by Bassam Haddad
As we were boarding a flight from Washington to Istanbul, this image appeared on the screen at the gate, with the CNN headline, “Was The Arab Spring Worth It?”
Generally, one is used to seeing and hearing very “special” commentary about the region from the mainstream media. But every once in a while, something spectacular rears its head and continues to amaze. This headline — which captures the tenor of some of the mainstream reporting beyond CNN after the violent responses to a film that insulted the Muslim prophet — is one of them.
Surely, the film was insulting and deplorable, and surely the violent responses and the killing that ensued are lunatic and deplorable as well (whatever the alternative explanation for the motive). These are matters on which most reasonable/learned observers agree. But then comes this brilliant off the cuff, from the hip, and casually barbaric headline: “Was the Arab Spring Worth It?”
The manners in which this is problematic are too numerous to count. And though there might be a good six or seven thousand reasons to address, the flight allows for listing only a few reactions, lest one misses more zoological headlines. Here are some of the possible reactions in order of viscerality:
The First and Last Straw
After nearly one hundred thousand deaths since January 2011 when the uprisings started, and after decades of brutal repression that were steadfastly supported and partly funded by Western powers (namely the United States), we wonder about the value of breaking from such shackles, as though it was a bad investment in Facebook stock. "Maybe we should keep supporting these lovely dictatorships.”
All About Power
But this is just academic to many. What is significant here is “who” can actually produce these thoughts, and actually be able to do something about it. The arrogance of power from which such thoughts and words can be uttered is really the main event. Casually, the ability to dismiss history, culpability, and rationality in favor of an emotionally immature, intellectually narrow, historically amnesiac, and morally myopic compass can only come from a place of brute power. And only from such a place, can the claim be made aptly, as though that particular power initiated the Arab uprisings (when in reality, the Arab uprisings proceeded against US clients, despite US power, with the exception of Syria, which proves the rule).