Okay, Egypt has been liberated, now what? Whatever it is had better come quickly. You suppose it'll happen by Wednesday at the latest? Somewhere in some newsroom that's the conversation that's going on. Likely it's a conversation in the 'big time' newsrooms; the networks, the cable news channels.
The U.S. media doesn't do long term coverage well, even wars fall out of favor. What? We have to go to Afghanistan again?! How many shots of dusty roads and American marines walking down them can one audience take? Before the popular uprising in Egypt the story count on both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were way down, even on cable where air time is the one commodity they have plenty of. The war in Iraq is officially over, so I guess that accounts for the decline there. Anybody know what happened to that 'march to democracy' in Baghdad?
We've been told over and over the last few days that this isn't the end of the struggle in Egypt, but just the beginning. The Egyptian Army is in control now, and while it says it will relinquish power and support fair elections, too many times Generals become candidates--singular candidates. Where do you think Mubarak came from? It will be fascinating to watch what happens over the next few months and years. The question is, where will we be able to watch it?
There have been a lot of simplistic explanations of what's happening in the Middle East. The Domino Theory with hummus. Popular theory, espoused on many a news talk show, is what started in Tunisia spread to Egypt and will soon spread across Northern Africa like Rommel and the Afrika Corps. But democracy in this part of the world may face the same fate as Erwin. The misunderstanding on the American media's part is that Egypt is Egypt, period. Egyptians aren't Tunisians and Tunisians certainly aren't Algerians, or Turks, or the Bedouins of the UAE.
But what happened in Egypt did showcase just how wrongheaded the U.S. foray into Iraq was and still is.
Democracy by nature is something that comes from the people, not from an invasion. A goodly number of Egyptians had already figured out they wanted a change and were willing to die for it before they went into the streets. We, the Americans, had almost nothing to do with it. Thus all that talk about how surprised the White House was, how surprised our news media was. What? Someone wanted democracy and didn't call us first?
The best thing we did was to have stayed engaged with Egypt over all these years. To have populated its military with U.S. trained officers, to have had strong diplomatic ties, to have opened our universities to Egyptian exchange students, to have planted the seeds of freedom in the minds of the Egyptians met and touched. The ability to pick up the phone and call various officials in the Egyptian government at critical times was of paramount importance. We had influence. It's what we didn't have in Iraq. How many demonstrations did you see in the streets of Baghdad demanding freedom before we invaded?
Frankly, I honestly believe that Iran, with its growing protest movement, is more likely to achieve true democracy in my lifetime than Iraq. Why? Because the people want it and will be willing to die to achieve it. They will come together as Iranians, something Iraqis have not done, and perhaps, can't.
I have to admit that domestic coverage of events like Katrina and the BP oil spill have by and large been good, in many cases the media stuck with them longer than history would have dictated they would. However, there's an unfortunate reality for today's American news operations. Being short on cash with a declining audience requires them to move quickly to whatever might be the next big thing in order to keep our attention. Maybe, just maybe, that's the wrong approach.
In a day and age when I can get my spot news anywhere at anytime, from sunup to sundown, maybe what I'm really looking for is someone to tell me what might happen next and then someone to stick with the story so that I understand every nuance it has to offer. You know, reporting.
The greatest athletes anticipate their opponents next move. The greatest media outlets should do the same thing. Okay, what's next?
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