The Talented Mr. Abdel Aaziz

For the past 2 days my mailbox and the egyptian bloggers group have been abuzz with discussion regarding one man: Dr. Mohamed Mossad Abdel Aaziz. What makes him so special? Well, the man is an expert on the egyptian blogsphere it seems, to the degree that he gets invited to conferences to talk about egyptian bloggers and the state of the egyptian blogsphere. He touts his research on the blogsphere and his personal knoweldge of all egyptian bloggers as his credentials, and for that gets invited to acedmic conferences to speak, the last of which is the Reform, Resistance, and
Conflicts in the Middle East
conference that was held at the Ben Gurion University in Israel on January the 9th. He was on the "weblogging as space resistance" panel, right next to Iranian regime informant famous iranian blogger Hoder, and presented his views on the egyptian blogsphere, again touting his personal knowledge of all of us as proof to his claims, which were videotaped and reported on in the Israeli media. There is only one problem: No one in the egyptian blogsphere has ever heard of this guy and all of his statements are straight out lies.

Here is what the man said in this article (there is also a video in the link, where you get to hear his lies for yoruself, he is the dude with the weird beard), which was translated by the lovely Lisa:

Al Aziz the Egyptian is, in contrast [to Hoder] much more pessimistic -
or, as he puts it, realistic -  regarding the potential of blogs as a
political space. Al Aziz is a handsome young man with a well-groomed
small beard. He is a psychiatrist, anthropologist and writer – who next
week will bring out a book on Islam and post-modernism. He quotes
Foucault every second sentence. They say he had an excellent blog, but
he stopped writing and says he is very disappointed by the Egyptian
blogosphere.

According to his claims, there are abour 100 bloggers in Egypt
and he knows them all. They live in Cairo. They are spoiled kids from
bourgeois families who are equipped with laptops. They meet at the same
cafe – the only one in Cairo that has free WiFi, where a meal costs the
same as the monthly salary of an Egyptian worker. They live in a bubble
and that's how they are online – they write about each other and
respond to one another and nothing they write has any influence.

He said that most of them are opposition journalists who
write the same things on their blogs as they write for their
newspapers, so that what appears to be opposition to the government is
in fact part of the accepted discourse amongst the Egyptian opposition.
In the end they are part of the same elite and the same discourse. "One
blogger who is also a journalist told me he can insult the president on
his blog," recounted Al Aziz. "I told him that he can also insult the
president in the oppposition newspaper he writes for. His response was,
'Yes, but on my blog I can really curse.' So that is what they think
will bring democracy to Egypt?"

Al Aziz said he stopped writing on his blog when he understood
it would not bring change. He recommends that bloggers return to the
original idea of blogging – the personal diary. Instead of trying to be
journalists and regurgitating the same journalistic discourse, just
write about day-to-day problems. "Write about the fact that there is
not enough parking in the city, talk about your daily experiences: that
is what will bring real change."

Let's go over what he said shall we?

First of all, the man doesn't have an excellent blog, he doesn't even have a known blog. Hell, it took a gorup effort to search and find his blog, which nobody had ever heard of until yesterday. And his writing is horrible. For an example, please read this english piece that he wrote on the mid-east conflict. Should give you an idea of the kind of " thinker" he is. Anyway, on to his claims.

First of all, there aren't 100 bloggers in Egypt, there is actually about 6000 egyptian blogs at the moment, and 1100 already registerd on the egyptian blogring, which anybody who had done any reasearch on egyptian blogs would find out in less than 20 seconds. Second of all, he knows them all? He knows all of the egyptian blogsphere? That's a bold statement if I ever heard one. Even Alaa, who runs the egyptian blogs aggregator can not claim to know every single blogger in Egypt. But nevermind. Third factualy wrong statment: "all of them are from cairo and are spoiled kids from burgeouis family".  Ok, where d I start with that one? The egyptian blogsphere is nothing but pluralistic : egyptian bloggers come from every social class, every egyptian governrate and from various income levels, even the so called stars of the blogsphere.  The group that did get famous for its activism comes from Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Al Sharqiya, Al Qalubiyah, and the list goes on and on. The supreme majority come form the egyptian middle class with all of its variations. What the hell is this guy talking about? Nevermind, moving on to his next lie mis-statement, the one about the wi-fi cafe.

