President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt is not having a good year. It is one thing to be the opposition and demand change, but now that he and his Muslim Brotherhood pals are in power, they are discovering just how tough it is to keep the lights on, manage the economy and pick up the trash.
And talk about being thin skinned, these guys are taking lessons from the Russian mafia…I mean… government when it comes to tolerating criticism.
The New York Times has a piece today about the President Morsi clamping down on Bassem Youssef who is the host of Egypt’s version of The Daily Show.
Apparently Mr. Youssef is irritating the powers that be, and he is is doing it in the most effective way, by mocking.
If there is one thing that authoritarian regimes hate more than being toppled from power, it’s satire. They hate it because satire is the truth served up in laughter. And people are smart enough to recognize the truth.
And so why not issue an arrest warrant for someone who points out the truth. It’s much easier than fixing the economy. After all, everyone knows that once you lock up the comics and the satirists, the economy will magically pick up steam, the crops will start to flourish, the population will suddenly realize that you are the good guys and that yes there is an Easter bunny.
But the funny thing about silencing one of the most visible elements of what you are trying to pass off as a modern civil society, a man watched by millions, is that people will notice.
One day he is there on TV and the next day he is gone. People tend to wonder what happened to the guy who relieved their misery with laughter for a few minutes each day. You see even when things are really really bad, a little laughter goes a long way to make life a little more tolerable.
But here is the best part of this little scenario. By silencing Bassem Youssef and trying to continue with business as usual, President Morsi will now, with every speech, every pronouncement about how Egypt has changed, demonstrate that he is now Egypt’s biggest satirist.