Consider the recent violent image making by the Egyptian state in
its staging of counterinsurgency terror in mufti. I refer to the charging of
Liberation square in Cairo by thugs on horses and camels, and by
vigilantes on foot armed with home made swords.
This is deliberate Orientalist theater orchestrated by the state to promote a picture of generalized anti- modern
anarchy for western media consumption. These mounted and
pedestrian thugs are being imported from nearby rural areas, released from
prisons and recruited from security forces in civilian drag. (The mounted
thugs are described by apologists for the state as disgruntled tour guides who
sell rides on camels and horses protesting their loss of income. But why
expose your valuable mount to harm and injury by charging a crowd if these animals are a prime
source of income) .
The current posture of
the army with their tanks, armored cars and water hoses as the placid
embodiment of modern techno-rationality is now clear–they are waiting for the protests to devolve into murky street fighting before intervening to
demobilize the democratic opposition if this does not previously occur on its own for fear of vigilante attacks. The major ideological weakness of the protestors has been their belief that the military
is essentially a populist institution; this faith will be betrayed as was
already signaled by the jet planes that previously harried the protests.
Addendum: My experience work in Northern Ireland in the
1980s and South Africa in the 1990s, has taught me that in situations of popular political
mobilization the repressive apparatus forges patron/client networks with local criminal