Egypt, the Distance between Populism & Revolt

Posted on January 27, 2011 | No Comments

It is 2200 kilometers from Cairo to Budapest; 2090 kilometers from Cairo to Tunis; and only 1396 kilometers from Tunis to Budapest. Whereas the revolt in Tunis has inspired other North African uprisings, it is fair to ask why the the media played an Ray Ban outlet enabler for Tunisia while being collectively ambivalent on similar conditions in Egypt. A friend of freeDimensional and artist in Cairo wrote to say that ‘yesterday was the most significant day of my life’ referring to a street protest (pictured in at bottom right) he participated in on Tuesday, January 25.  Twitter is down reports Laura Flanders and we’re all wondering why Obama didn’t add the word Egypt when he spoke of the fight for democracy in Tunisia in his State of the Union address.  Is Tunisia – smaller, not as strategically-situated, and practically jutting across Europe’s frontier – a safer expenditure of newsprint and airwaves?  Take Hungary for example – the current seat of the European Union presidency – where the “national public media is being concentrated, slimmed down and is now managed by government appointees.”  The same BBC article reports that “Prime Minister Viktor Orban has sought to defuse the crisis by accepting that EU legal experts will now go through the new legislation with a fine-toothed comb.” Can the west’s support of Tunisia hold water if support is not also given to the protestors in Egypt.  When the EU shows signs of tolerating rightwing populism (e.g. Hungary) — and with a new enough legal system that related populism across Europe can inform interpretation at the macro-level — can we also expect that Europe’s immigration concerns and their depiction in the media will take primacy over aspirations for democracy just across the Mediterranean?

Pictured top right: Slim Amamou, the Tunisian dissident blogger who helped circulate news and video aimed in protest against the former government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was appointed minister for youth and sport in Tunisia’s interim government (as reported by Al Jazeera).  See current issue of e-flux journal, On the Rise of Right-Wing Populism in the US and Europe, and What It Means for Contemporary Art. See Alisa Solomon’s Clampdown in Hungary piece in The Nation.


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