On rumors

It seems to me that we the Egyptians have a deep love or even an addiction for rumors and gossip.

Over the past couple of weeks, a strong vicious rumor about the health condition of president Mubarak has propagated very rapidly, it was fed by the newspaper El Dostour.  This rumor escalated to the point that a group on facebook, the new electronic social network, was formed under the name “Mubarak is clinically dead since Tuesday”. Such things are outrageous.

It was Rose Al Youssef to bring this rumor out and try to discredit it, since that many writers have started to talk about it.

I had a discussion with some of my young staff who said to me that Mubarak is dead, I started arguing by saying that he has just visited Borg El Arab, the reply I immediately got was that these are old pictures. I said the First Lady is in Sharm El Sheikh for the youth peace forum, and I cannot immagine a fresh widow carrying these activities without a single sign of mourning, I even argued that this is not the case of a dead person whose heirs are trying to get hold of inheritance before someone else appears that might be legitimately an inheritor.

I argued from experience that this is case of emergency procedures, that there are constitutional procedures, that this is the future of a country not a family, I added that we are in the information age that everything is monitored, I even added that we are talking about a high level network between states and states presidents.

However despite all these arguments my staff remained skeptical. I must admit that some of the arguments I used to fight this rumor have been raised by Adel Hamouda in his article in the weekly newspaper Al Fagr.

Nabil Omar in Al Ahram raised many questions, that reveal that we have no protection walls against these rumors, one of his questions also reveal the failure of official media in countering this rumors.

Setting this aside, who would benefit from this rumor? I can point to two beneficiaries, the first one stock market speculators who would benefit from the instability of the market that will lead to stock price going down (artificially) hence they will buy and once stability happens they will ripe the profit. The second is the Muslim brotherhood who lately has been under a strong security attack and who would like to turn the attention from their case by attracting the attention to another more serious piece of information even if it is totally wrong. This is an act that will help them stop the degradation of their public image after their plans are being exposed and after the Hamas experience in Gaza has given a model that might be followed in Egypt if they take power, may God forbids it.

Going back to the official media failure, this is one of the major flops of the information ministry; unfortunately it confirms that nowhere in the Egyptian cabinet a crisis plan exists. Crisis has been the label of this cabinet.

One conclusion this addiction to rumors means that there is a vacuum in the field of information, there is also a high degree of dissatisfaction among Egyptians. It also reveals that the supreme interest of the country has been lost in favor of more commercial values of increasing distribution or acting as a smoke screen.


9 Responses to “On rumors”

  1. 1 khaled azab September 6, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    nice blog, should you add more informations on the ohter people

  2. 2 Basim Sultan October 7, 2007 at 8:36 am

    Where are your thoughts ya Dr. Rafik? I missed ’em

  3. 3 yasser sharaf October 17, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Hello Mr Rafik;
    I would like to say hi after sometime no see, and to express my admiration for your nice blog. I am tempted to leave a comment on this particular issue.
    First, a point of culture; as long as there are humans there will remain rumours, at any time and space even in a third dimension and on any subject.
    I won’t go on debate as who would benefit from this rumour, in my humble opinion, this is not the main issue. just have a look at the political scene now a days:
    A president who has been ruling for 27 years, over 80 years old in an autocratic political regime. He is the sole player in everything in our life (Misr/Mubarak)and no replacement on the scene beside him.
    He stumbled while giving a speech 2 years ago and people saw it on TV and travelled to Germany for some convalescence.
    He was admitted to the international hospital for some tests just a few days before spread of the rumour, and an abnormal security activity was reported by all international media at the hospital a few days before his visit. So when he went to the hospital to do some tests, and left same day, word then spread.
    What else do you need for a rumour?????
    Everything is there… An old sole president with a centralized autocratic authority, a fearing crowd for their future who sees no alternatives and cannot imagine the idea of their president being sick or dead, then without thinking of anyone who might benefit, this is totally normal.
    Now on the other hand, look at the official response, everybody attacked the rumour and the media. They blamed the people for believing it, they even set Sheikh al Azhar, Tantawy, to indict those who gave out the rumour and not the fertile situation that led to the rumour in the first place. We always circulate around the problem, anything, but never discuss the name Hosny Mubarak in public, he is our DIVINE element!!!!
    No body, except very few, talked about solving the real problem, the void political arena itself, no body except Gamal Mubarak is there, we are bound to accept the heritage or go to hell.
    Have you ever heard a rumour about the health state of any of the presidents in the free world, never… Don’t they have rumours?? Of course they do… they are human beings… but they are never left to speculate. The president’s health is common knowledge. Any problem is carefully disclosed. The people have the right to know, its their choice and he is the president they chose.
    Back to us, we are left to the wind, we don’t know what’s for tomorrow, and please never tell me there are constitutional procedures that are well known and will be effective as soon as the president succumbs… As we say in arabic, a very true statment for the very wrong purpose or meaning… We are in Egypt with a 50 years of a military political history, if the president dies with no acceptable vise president on the scene, guess what… chaos, especially that there are newcomers to the political scene like the Muslim brotherhood, hungry crowd and others not the time or place to talk about.
    Our beautiful Egypt turned ugly, socially, politically, architecturally etc…
    If you are a dreamer like me, I would just like you to watch the American series THE WEST WING on showtime, if you don’t have showtime you can have it from amazon, have a look at what democracy should be. Maybe some othe rtime we can debate the series itself, but it is depicting a Democratic party president (mostly Bill Clinton)I watch, learn, laugh and dream with a deep sorrow inside me. To tell you the truth, I’m not fascinated by the American society, though I like americans, and I’m too old to be stunned by such things, but I love my country really as much as I know you do and nearly all of us, however we can’t link our country’s larger than life historical name to anybody’s name however great or small he is and there remains hope.
    have a nice day sir.

