Al Jaz shut down in Cairo

Al Jazeera, the august Arab news station that is less biased than the BBC, has had its bureau shut down in Cairo.

It follows the shutting down of the internet and restrictions on the rest of the media.

While President Mubarak apparently cowers in his redoubt in Sharm el Sheik, with a heavily guarded jet, engines running, at the airport, Egypt has descended into a miasma of anarchy and looting. Police are absent from the streets and the shutters are up.

Two things:

The first is that it is now built into the mindset of moribund elites to shut down social media at the first sign of trouble. Perhaps, as bloggers, we need to bear this in mind. Secondly, how does one read the situation in Egypt? Like the fall of the Berlin wall, or a bit of local difficulty? This question obviously resonates with Fraser Nelson today.

What is unclear at the moment is who will arise from the ashes; a broadly pro-Western faction or a more militant Muslim one. My guess is that this will prove to herald decades of uncertainty and instability in the region. Repression, works. It keeps things very normal. New found freedom does not sit well with the general, especially if it is explosive and unfettered.  I think Russia is a paradigm: for a while you had freedom and democracy. Now it is a bandit nation run by bandits. Babies, tipping bath-water.

UPDATE: I have just seen this posted on Charles Crawford's blog:

"The prospects of the tumult leading in the short term to something like a 'normal' democratic new form of government in Egypt must be close to nil"

Great minds eh?


RMcGeddon said...

It seems to depend whether the Muslim Brotherhood get the faithful out onto the streets. Then it's game over for Mubarak.
Imagine all those shiny tanks and guns turning around and facing Israel.

RMcGeddon said...

Oh I forgot to say. 'Newsnetscotland' have a reporter on the ground in Cairo who is filing great stories and pictures..

Charles Crawford said...

Thanks for the link.

I wrote a short speech for Geoffrey Howe back in 1987. The theme was all about what happens when prisoners kept in dark filthy conditions for years get the lights turned on and are allowed out.

Are they mainly delighted to be free? Or mainly enraged at the sight of the disgusting way they have been treated?

At last the Internet gives the Arab people the choice they never knew they had (cf your Weasel Wisdom quote). But without a local cultural tradition of pluralism and self-restraint, it is hard to see anything like a 'moderate democracy' emerging for decades to come.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

RMC, I think Mubarak will be stashing gold and ringing around for a floor to sleep on.

Charles, An interesting question from the Howe speech. I suppose the answer is one followed by the other.

I have always thought of the internet as a sort of samizdat. Given the propensity of repressive regimes to shut it down, best not to put the printing press in the skip.

There are historical parallels about opression followed by instant freedom. In the case of us Britons, not only did we revert to tribalism after the Romans left, our commercial and social infrastructure crumbled.

I think your analysis is correct of course, and carries far more weight than mine.