Al-Ahram declares war on America, metaphorically speaking

Metaphors can be brutal. They can tell one much, especially in terms of what they hide. Egypt offers a lesson

by Ahmed Abdel-Raheem on 24 July 2013 07:09

As a metaphor analyst, I can say that images have powers that can kill. Furthermore, analogies can constrain and direct our policies. And, as a general fact in cognitive science, when metaphors and frames don't fit the facts, the facts will bounce off and the metaphors and frames will stay.

Crucially, some days ago the most widely circulating Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Ahram depicted in cartoon form a group of jihadists as marionettes (or string puppets) controlled and manipulated by Uncle Sam.

The metaphor highlights that the US― which, from Al-Ahram's perspective, backs the Muslim Brotherhood― is behind the current violence happening in Sinai and other Egyptian governorates. Furthermore, America, the sponsor of terror here, doesn't want peace and democracy in Egypt.

This might be true. But what does the metaphor hide?

Egypt has currently two main opposing powers: one supporting Morsi, and the other opposing him. As such, the present Egyptian violence is natural, and America may have nothing to do with it. Also hidden by the metaphor is that the US, whose foreign policy might have manufactured terror, was a big victim of terror on 9/11, and, as such, has waged long wars against terror both in Iraq and Afghanistan, killing Al-Qaaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

Staying with this line of thought, the cartoon also suppresses the idea that, like any country in the world, the US is keen only on its national interest; no matter who takes power in Egypt. (In my view, it's not in America's interest to add fuel to the fire in Egypt.)

Furthermore, the MB activists themselves see that the US let that military coup succeed; and, as such, the US has betrayed the ballot-box legitimacy that brought Morsi to office in 2012. Dangerously, the nation-as-person metaphor hides here that terror cannot be represented by countries, but rather by individuals and groups.

Importantly, even if the American government supports violence, America, the country, has many simple ordinary people, who are opposing the government's policies. In other words, to depict America as a sponsor of terror is to encourage violence and terror against its innocent people.

Al-Ahram, which is understood as loyal to the state, continued its demonisation of America two days ago, when, in a red sub headline on its front page, it argued that it had revealed the American conspiracy against Egypt and the details of the final hours of Morsi's rule. Ann Patterson, the American ambassador to Egypt, has denied such allegations. But what does all this denote?

Al-Ahram uses the conspiracy theory (which is deeply rooted in the Egyptian mind, in particular, and in the Arab mind, in general) to dazzle the army General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and portray him as a national hero, who, from Al-Ahram's perspective, would challenge America, as did Jamal Abdel-Naser, the late Egyptian president (a military man too) after the revolution of 1952.

It would be legitimate for Al-Ahram to support the coup; but it's not legitimate to stigmatise America as a sponsor of terror.

Al-Ahram's moves continued the day before yesterday, when, in order to take the pulse of pro-Morsi protesters, it said that Morsi was to be jailed for 15 days under investigation. And after very few hours the Attorney General then negated the news.

Yesterday, Abdel-Nasser Salam, Al-Ahram's editor-in-chief, was to be interrogated. 

Finally, I think the army has begun carrying out its roadmap, including the notion of creating a media code of ethics... hasn't it?

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