Friday, May 13, 2016

The Economist's special section on the Arab world

Such decline in the quality of Economist's reporting in the Arab world--and beyond.  There is a big special section on the Arab world and it is such a disappointment.  It is an anthology of cliches that you read in the articles of Thomas Friedman and other writers in mainstream US newspapers, including USA Today.  Worse, there is a clear political endorsement of the political recipe of Arab monarchist potentates.  Hell, from this section, it emerges that King of Morocco and King of Jordan represent the best hope for the Arab people.  In the first section (about the clash of civilization), they include a sectarian map of the Arab world (which they rake from someone at Columbia University) and the map (I still can't post pictures here) shows the entire area of south and east Lebanon as being Shi`ite.  The entire Sunni presence of North Lebanon is erased.  That tells that there is a deterioration in quality control in the Middle East section.  The Sykes-Picot section is such an inaccurate generalization of Arab history: they have the Palestinian "help start" the Lebanese civil war, when the Palestinians in fact resisted participating in the civil war, certainly resisted the Lebanese Muslim and leftist pressures to engage more actively in the war.  And the entire section basically while hailing the King of Morocco and King of Jordan, puts so much of the blame on Nasser--kid you not.  For some reason, they were able to blame the entire mess of the Arab world on Nasser.  Foreign Western intervention and manipulation of the region and its conflicts are left unmentioned except in passing (they have a brief section but really historical and deals with how Obama has left the region entirely), or the brief (brief?) US military intervention in Lebanon 1982-84 (as if before and after this date the US was not intervening heavily in Lebanon).  Nasser died in 1970 but he still managed to cause the rise of ISIS and economic problems for the region.  And the reference to the crisis of legitimacy (which Ghassan Salame mentions in the article on Mamluk regime) is far from new: Michael C Hudson wrote a book about that back in 1977.  In fact, the article says this about the Jordanian regime: "During the Arab spring both (meaning Jordan and Moroccan despots) made a show of responding to demands for greater freedom"--this about the Jordanian regime where the king just amassed more "constitutional powers in his hand.  And in the economic section, the problems of Saudi Arabia are presented as purely technical: finding jobs for the youth.  There are no political problems to speak of there.  And for sectarianism, they basically ignore the blatant Saudi regime policies of endorsing sectarian hatred and rhetoric and wars throughout the region, and ignore US role in the sectarian divisions of Iraq, and blame it all on one man: not Nasser this time but Nuri Al-Maliki.  The war on ISIS is entirely presented as a US effort: they refuse to concede that Russian jets have bombed the hell out of ISIS and its oil facilities.  This conflicts with their narrative.  And the reference to May 17 agreement between Amin Gemayel's government and the Israeli occupation state is presented as one which was only opposed by Syria.  There are no references to indigenous Lebanese opposition to the humiliating treaty.  Oh, and they claim that Hizbullah invented car bombing.  Well, was Hizbullah behind the car bomb in 1920 on Wall Street, or the Bath car bombing in Michigan in 1920s, or the Stern gang car bombings in Palestine, or the OAS in Algeria?  But then again: one of the correspondents of the Economist in the Middle East is also a writer for an Israeli newspaper.  The Economist has changed that much.