  4. 4 rafiknakhla October 19, 2007 at 10:21 am

    yes rumor exist with humans, but we Egyptians have a bigger admiration and adoration for them, it might be a way to express discontent and release pressure, but what I have noticed that with logical facts people prefer to believe in rumors.
    talking about the autocratic regime, this has been the regime since 1952 so whatr is new, we have a habit of creating pharoas and semi gods from our rulers.
    By the way I follow intl media and nothing special appeared about him during this period.
    The bottom line is that any vaccum needs to be filled and the first available filler will be made avaiulable, so if regular media creates a vaccum other will fill it, if Egypt TV refuses to produce a series about King farouk someone else will, if the civil society is shrinking then other unofficial forces will do.
    We need a cultural overhaul عمرة شاملة to correct these drawbacks. one of them is lethargy we fancy talking but expect others to do the job. take the issue of inheritance we object we cry scandal but do not present any alternative, instead we should think how to guarantee that if it happens it happens in a totally transparent manner under very strict control.
    The problem is that we have seen the same scenario twice the vice president becoming the next president and accordingly look at it as tested and tried and should be projected into the next change, the absence of a vice does not provide us with the right image of the future we all need to get this assurance. the other side of the coin what if we have a vice that is hated by the people, we would have another reason to be negative. It is a vicious circle and as I mentioned a major change of culture and thinking is needed. this is only possible through two ministries education and media they are the ones to shape the brains of Egyptians.

  5. 5 engy ramzy November 1, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    hello Dr. Rafik,

    I have only one comment about this phrase
    the Egyptians do not trust official media and we have the whole right not to do . after all those lies we hear and watch all the time in our television and official media it is easier to belive rumors (in absence of good food pepole will eat whatever is available)

  6. 6 rafiknakhla November 1, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    I would agree that there is mistrust, however with the open skies it is easy to check on international reliable media as CNN the validity of a piece of news.
    What was intriguing for me was that we have seen the first lady during the rumor and it is very hard for a widow to perform as she did.
    Rumors spread in the absence of transparency and in case of dissatisfaction or in periods of change it is during this last case that they represent some wishful thinking.
    Whether we like it or not we have a strong adoration for rumors

  7. 7 MOHAMED ELGENDY November 6, 2007 at 9:20 am

    Dear Dr.Rafik,
    I think that the point here that all of us when heared this rumor,Felt inability to expect anything or do anything regarding it,So,at this moment we would accept any change or any person who will go front to lead us.

    What i think about is that what will happen in this moment ,Are we on this low degree of deterioration that we become witing our fate and not react ?

  8. 8 rafiknakhla November 6, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    There are two points here, first our adoration for gossip and rumors to a point that we believe them and take them as the truth.
    the second point is the content of this rumor and how it propagated and how media was complacent in handling it.
    We should not forget the every year rumor of a change in cabinet but it is not as mean and vicious as this one.
    The problem is that for the first time we do not see the next step, we are also reluctant to accept that Gamal could be a good candidate. You can notice this high reluctance through the cries of scandal that arises from time to time.
    Instead of doing so one has to suggest an alternative

  9. 9 mohamed abdel raouf November 9, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    hi dr rafik :
    i think the rumors in very dangours not in egypt only but in all the world
    some of arms won a war by the rumors and some of bussiness in egypt denend on the rumors
    but the mistake is from us because we believe any any think told to us
    note i like the destor newspaper

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