Egypt continues to gossip

People in Egypt are kept busy with silly affairs while prominent figures free themselves for the real thing

Bassem Youssef
Bassem Youssef
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I don’t need to write a detailed article in order to provide legal and moral proof that the recent broadcast of recorded phone conversations made by Egyptian activists is a crime. Such an act is certainly a crime and the host who aired the recordings, the officer who leaked them and the entire apparatus which recorded these conversations must be punished. But questions like “has the attorney-general allowed the recording these conversations?” and “how come these scoundrels haven’t been punished?” have lost all value now. Quite honestly, there’s no need for them at all.

The fact that there have been leaks did not surprise me but what did surprise me was the quality of these recordings. Simply speaking, the content of these leaks is not significant at all! So one of them is joking with his friend, another is saying “fine, check my file for me” and another is saying some rude statements over the phone. In brief, such leaks are insignificant and are of no quality whatsoever.

Despite that, people busied themselves with this nonsense. The audience overlooked the fact that these leaked recordings do not expose treason or collaboration and instead they focused on the “scandal” although there is no scandal. People focused on talks about secrets and talks in bedrooms although there are neither secrets nor bedrooms! These silly leaks succeeded at distracting citizens and occupying them with gossip such as “guess what, they’ve actually caught him talking over the phone!”

There’s nothing at all worth commenting on. The entire aim of all this is to create a state of gossip and rumors. It’s similar to when prominent journalists and analysts revealed the amount of lobster, duck and goose which Mohammad Mursi ate on a daily basis at the presidential palace. These are silly details and stupid stories which cannot be used in affairs linked to espionage or to killing protesters but which are enough to create an atmosphere of tattletale.

It’s as if the aim of these leaks is to keep people busy with nonsense, to waste their efforts discussing insignificant issues and in the end to curse the country and politics. This is exactly the aim.

Therefore it doesn’t make a difference to condemn the host or condemn the sovereign authorities because insults eventually come to an end. We also don’t care about our scandal which made it to Western media outlets because our state apparatuses are busy with insignificant matters like the “Abla Fahita“ affair - the Vodafone advert starring a cartoon character accused of delivering encoded messages for a terrorist attack. It doesn’t matter my dear because it’s not as if our image is that good so it’s okay if we add some humor to the mix.

It’s as if the aim of these leaks is to keep people busy with nonsense, to waste their efforts discussing insignificant issues and in the end to curse the country and politics

Bassem Youssef

What is tragic is that people ignored the fact that it’s unacceptable to record someone’s conversation and instead engaged themselves with who insulted who! So, instead of discussing the constitution, freedom of speech, suppressive practices and security failure, we were handed a “candy” to waste the time with. At one point, there are the phone leaks, at another there’s the puppet and at another there are conspiracies which you don’t understand but which you actually believe. But don’t worry if you ever wake up from all this nonsense, because there’s a lot more.

The Muslim Brotherhood failed at turning the political struggle into a religious one. So when Mursi started criticizing the people based on who prays at dawn and who doesn’t, the naive citizen “who’s conservative in his nature” condemned this behavior and rejected it. But now, my “tattletale aunt” has managed to make everyone gossip. It was thus easy to shift attention from political struggle towards gossip. People are thus kept busy with silly affairs while prominent figures free themselves for the real thing. This is exactly the aim.

Nervous laughter

Only God knows if there’s a systematic plan to spy on the Egyptians. Only God knows if what the host revealed is merely the beginning. But this is not important now. Dear citizen, you drained your efforts discussing leaks and awaiting more of them as if you’re looking forward for the next episode of a Turkish soap opera. But at the same time, and as you speak over the phone, you jokingly say: “be careful as [they might] be spying on our phones.” You jokingly say this but deep inside you are actually tense because there’s a possibility that your conversations are really being recorded. Therefore, and without even noticing it, you begin to monitor yourself and your very own statements. This is exactly the aim.

Some people’s lives now resemble a James Bond movie! For example, some people put their cellular phones in a different room as they sit with you to chat. Rumor has it that there’s a developed means of technology that monitors your activity even when your cellular phone is off. They have thus created an atmosphere of fear that everything you say might at some point be broadcast to the public! And that’s exactly the aim.

By the way, I really hope this developed technology does in fact exist, and I call on the relevant authorities to use this technology to spy on terrorists and on those carrying out explosions and killing soldiers and citizens. It’s not necessary that they stop spying on us in our bedrooms. Just whenever they get bored with us, they can dedicate two hours of their time to spy on terrorists.

Ordinary citizens who are closely following up on the leaks are worried about their personal life. While discussing the “Abla Fahita” issue, they mockingly think to themselves “If they did this to a puppet, so what will they do to us?!”

Can you sense this fear? This is exactly the aim.

Have you seen such an amount of birds killed with one single rock?

First of all, you are drained discussing immoral silly affairs. And in the future, spying on our daily lives and gossip will become normal and acceptable.

Second of all, you don’t know whether your phone conversations are being recorded or not. But be cautious as you talk over the phone. You might now become suspicious that your conversations are being recorded or that your friends are hired to spy on you.

Can you feel it?

In Tunisia, many people were afraid of discussing certain matters in their homes because they thought that Ben Ali’s security apparatuses had planted highly-developed spying devices in every street and every alley. After Ben Ali’s departure, it was never confirmed that these devices existed. But the mere fear of the idea that you’re being spied on made people afraid of even speaking within themselves.

Can you feel this atmosphere? This is exactly the aim.

And if you think this article is full of conspiracy theories and illogical hypothesis, then so what? Everyone is doing that so why be annoyed by me?

So I’ll tell you my thoughts before you act like you understand what’s going on and criticize the dumb government saying: “The government [is seriously] busy with a puppet and stupid leaked phone [conversations]”

No sir, the government is not as dumb as you think. The aim has been achieved while you weren’t paying attention.

This article was first published in al-Shorouk on Jan. 7, 2014.


Bassem Youssef is is an Egyptian doctor, satirist, and the host of El Bernameg ("The Program"), a satirical news program broadcast by a private Egyptian television station. The press has compared Youssef with American comedian Jon Stewart, whose satire program The Daily Show inspired Youssef to begin his career. Despite all controversy and legal debates it has sparked, El Bernameg has been a major success. It is constantly topping the regional YouTube charts, making Youssef's YouTube channel one of the most subscribed to in Egypt.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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