Sunday, July 28, 2013

Public Service Announcement

On the same day that Egyptian police shot dead at least 74 Muslim Brother demonstrators and wounded scores, the Interior Ministry released what it called its first animated short for children. A little boy and his grandfather (a retired police officer) sit on a couch in a spare living room, watching television footage of an earthquake in Turkey. The boy asks his grandfather, “Geddo geddo, what’s an earthquake?” The grandfather recites the geological definition of an earthquake and sagely schools the child in the proper safety procedures in such an event. To the awe of his grandson, he highlights the heroic role of the civil defense forces, “who will sacrifice their lives for us.” The video ends with the message, “We seek to upgrade the thinking of the Ministry of Interior and to provide excellent services, so please cooperate with us.”

Today, at the police cadet graduation ceremony attended by Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, another video was screened showcasing the achievements of the Ministry. The core mission of police is to protect citizens who express their political views, says the video. It heralds the “return of the state of institutions” after “millions” of citizens demonstrated on June 30. To show the bond between police and people, images of police officers assisting elderly people in everyday life alternate with scenes from the June 30 protests of police officers demonstrating, handing out bottled water to protesters, and posing for photos with adoring crowds.

A long interval then lists in great detail the kinds and quantities of weapons confiscated by hardworking police officials. The finale emphasizes the new challenge now facing the police force, “confronting terrorism while respecting the rule of law.” The narrator confidently notes that Egyptian police are no strangers to counter-terrorism, and will succeed in snuffing it out this time just as they had in the past. “The dawn of the Egyptian police radiates with the sun of June 30 and will continue to spread out over Egypt and its security.”

The important thing to note about police propaganda is not how obscenely it distorts reality, for that’s a given. It’s the particular doctrine it seeks to promote. The coercive core of the ruling caste, police and military, have seized upon the June 30 protests to upgrade their longstanding ideology that they are the nation’s uncontested guardians

Like kindly grandfathers, they teach, admonish, forbid, and permit, at their pleasure. “The people” is an undifferentiated mass that acts at the behest of its guardians, filling streets when the guardian-in-chief snaps his fingers and parroting his claims like they’re scripture. Political pluralism, intense conflict, and difference are not allowed. Order, discipline and conformity are sanctified. Anyone who steps out of the mass line isn’t just a dissenter, but an enemy of the nation. He is to be marked a terrorist and killed.