Let's ignore for a second his redicilous claim that there is only one wifi cafe in all of Cairo, given that every freakin food or shisa place in Cairo now offers free wifi (shit, even mcdonalds and a couple of really low class baladi egyptian cafes offer that now) and move on to the idea of how the 100 bloggers that make up the egyptian blogsphere meet up there once a month. Now, to my knowledge, egyptian bloggers have never done any monthly meet-up meetings, let alone a consistant one in a specific cafe, but let's also ignore that and think about one thing: What kind of a wifi cafe could take a meeting of 100 people once a month? 100 people. Can you imagine? How the reporter didn't even question him on that statement is beyond me. Anyway…

Needless to say his point about how the majority of bloggers are opposition journalists is an utter lie as well. Not a single known blogger writes currently for an opposition newspaper, nor is our focus the ability to insult the president. Plus, what would rich spoiled burgeois kids do working in opposition newspapers anyway?  But also nevermind that. Let's move to his genius idea to use blogs to facilitate change in Egypt: stop trying to be journalists and instead turn your blog into a diary. Oh, Ok. Nevermind that if it wasn't for blogs the people wouldn't know in details the secterian clashes that took place in Alexandria, nor would they have found out about the Eid sexual assaults, or would the world know about the egyptian police's abuses and torture of regular egyptian citizens. Nevermind all that. Let's talk about Gas prices and not finding parking spaces, that will really solve Egypt's porblems.

I  have no idea where the Ben Gerion University people have found this guy, but they did, and they presented him as an expert of egyptian blogs and the blogsphere, which means one of two things: 1) They deliberately mislead their audience and presnted this guy as an expert when they knew he wasn't, which is very bad academic ethics or 2) They didn't do their research on the man, and paid for his visit and promoted him as some form of expert without doing any background checks, which is equally as bad. And the thing is, the man they brought in did nothing but tarnish the reputation of egyptian bloggers, whom he proved he knew nothing about, which either makes them accomplices who wanted to deliberately tarnish our reputation or Fools who got conned by someone and gave him a podium to spread his lies and promote himself. Either way it looks really bad.

Anyway, as I said before, every egyptian blogger I know is angry about this slander, and we have agreed to draft a letter to the people who organized the conference demanding an apology and sign it. I think we deserve one and we will get it! 

Comments

  1. SM. You know what’s great about this? The fact that ya’ll will translate it and put it out there for those of us who don’t read arabic. Will you thank Lisa again for this reader. In any case, sounds like you get the same type weasels and self-proclaimed idiots who travel around college campuses (for pay) to vomit ridiculous data to unsuspecting students. If your students are anything like us in the US, don’t worry (ie, hung over, checking out the guys & gals, thinking about something else, texting on their cell phones, etc.) The only one interested in what this nut had to say was his brother in law working at the U who got him the job. Look at the bright side: there’s nothing more fun to “read” than angry blogger’s retorts… … ready and waiting. This outta be a good fight! Heh…and no one really has to be killed over it, eh? Cheers!

  2. hi sandmonkey. I’m the blogger & reporter who took the video and quoted abdel aziz. my impression is that he didn’t mean it literally to know them all or that all of them meet at once in some place, but that they come from the same social class, hang out in the same places etc. i was very impressed by his personality and i don’t think he meant to offend bloggers, it seemed to me like part of his post-modern thinking, he quoted Foucault on the fact one cannot form a discourse outside the existing discourse and i think what he expressed most of all isn’t personal but the overall disappointment of an intellectual from the inability to change the reality. i don’t think you guys should be so hard on him although i understand he doesn’t represent you. i must say that when he described “the bubble”, many people smiled and nodded in the audience, since in Israel it’s quite the same, the political blogging is very small and bubbly. maybe that description fit us more than it fit you.

