The Spy who Said “Really?!”
Oh. Dear. God.
That was my first reaction when I saw this new ad broadcast on a government satellite channel:
A young fellow, supposed to be foreign, walks into a cafe plastered with revolutionary slogans (including the epic rallying cry of the revolution “bread, freedom, and social justice), and zeroes in three young people at a table. “I like you all very much”, he says with a hint of an accent (think of an Arab Borat). They all chat, mention inflation, transportation problems, and so on – everything on the frontpage of every newspaper, essentially.
“Really?”, he says, in English. Then he proceeds to send a text message, supposedly with all the ‘intel’ he just gathered. All throughout, haunting music, accompanied by a voiceover by the same guy who tries to sell us yoghurt in the next advertisement, warns against trusting people and endangering the country. The camera pans out, and then appear the ad’s slogan: “Every word has a price; a word can save a nation”.
I replayed it again, and went from amusement to horrification. This wouldn’t be the first time the Egyptian government has resorted to stoking xenophobia for its own purposes.
During the revolution, foreign reporters – in fact, all reporters – were accused in no implicit words of being spies. A few months ago, as the government attempted to wrongfully prosecute a number of local and foreign democracy NGOs waged unproved accusations of ‘serving foreign interests’. (the foreign activists were allowed to fly home after a hefty bail was paid by the US government).
This however was a new low. The ad is dumb and heavy-handed. The subliminal accusations it makes to the local activist community (dixit the revolutionary slogans on the wall, and the Palestinian keffiyeh on one of the youth’s shoulders) are horrendous. And the ad takes place just as the ruling military junta’s preferred candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, is running on a platform of ‘restoring security’.
the president of the “tourism support coalition”, Ihab Moussa, lambasted the ad, describing it to the press as “scandal and a massive joke”, adding that this “won’t protect the country because it’s a retarded ad”.
Luckily, nearly all comments online are lambasting or making fun of the absurd ad. The ‘spy’s’ only word in English – “really?!” – is already becoming an online meme. Furthermore, given that Egyptians realize how dependent on tourism their economy is, they are unlikely to be swayed by such cheap propaganda.
Unfortunately, some might. And it’s a pity some are willing to shoot the country in the foot, for short term gains.