Via BRAD BLOG, a transcript of Rush Limbaugh mocking attacks on journalists in Egypt on Thursday:
LIMBAUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, it is being breathlessly reported that the Egyptian army — Snerdley, have you heard this? The Egyptian army is rounding up foreign journalists.
I mean, even two New York Times reporters were detained. Now, this is supposed to make us feel what, exactly? How we supposed to feel? Are we supposed to feel outrage over it? I don’t feel any outrage over it. Are we supposed to feel anger? I don’t feel any anger over this. Do we feel happy? Well — uh — do we feel kind of going like, “neh-neh-neh-neh”?
I’m sure that your emotions are running the gamut when you hear that two New York Times reporters have been detained along with other journalists in Egypt. Remember now, we’re supporting the people who are doing this.
Brad notes how Rush’s view changed within the same show, when journalists from his partisan ally âÂ Fox News â were attacked:
LIMBAUGH: According to Mediaite, Fox News’ Greg Palkot and crew have been severely beaten and are now hospitalized in Cairo. Now we were kidding before about The New York Times, of course. This kind of stuff is terrible. We wouldn’t wish this kind of thing even on reporters.
“Even on reporters” being Limbaugh’s sick stab at humor.
I’ve written before about the disappointing anti-journalist tendencies of American conservatives, and especially the unfortunate ways this plays out in war zones and with leaks of sensitive or embarrassing information. Perhaps because of some sort of bizarre psychological projection, too many conservatives seem to assume that all reporting is intended to bolster the reporters’ political biases, and that therefore photographing a sniper who has attacked American troops is evidence of the photographer’s bias, rather than evidence that the photographer is doing his job. Journalists revealing government secrets are assumed to be opposed to those government policies, not simply tending to their duty of informing the public who the government serves.
The fact that Limbaugh’s first reaction when New York Times reporters, and reporters from many other outlets, were attacked (one was killed by gunfire, another stabbed, many beaten and hospitalized) or arrested, was not fraternal concern for those journalists tells you all you need to know about whether Limbaugh deserves the title of “journalist.” And that he would seem to cheer the attack and kidnapping of New York Times reporters, while decrying attacks on Fox News reporters, is sickening.
Fortunately for us, the Times reporters are professionals. So after being kidnapped by the military and by the Egyptian secret police, held over night in a torture center, and being threatened in various ways, they went to their hotel and filed a report on that assault. It makes chilling reading, right from the opening words:
We had been detained by Egyptian authorities, handed over to the countryâs dreaded Mukhabarat, the secret police, and interrogated. They left us all night in a cold room, on hard orange plastic stools, under fluorescent lights.
But our discomfort paled in comparison to the dull whacks and the screams of pain by Egyptian people that broke the stillness of the night. In one instance, between the cries of suffering, an officer said in Arabic, âYou are talking to journalists? You are talking badly about your country?â
A voice, also in Arabic, answered: âYou are committing a sin. You are committing a sin.â
They explain why they had to file this report:
For one day, we were trapped in the brutal maze where Egyptians are lost for months or even years. Our detainment threw into haunting relief the abuses of security services, the police, the secret police and the intelligence service, and explained why they were at the forefront of complaints made by the protesters.
Many journalists shared this experience, and many were kept in worse conditions â some suffering from injuries as well.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, over the period we were held there were 30 detentions of journalists, 26 assaults and 8 instances of equipment being seized. We saw a journalist with his head bandaged and others brought in with jackets thrown over their heads as they were led by armed men.
And though what they saw was only a fraction of the horror experienced by perhaps millions of Egyptians over the 30 years Mubarak and his regime of thugs have ruled Egypt, the sliver they saw is chilling. They were arrested while driving from the airport to their hotel, seized first by a crowd of thugs, searched by secret police, and turned over to the army. One of the reporters, knowing that the army had been relatively safer to deal with, asked the soldier transporting them, “ ‘Where are you taking us?’ The soldier answered: ‘My heart goes out to you. Iâm sorry.’ ” They soon came to understand what that meant, as they were walked past torture chambers echoing with the hard slapping sounds of beatings. “The screams from the torture made it nearly impossible to think,” as they waited to learn their fate.