  3. ashoichet says:

    Ah, Ben Gurion University, the Israeli stoners school and cesspool of self-hating professors. (Btw, SM – it’s in Beer Sheva, not Tel Aviv).

    A random googling of the Israelis involved reveals that they’re all members of the extreme anti-Zionist left, writers for the “Occupation Magazine” (???) – learn something new every day, thank you google.

    Mike Dahan, the guy who appears in the video complaining that Israeli blogs aren’t to his liking — in flawless American English and without a trace of a Hebrew accent — was recently fired from BGU for poor research (ha!). I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if these people were duped by some Arab poser.

    Anyway, as I said before, every egyptian blogger I know is angry about this slander, and we have agreed to draft a letter to the people who organized the conference demanding an apology and sign it.

    Please do. Clue in the clueless Israeli academics. It’s like giving charity to the poor.

    PS

    Here’s another article about the conference:

    http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/pages/ShArtPE.jhtml?itemNo=812519&contrassID=2&subContrassID=4&sbSubContrassID=0

    They don’t mention Aziz, they’re mainly fauning over some Iranian guy named Hussein Darheshan.

  4. howard_coward says:

    Ah, university administrators!

  5. SoCalJustice says:

    Dr. Mohamed Mossad Abdel Aaziz

    That name doesn’t get you into trouble in Egypt?

  6. SoCalJustice says:

    how the 100 bloggers that make up the egyptian blogsphere meet up there once a month.

    Protocols of the Spoiled Youngsters of Cairo (by Mr. Mossad).

  7. They don’t mention Aziz, they’re mainly fauning over some Iranian guy named Hussein Darheshan.

    aka Hoder! The savior of mankind! :P

  8. His post about the interview with Haaretz, here:

    Editor: Myself

    You can see how modest he is, too :)

    I recall him ranting and raving about how he couldn’t get back into the US from Canada because the border patrol guy “found out” he was a blogger (wonder how that happened!? Hoder: “Dude, do you know who I AM!?”) and started digging into his background and found out he was actually maintaining a permanent residence in the US when he only had a tourist visa or something, and how unfair it all was, blah, blah, blah.

    The guy is actually pretty entertaining.

  9. ben-gurion university is in dusty ole be’er sheva, not tel aviv! just to let you know.

  10. Sydney’s most influential radical Muslim cleric has been reportedly caught on film calling Jews pigs and urging children to die for Allah.
    Sheikh Feiz Mohammed, head of the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Liverpool, delivers the hateful rants on a collection of DVDs called the Death Series, sold in Australia and overseas, News Limited newspapers report.

    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=94224

    “Today many parents, they prevent their children from attending lessons,” he says in the video.

    “Why? They fear that they might create a place in the their hearts, the love, just a bit of the love, of sacrificing their lives for Allah.”

    “We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam.

    “Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid (holy warrior).

    “Put in their soft, tender hearts the zeal of jihad and a love of martyrdom.”

  11. Good. Stick it to this moron.

    This “shrink” is either an idiot or a liar. What’s his problem? Could it simply be jealousy that his blog sucks and other blogs are much more popular?

    Tell him to get some new material, that might help…his POV is pretty tired.

    Ya know, if someone in Israel (let alone a university) is holdin’ a conference on the “Egyptian blogosphere” you think they’d contact someone who actually runs a semi-decent blog and and get his opinion, last I checked, it wasn’t the highly esteemed and deeply revered Dr. Abdel Aziz that won the 2006 Weblog Awards…

    oops.

  12. honey, I think you’re great. But BGU is Ben Gurion U. not Ben Gerion U. (named after David Ben Gurion). Also, as another commenter said, it’s not in Tel Aviv but in Beer Sheva.

    Cheers!

