In an Op-Ed piece for Asharq Alawsat, Mohamed Al Rumaihi writes a useful reminder that just because you saw it in a film doesn’t necessarily make it so.

He’s commenting on the way supporters of both the Muslim Brotherhood and its opponents in Egypt seem to believe that whatever is happening, it’s all due to the US. “The US support the Brotherhood!” cries one side; “The US supports the Army!” cries the other. Both believe, or seem to believe, that the US is omnipotent, that it can just make things happen, usually to the detriment of Arabs and/or Muslims.

If only! Were the US truly omnipotent, it would surely act to force things in directions that benefit it. It might try, but it also signally fails. Those failure ought to suggest that its power is actually rather more limited than imagined. Even if Hollywood films tend to show that Americans win in the end — a supposition of Al Rumaihi’s that I’m not quite prepared to accept — actual history, which is both knowable and should be known, ought to teach the American power is not unlimited, not always correctly applied even for American interests, and, just like any other human endeavor, is subject to human failings and flaws.

Hollywood is not a reliable teacher. Not only are its stories simplified to fit a format, but they are also written and directed to promote specific points of view. Sometimes these films intentionally distort what we know of history; sometimes they only ignore the importance of what they seek to portray. They are no panacea for ignorance, but instead often drive ignorance into stupidity.

Opinion: Thanks to Hollywood, Arabs have an inflated sense of US power
Mohamed Al Rumaihi

In the 1960s, Mutiny on the Bounty was screened in Egyptian cinemas. It was jokingly rumored that the then-president, Gamal Abel Nasser, told his PR manager to send a telegram in support of the rebels. The joke is not only cruel, but also bitter. It indirectly mocks Nasser’s readiness to support any “rebellion,” on the assumption that all rebels have experienced injustice.

It appears that history is repeating itself. The political forces in the Arab region have failed to realize that the main catalyst of the events has been internal, not external, and that outside players offer nothing more than verbal condemnation.

Both sides of the conflict in Egypt claim that the US supports the other side. There is no need to cite examples given that anyone overseeing the media, whether written or audiovisual, can hear and see the accusations both sides exchange.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s slogans and stances are clear. They not only condemn the US for siding with what they call the “Putschists,” they also adopt delusory slogans like “Down with America” and “Down with Israel.” At the same time, the Brotherhood praises the stance of Senator John McCain and his colleagues to the extent that they claim that US politicians are on the side of Mohamed Mursi.

In contrast, many media outlets and politicians in Egypt accuse the US of supporting and empowering the Brotherhood in Egypt, while still expecting them to establish friendly relations with Israel on the other. Nevertheless, wise viewers will realize that politicians twist facts in order to win supporters and tarnish the reputation of their rivals.

August:18:2013 - 08:23 | Comments & Trackbacks (9) | Permalink
9 Responses to ““Omnipotence” via Hollywood”
  1. 1
    Jerry M Said:
    August:18:2013 - 11:05 

    I would guess that the author of this piece hasn’t seen many Vietnam themed movies.

  2. 2
    Aunty May Said:
    August:18:2013 - 16:30 

    Hi John,

    I have not been on the site for sometime. I hope you are well and enjoying your summer.

    May I ask you a question? Is Egypt on the brink of a civil war or has this already ignited?

    Aunty May

  3. 3
    John Burgess Said:
    August:18:2013 - 16:40 

    @Aunty May… I’d say it’s not quite at the brink. What happens over the coming week(s) could push it there, but it’s not there yet.

    You might be interested in this piece…

  4. 4
    Saudi Jawa Said:
    August:19:2013 - 03:29 

    I’ve been morbidly amused by supporters of both sides deriding their opposites as “agents of the USA”.

    I think it’s going to be quite ugly for a while in Egypt, but I doubt it will be outright civil war ala Syria. The Egyptian army is too strong and well entrenched in the Egyptian community, whereas the Syrian army is basically a heavily armed sectarian minority. I also doubt that the MB has enough supporters to mount a successful civil war.

  5. 5
    Solomon2 Said:
    August:19:2013 - 12:49 

    Well, I certainly blame the current Administration for angering tens of millions of Egyptians by siding with an elected president who obviously was seeking to supplant democracy with tyranny by perverting and gutting democratic institutions.

  6. 6
    Saudi Jawa Said:
    August:19:2013 - 13:03 

    I don’t envy Obama. He’s in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Support a democratically elected leader who was trying to subvert democracy, or support the revolution (don’t call it a coup!) that claims to be restoring democracy while slaughtering scores of it’s own people?

  7. 7
    Jerry M Said:
    August:19:2013 - 15:24 

    There is no way Obama can win here. The Islamists are violent. I don’t know if they started the violence during the demonstrations but they are using violence against Christian churches, as if only Christians protested against the Morsi government. I think the Egyptian military used more violence than they had to but at a distance of several thousand miles, I really cannot be sure.

  8. 8
    Solomon2 Said:
    August:19:2013 - 20:46 

    “I think the Egyptian military used more violence than they had to but at a distance of several thousand miles, I really cannot be sure.”

    I’m reasonably sure excessive violence was used. CBS ran a time-sequence of an unarmed, solitary man with his hands up shot dead by a tank gunner – they wouldn’t show the whole video of the event because it was too grisly. This sort of thing is an all too common thing with Arabs: once the commander’s orders to commit unjustifiable deeds are carried out, their followers are wedded more tightly than ever to him and he to they, out of the need for mutual protection from law and justice. If necessary, Arab leaders at times work to create such situations, as Winston Churchill describes in his book The River War of the Mahdi’s successor in Sudan.

  9. 9
    Aunty May Said:
    August:21:2013 - 00:50 

    Thank you John.

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