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
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!