  13. SM – don’t get insulted, dude, get working to change the wrong perception.

    And yeah, as ashoichet said, Humanities department of BGU is not exactly a bastion of sanity. I think that if these guys would’ve invited you or BP, they’d die from the cognitive dissonance :)

    Seriously, though… if you’re gathering signatures for a petition, I think something that explains to these guys that they are dead wrong and asking them to address this… unfortunate mistake would do more good than an apology. They’re just morons, they’re deserving of pity and possibly some truth and sanity. But the latter two only in small and well-regulated doses :)

    BTW, I must say in defense of BGU that it’s got really, really good Realities, especially nano, bio and chem.

  14. I think SM is a little jealous :)

  15. Tempest in a teapot…but good you said something.

  16. You’ll never be a darling of the left here in the US either, SM. They only like insurgents and terrorists. Like Raed Jarrar.

  17. Roman Kalik says:

    The Humanities department here at BGU can even turn a course like “Select Topics in Science” into a two-bit political argument.

    ‘sigh’ The one uni where you don’t have politicians in the student council but rather running a department instead. You won’t get an apology out of them.

  18. Off topic: “Topping the Department of Finance list of countries owing the most was Egypt, racking up about $1.9 million in fines”
    http://www.cbc.ca/cp/Oddities/070117/K011706AU.html

  19. This guy works for Shell in Egypt as a day job

  20. Sand Monkey Sand Monkey I told you 1000 times don’t defame Egypt, now even you admit that the Israeli University/Israel had something to do with it.

    This is exactly what they wanted to happen, to make us all out as a bunch of idiots. Israel has to survive and without peace they will never make it without destabilizing the region & discrediting youths.

    A lot of really good people in Israel just as in Egypt, it’s the governments that suck for the most part.

  21. Roman Kalik says:

    G… We *have* peace with you Egyptians. This is just a bunch of know-it-all elitist academics. Surely Egypt has its fair share of them as well?

  22. Hoder (the iranian guy) is self styled “king of iranian blogosphere”. He really started Iranian blogosphere going but that was long ago and now he has been left behind.
    The best comment I’ve read about him was” we don’t need kings”

  23. What can I say? Never trust a guy who quotes Foucault every second sentence. ;)

  24. its laughable to say the least. This guy talks like an uneducated jackass. He makes, what I like to call, “taxi driver claims”. You know in Egypt when you get into a taxi and the driver spits out his views on the world and everything in it?

    He makes these bold statements that are so wild and so varying from anything you have ever heard, that you think, “did someoe tell him this crap and he believes it or is he that big of a liar, that he would make all this up with absolutely no truth for a foundation?”

    Thats it, Mr. Abdel Aziz is a taxi driver!

  25. …it’s like Al Gore saying he started the internet…

  26. as both a blogger and an academic researcher of blogs, i think part of this misfortunate incident comes from the inherent gap between the academic discourse and the blog/public sphere one. it also depends on the theories one holds to define change and influence which could be so different.

    since i did the original coverage of this conference which started all of this, and i know Dr. Mike Dahan and his good intentions, i want to ask you to please refrain from trashing someone’s personality or political views, it has nothing to do with this conference. there aren’t many opportunities to make academic ties between our countries and since mike and abdelaziz happened to meet in a conference in Cairo, he was invited since he was the only link available. he also took a great risk in crossing the border since as you know, it’s not so easy to get a visa from the Egyptian side and your motives are always suspected. nothing there was on purpose from the Israeli part. in fact people here want to hear that things change and matter in the world.

    i too had to listen to bullshit lectures of esteemed scholars in their field who took the blogsphere as another case study and came up with complete rubbish, the real fault lies in the different perspective of academic discourse that sometimes can be nothing but detached from reality but sometimes and on a different level of the issue, has a hard truth beneath the surface that we are not ready/able to see. in order to achieve the latter you often fall into the former, i guess. Can you blame someone for having a less popular theoretical standpoint? he spoke for himself and i hope we’ll live to see the times in which our ties will be wormer and merrier and more people could represent a more complex picture of the blogsphere or any other issue.