They waited all night, eating only a few cookies and drinking a Pepsi. “The agonizing screaming stilled our appetites,” the reporters explain.
In the morning, we could hear the strained voice of a man with a French accent calling out in English: âWhere am I? What is happening to me? Answer me. Answer me.â
This prompted us into action â pressing to be released with more urgency, and indeed fear, than before. A plainclothes officer who said his name was Marwan gestured to us. âCome to the door,â he said, âand look out.â
We saw more than 20 people [international journalists], Westerners and Egyptians, blindfolded and handcuffed. The room had been empty when we arrived the evening before.
âWe could be treating you a lot worse,â he said in a flat tone, the facts speaking for themselves. Marwan said Egyptians were being held in the thousands. During the night we heard them being beaten, screaming after every blow.
Hours later, mid-day on Friday, their captors released them with their gear. As they left the headquarters of the secret police:
They put us in our car with orders to put our heads down. âLook down, and donât talk. If you look up you will see something you donât ever want to see.â
They left us that way for 10 minutes. The only sounds were of guns being loaded and checked and duct-tape ripping. â¦
In Arabic, Ms. Mekhennet, a German citizen with Arab roots, kept telling the questioner that we are journalists for The New York Times. âYou came here to make this country look bad,â the interrogator said.
Journalists don’t do what they do with the intent of making their subject look good or bad. They go on assignment intending to show their readers what they see. The Egyptian government âÂ like Limbaugh and some other American conservatives â don’t seem to understand that press reports don’t “make a country look bad.” Press reports do show us when a country has gone bad, and journalists are to be praised for holding up that mirror.
I’ll close with a series of tweets from the exceptional Nadia El-Awady, an Egyptian science writer and the president of the World Federation of Science Journalists. Deborah Blum has more on the amazing work Nadia was doing before this crisis erupted, and a loving tribute to her work right now. Once the Egyptian internet was restored, Nadia began tweeting up a storm, and posting photos and video from the days when the internet was out. Her camera was destroyed during the attacks by police on February 2, inspiring this manifesto:
I did not cry or cringe when I was tear gassed and shot at by Egyptian police (cont)
I did not cry when I saw dozens injured, unconscious or dead emerge from the front lines of fighting with Mubarak police/civilian thugs cont
I cried when my camera was broken by Mubarak thugs. My camera was my weapon in this revolt. It was the tool that created a role for me (cont
Today I leave home without my camera. I will not be able to afford a new one for a long time (cont)
But I will not be intimidated to stop reporting. I am equipped with two phone batteries and will tweet as long as I have internet (cont)
I will continue to give eye witness accounts to international, regional, and local media of what is happening on the ground (cont)
And I will resort to old school journalism. I will WRITE. I will write what I witness. (cont)
I will continue to play my role as a reporter as long as there is still breath within me. My tools are changing but my role remains #egypt
When Rush Limbaugh mocks attacks on journalists, this is what he is attacking. This fierce drive to bring the truth to the world, to expose ugliness where it exists, and to expose love and beauty where it exists.
This is the impulse that led Souad Mekhennet and Nicholas Kulish to report the ugliness of the secret police’s torture chambers, and it leads Nadia El-Awady to report on the beauty inside Tahrir Square: “Millions in tahrir today. Very festive. Poetry recited in 1 corner, music in another, praying in a 3rd #egypt.”
That is the face of the true Egypt, nurtured and protected now in a few pockets like Tahrir, but ready to spread across all of Egypt very soon. And reporters like Nadia allow us to see that process unfold, as they show us the horrors these revolutionaries seek to erase. Hacks like Limbaugh cannot begin to fathom the courage and depth of character it takes for journalists to cover these events on the ground.