Please Stop Beating Up the Journalists

by Rebecca Schoenkopf

Just three days ago, it seemed like Egypt might throw itself a velvet revolution—a (nearly) blood-free, gore-less transition where the sad, unloved dictator took a look at all the people who were so very mad and decided maybe now was a good time to get gone.

You know who’s not a Middle East scholar? Me! I am an American, and as such find it wholly unnecessary to know stuff about places that are not here. (If I happen to know an inordinate amount—again, for an American—about Latin American death squads and John Negroponte in Honduras in the ’80s, it’s more a product of a Slumdog Millionaire-style set of happenstances. I happen to have had a bunch of commie nuns in Catholic school in junior high who showed us Romero, about the leftist archbishop being murdered by Roberto D’Aubuisson, who was US-backed and -trained. And my mom happened to have been big in peace politics in the ’80s, and so we’d have the Christic Institute’s Daniel Sheehan, who represented Karen Silkwood and turned out years later to be kind of a nut, come and talk to the Democratic Club of which mi mamacita was la presidenta about all the evil behind-the-sceneses of St. Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra Hijinks. And we happen to have been Liberation Theology-style hippie Catholics, so we knew about the Contra-raped-and-murdered nuns, also too.) But the Middle East is for serious think tank types, the neocons and the guys with the evil-looking Van Dykes, to run their game theory and their Realpolitik.

And yet! You could be a person whose knowledge of the Middle East is limited to 1) Queen Noor is pretty, and she’s cool! and 2) I’m really glad I don’t live in the Middle East, and you could still have thought this peaceful revolution was a real sweet treat! The faithful reader will remember that just all of three whole weeks ago I told of explaining to my sweet son why I prefer Martin Luther King to Malcolm X—peace, dear child, and patience—and that it made me feel like a centrist whitey-type person, tut-tutting (oh, see what I did there?!) that everyone must wait, that our side must be morally perfect while their side turns on the hoses and turns out the dogs, that change will surely come, someday, hopefully within the next, say, hundred years. And now, right now, in Egypt, was proof that the shackles could be thrown off through peaceful, perfect resistance. Thank you, Egypt! GOOD JOB!

So Egypt turned on the hoses, and the people still waited, still morally perfect—and praying, even, as hard and pure as Gandhi or King could ask—and the world saw them, it witnessed them, and was inspired and glad.

Except that a week later, the thugs are out, and not only did they take bricks and bats to the protesters, but they beat up Anderson Cooper, and they mobbed Christiane Amanpour, and Katie Couric looked like she was freaked the fuck out, and stop beating up the journalists! It isn’t at all the cool thing to do! Don’t be fucking Tea Partiers, pro-Mubarak thugs!

The Forces of Gross may still win this—may have even won by the time you read me. They faced an awful lot of dogs and hoses in Selma too. But they overcame, just like they promised. And they were perfect on the way.

Rebecca Schoenkopf is the former editor-in-chief of LA CityBeat and former senior editor at OC Weekly, where she wrote about art, music, politics and more. She taught political science at UC Irvine and was an Annenberg Fellow at USC, receiving her master's in Specialized Journalism focusing on urban policy in May 2011. She lives with her son in a neighborhood we'll just call Hancock Park-adjacent. Follow her on Twitter at


please send this to the new york times.

i dare you.

2011-02-4 by florence

Perfect on the way! let’s hope you are right.  Great article Rebecca.

2011-02-4 by Jo. Davis

I know a lot more about the Middle East than I ever wanted to, that’s for sure. Mubarak’s days in power are clearly numbered, but what’s next? And what about all of the other Muslim nations that are demonstrating? I think people everywhere like democracy in it’s actual form, and I for one support the Egyptian people.

I got a PTSD chill from the mention of the Christic Institute, but the very apt reference to St. Ronald Reagan healed me. References to Reagan clearly have a healing power. Hmmm…

2011-02-4 by diegonomics

If America really cared about democracy for the masses, we would support velvet revolutions everywhere, even commie ones and socialistic ones, so long as they actually delivered goods and services to the people.  But we don’t.  We support and prop up and finance kleptocratic thugs because the purpose of our foreign policy is to make the world safe for Coca Cola. 

The terrible irony is that you can do that without kleptocratic thuggery.  Instead of selling tanks and jets and guns, just sell everyone a TV, a satellite dish, some i-Phones and then stand back and wait.

I pray this thing holds and comes out right.

2011-02-5 by Ann Calhoun

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