as well, First of all through the "Internet filter law" that they're trying to impose, Scaring activists by threatening to arrest or fine them for tweets, Imprisoning activists for their blog posts, and various other methods.

The newest method?

A Cyber Army.

SCAF called for "Volunteers" for their cyber army on their facebook page
What is a cyber army?

There are two types of Cyber Armies; The kind that does hacking, infiltration...etc , and the Type that goes out of it's way to spread government propaganda.

In this case, the Cyber army is probably the propagandist type; The type that goes out of it's way to change public opinion online, be it through social networks like twitter, you tube or facebook, or other sites like wikipedia, to spread the pro-regime bias to readers at home or abroad. 

How effective are cyber armies? Israel's CAMERA itself had created a cyber army with the intent to edit all wikipedia articles with an anti-Israel bias. Syria's Assad has a cyber army dedicated to spreading pro-Assad propaganda all over the internet with varying effectiveness. 

In any case, a Cyber army can be largely ineffective, or largely effective. It depends on several factors, but in no case should it be ignored or overlooked, especially when supported by a power base like SCAF.

besides with the SCAF priding themselves on Elections (that occurred with a suspicious absence of violence nationwide), and Egyptians that went out to vote seeing the Army & police being all helpful and polite, who will believe activists, protesters and images like this;

When they have images like these all over Social networks ?

Perhaps SCAF's new Cyber Army won't need to look too hard for Ammunition.

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