Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood Moderation Myth Revealed, Then Quickly Dropped Down the Memory Hole

Amazing--an NYT reporter admits the truth about the Muslim Brotherhood and then quickly reburies it.

By Barry Rubin

It is amazing how mass media coverage of the Middle East switches gears and implicitly admits to having been wrong while continuing with the same themes. Or sometimes, buried deep inside an article, there's a flash of truth that conflicts with everything else that's been said, even by the same reporter. But then the light goes out; the stygian dark returns; and it was as if that flash had never taken place.
In working on a new edition of my book, Islamic Fundamentalists in Egyptian Politics, I have reviewed media coverage from January 2011 to the present. It is virtually impossible to find a single reference--and certainly not directly from a journalist--saying that the Muslim Brotherhood was a radical group.

Instead we were told daily that it was moderate, pragmatic, against violence, not really anti-American, and so on. We were told that it was full of moderates and factions, especially of young people.

Instead, the narrative is being falsely shaped in this way:

--The Brotherhood is protecting Egypt from the even more radical Salafists so the West should support them.

--The real battle is between the military and the civilians so the Brotherhood is--or, at least, if it chooses to be--the champion of democracy against the armed forces. Supposedly, then, the liberal Egyptians will be grateful to the Islamist group even as it crushes them.

Now, in a new article, New York Times correspondent Robert Worth tells the story of Mohamed Beltagy, a beloved and heroic (according to Worth) Muslim Brotherhood figure who opposes repression by the military. Worth doesn't tell us that the Brotherhood supports the repression because it helps it to get rid of moderate--though politically inept--rivals. It is, however, clear that people like Beltagy have no real influence in the Brotherhood. In other words, if there are moderates they are marginal in a party that has almost half the seats in parliament.

But then--suddenly!--there's this amazing admission stuck way down in the story and not highlighted in any way:

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