Thursday, February 03, 2011

Targeted Foreign Journalists and the Chaos Strategy

Foreign journalists are being targeted in Egypt, says the Guardian liveblog. It also talks about how a police van drove through pro-democracy protesters at speed, and confirmed that the Mubarak thugs had police IDs.

The game is becoming clear, as I noted earlier. Build up a perception of chaos not only in the Egyptian public, but among foreign journalists. Scare them into leaving or intimidate them into following the party line about how the "transition" will be enough. (It won't.)  Force the protesters into arming themselves in order to protect themselves against the "pro-Mubarak" hired goons, and then use that as an excuse to forcibly evacuate the square and suppress the protests.  Without the visible protests, people will start to assume that everything's over. Soon enough, it will be; Mubarak may leave, but his regime will stand.

This whole thing is built on momentum. The reason why the uprising has been so successful is because the crowds never stopped growing. Send the riot police or don't, it didn't matter: there was going to be more, and more, and more people no matter what you did. And since they were non-violent, they couldn't be effectively repressed without inviting the rage of both the country and the world. The cops couldn't do it, the military wouldn't do it, and it had showed no sign of stopping.

That's why he's "resigning" in order to protect his regime. That's why he had to play Mr. Dress-up with the security goons. That's why he's trying to scare the shit out of foreign journalists. He's using them to try to break up the momentum. He's banking on people saying "well, he IS leaving, and in the meantime we need order in Egypt", forgetting that the important part isn't removing the dictator, it's ending the dictatorship. It's a desperation play, and it is going to ruin any shred of credibility the regime has. But sometimes desperation plays work.

The worst part, though, is that if it DOES work, it could stop this wave of democratization in its tracks. Hell, it could stop democratization, period. Every dictator on the planet will watch this and think "aha, THAT is how you stop a non-violent uprising". They'll learn their lessons, and this "chaos strategy" will become ubiquitous. If the people rise up? Rest assured, the goons will be along shortly. Tunisia's dictators just had the misfortune of not knowing about this trick a month ago.

But if non-violent uprisings are neutered, what's left? We already know that neo-liberal pro-market reforms do two things to promote democracy: Jack and Shit. Just ask the Chinese. We also know that neo-conservative imposed democracies don't work, either; the imperial power seems to inevitably and comically screw it up, as we saw in Iraq.  Al Qaeda's pathetic inability to effect any useful change whatsoever shows that using terrorism doesn't do a damned bit of good, even if it wasn't monstrous.

So is armed insurrection all that's left?  Is that the only way that anybody will be able to remove an autocracy post-Egypt?


But it's going to be a depressing-as-hell world to live in if it's true.

Edit: And, yes, I'm sure they're also rooting the journalists out of Tahrir because they want to give the thugs a freer hand.  But I suspect that scaring the shit out of those journalists is just as important.

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