Sunday, June 12, 2005

Arab Media: Our Faith, Their Lies

Dr. Khaled Batarfi,

When the “Voice of Arabs” radio told us triumphantly in the 1960s that Nasser’s Egypt had the strongest army in the region and could throw Israel in the sea if they choose to, we believed. When young, revolutionary, the Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi promised to be the unifier of the Arab world after the death of Nasser, we believed. When Baathists and Arab nationalists carried the “One Arab nation with eternal message” slogan, we believed.

Then came “Alnakbah” (the disaster) of June 5, 1967, when the one army of Israel destroyed not only the “mighty” Egyptian Army but also the Jordanian and Syrian. The Egyptian radio went on with the lies for days. According to the famous anchor Ahmad Said and his colleagues, the Israeli Air Force was losing tens of aircraft daily. This was when most Egyptian jet fighters were destroyed on the ground as though they were sitting ducks. The Egyptian media also claimed that American and British aircraft had joined the Israelis. Needless to say, all were sheer lies.

Many of us knew better afterward. Still, too many continued to believe, even today.

The Arab media kept telling us that all our troubles are due to Zionist conspiracies. They explained to us that we had to prepare for the liberation of Arab occupied lands. Sacrifices had to be made. Freedom, democracy, economic prosperity, good education and all kind of luxuries had to wait. Many believed. Many were skeptical. And as the wait got longer, the prison larger, the civilization gap with the rest of the world wider, more started to get skeptical. Resentment followed.

The new generation, born in a different world, was the most restless. They want to live like their peers in other parts of the world. Satellite TV, the Internet and other modern communication tools gave them an open, unfiltered window. They could see that what they lack others take for granted: Market-oriented training, secured, rewarding jobs, a wife and a home. Some expects even more: Travel, entertainment and (why not?) a car. They resent the military draft. They hate having to serve years in draconic conditions with little or no pay. It feels worse when they see that the rich and powerful can evade it.

The Arab conscious is getting more and more sophisticated and wise. The state media is not. They still sell the same lies and try their best to make us believe them. They want us to believe that some Arab leaders are re-elected because their nations have no better men or women for the job. Arab governments are doing like no other for their people. Our education is the best. Our democratic system is the envy of the world. Security is great not because most Arabs live under police regimes and emergency laws, but because of our wise, strong and honest leaders.

Besides, who said we are poor? Look at Somalia and Liberia and see how lucky we are! Better times are coming. We only need to be patient and work with the government to fight corruption and build a better society. Praise our leaders and pray for them to survive the challenges and win over the enemies and live long enough to get us all into heaven on earth. So don’t listen to the lies our enemies are spreading. Accusation of corruption, lousy management and nepotism are all baseless. Let’s stand together united with our leadership to prove to the envious world that we are truly one, united, strong Arab family.

Then came the Internet and Satellite TV. Then came CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeerah. Others followed and suddenly the truth can’t hide behind the smiley anchors’ faces anymore. The public eye and mind went past the newsroom curtain and the Dear Leader’s portraits to rich sources of information and explanations. So what the media answer would be?

Surprise, surprise! More lies, more going. No one believes? Who cares! There is a whole industry of perception manufacturing. Where would all these people go? How would this entire infrastructure be dismantled? Better leave things as they are, hoping somebody, somewhere still has faith.

Meanwhile, the elite will continue to benefit, the flaws will still be there, and the ship will go on sinking. The people’s knowledge of the truth will grow larger, their patience will get thinner, and the pot will be more and more boiling. The inevitable big bang will happen ... soon enough.

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