Fantasia on the Nile
--Reported by The New York Times
Shape up, autocrats!
Sure, times are tough for the 21st-century strongman. Regimes are teetering. Regimes are toppling. Cry me a river.
Yeah, yeah—we know how hard it is to be a despot these days, especially in the Middle East. Job security? Forget about it. The love of the people? They’re ingrates! And after all you’ve done for them, decade after decade after decade after…
You finished whining yet? Tell me when you’re finished whining.
Here’s the thing: It’s your job. Call yourself what you want—president, tyrant, Most Esteemed Whatsis, whatever—it’s your job. You fought for it. You’ve got it. (For the moment, anyway.) You’re not even vaguely inclined to give it up.
So how about a little professionalism? How about taking some pride in your work?
Those “counter-demonstrations,” for instance? I mean, really! If you’re going to go to the trouble—if you think it’s worth ginning up a “spontaneous outpouring” of your “supporters” to confront the hundreds of thousands of people who want you gone right this second—at least get the stagecraft right!
I understand—you want to show that there’s another side to the argument. That the entire Egyptian population, all 80-something million of them, isn’t unanimously sick to death of you. You want to show the protesters, and the rest of the world, that some of your countrymen still have a warm spot in their hearts for you. They may be thugs, but they’re loyal thugs.
I get all that. So how about putting in a little effort to try to be convincing?
Do “spontaneous outpourings” of “supporters” just happen to arrive together at the central protest site by buses? They do not.
Do they just happen to get off these buses carrying the very same flags, and the very same signs? Printed signs, no less?! They do not.
Do their emotions—a product, no doubt, of their deep dedication to you, not to mention the modest stipend—just happen to reach the boiling point at precisely the same moment? At an easy-to-remember quarter past the hour?
They do not. They absolutely do not.
And that doesn’t even count some of your “spontaneous” fans not bothering to leave their police i.d. cards at home. You might as well have put them all in matching T-shirts: “Hosni’s Hellraisers.”
Like I said: Where’s the pride? Where’s the craftsmanship?
If you want to look spontaneous, you have to look spontaneous! You couldn’t have pulled your guys into some labor hall the night before and handed out the cardboard and the Sharpies? You couldn’t have told them to be at least a little bit creative?
“We Love Mubarak!” “Eternal, Like the Pyramids!” “My Other Car is a Camel!”
Fine—you don’t do creative. Individual thinking isn’t the sort of thing your regime has encouraged for the last 30 years. Fine—then have them do a thousand signs with the exact same message. But at least the handwriting would have been different! You still could have called it “spontaneous,” and people wouldn’t be laughing at you.
Or don’t you even care anymore?
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.