Aug 09 2013

Tweets reveal US double standards on Egypt and 1st Amendment

Published by at 1:37 pm under Articles,US-Middle East



By Daoud Kuttab

Following appeared in various publications.

One of the reasons for the success of social media’s Twitter platform is its ability to summarize a major issue in a few characters, while at the same time providing a link to give more details and credibility to the few words.

This week a political activist used some clever research to reveal the hypocrisy and double standards of a politician. Twitter user @bungdan juxtaposed two quotes of maverick US Senator John McCain regarding the situation in Egypt. In a tweet this week he quoted McCain as calling on the Egyptian army and the new powers-to-be to include members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the post-June 30 regime. At the same time, he dug up a quote given by McCain to the German magazine, Der Spiegel, in which the Republican senator states that he is “unalterably opposed” to the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s transition.

It is not clear if McCain was speaking his mind then or now, and if his most recent statement is aimed at his party’s political opponent who is now in the White House.

This double standard is clearly not restricted to senators or to Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. It can easily be seen in more basic American values enshrined so eloquently in the US constitution’s bill of rights.

One of these areas that make one scratch his or her head is how the US government is willing to concede values so unique to America such as the freedom of expression, which is so amazingly protected in the US constitution’s first amendment.

As I was scrolling my tweeter feed I came across a BBC tweet regarding Vietnam. It appears that the Vietnamese are trying to curtail the Internet and Washington has decided to take a strong position against this breach of such a fundamental right.

What bothered me the most was that this public statement came after months of silence by the White House, State Department, members of the US Congress and even the media, who are usually all over a breach of freedom of expression in countries such as Iran or North Korea.

The case I have in mind is that of Jordan, which in early June this year witnessed an undemocratic governmental act against some 300 local news websites. The order to shut down these sites was immediately condemned by major international media freedom organisations, such as the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, as well as the European based International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders, Article 19 and Index on Censorship.

But perhaps the most relevant organisation to publicly denounce the measure was the Washington-based National Press Club, which called the action of the US ally in the Middle East “censorship”. Angela Greiling Keane, president of the 3,000-member club, challenged President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to speak out against this press censorship.

“President Obama and Secretary Kerry, whose public careers owe much to the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement of the turbulent 1960s, should know better than most the value of robust, unfettered public debate,” she said. “They should use their influence to promote this key American value abroad.”

Despite universal opposition to the move by all relevant freedom of expression organisations and the call by the National Press Club, not a single word was uttered in Washington or Amman in reference to the action against news websites.

Hypocrisy and double standards are not new to politics or to the Middle East. Politicians are known to sacrifice their values for political gain or for national interest. Yet every time one sees such hypocrisy or double standards one has no choice but to call it by its name. As the saying goes: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. This applies to both coups and hypocritical politicians.

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