A Plain-Clothes Mubarak Crackdown?

An upsetting and infuriating inference from Nicholas Kristof:

Today President Mubarak seems to have decided to crack down on the democracy movement, using not police or army troops but rather mobs of hoodlums and thugs. I’ve been spending hours on Tahrir today, and it is absurd to think of this as simply “clashes” between two rival groups. The pro-democracy protesters are unarmed and have been peaceful at every step. But the pro-Mubarak thugs are arriving in buses and are armed — and they’re using their weapons.

In my area of Tahrir, the thugs were armed with machetes, straight razors, clubs and stones. And they all had the same chants, the same slogans and the same hostility to journalists. They clearly had been organized and briefed. So the idea that this is some spontaneous outpouring of pro-Mubarak supporters, both in Cairo and in Alexandria, who happen to end up clashing with other side — that is preposterous. It’s difficult to know what is happening, and I’m only one observer, but to me these seem to be organized thugs sent in to crack heads, chase out journalists, intimidate the pro-democracy forces and perhaps create a pretext for an even harsher crackdown.

I have no idea whether this tactic will work. But the idea that President Mubarak should make the case that he is necessary for Egypt’s stability by unleashing violence and chaos on his nation’s youth — it’s a sad and shameful end to his career. And I hope that the international community will firmly denounce this kind of brutality apparently organized by the government.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Jude Jones

    how are you using ‘inference’ here?

    Kristof’s absolutely right. The people who tried earlier to burn the front of the Museum were non-uniform Mubarek people (Reuters), as were the ones that damaged museum artifacts two days earlier.

  • Daniel Fincke

    I’m not saying he’s wrong, I’m crediting him with making an inference to a conclusion based upon the evidence he is also providing.

  • Tim

    I agree, his reasoning (busses, same slogans, etc) certainly suppots the conclusion.

    A leader needs to come from the anti-Mubarek camp needs to emerge, and give a voice to this revolution.

  • Tim

    I just realized the irony of making a post on a site called “Camels With Hammers” with the (assumed) pro-Mubarek thugs riding in on Camels and weilding weapons in the background on my TV.

    • Daniel Fincke

      I apologize for this completely embarrassing coincidence!

  • The Vicar

    “A leader needs to come from the anti-Mubarek camp needs to emerge, and give a voice to this revolution.”

    Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

    A lack of leaders may mean that there are potentially positive things which can’t happen, but it also prevents a certain number of potentially devastating things from happening, too.

    The minute there’s a leader, the entire world is going to assume that that leader’s demographic “owns” the revolution. Think the hysteria about the Muslim Brotherhood is bad now? Just imagine if one of them stepped forward and began to take charge.

    That (regardless of whether the leader was in that group or some other one) would be bad on two fronts. First off, it would provide a lever for Mubarek to use as propaganda: “all you non-X people should beware, because this is all a gambit by the Xes”. History has shown that there are always people who will listen to that sort of message, no matter how obviously self-serving it may be.

    And then, consider the international reaction. I’m tired of hearing about the Muslim Brotherhood, so suppose the new leader was a Christian. Immediately, all the Islamic countries around would denounce the leader as a U.S. plant, and do everything they could to scuttle things. No matter who the leader is, there will be major opposition, and since there hasn’t been an election yet they won’t be able to respond by saying “the people back me”. That kind of thing could lead to wars, it could lead to terrible economic brutality — it could even lead to assassination and invasion, depending on who gets annoyed.

    The best thing that can happen, in the long term, is for the population to hold out until an election happens, and for whoever is elected to actually push for a secular coalition government. (I don’t think that will happen, but I certainly wouldn’t mind being wrong!) Being nice and genteel and the genuine representative of a majority of the population isn’t a guarantee of safety (look at Mossadegh), but it at least gives you a really good position to work from. In the short term, getting there is going to be horrible — Mubarek isn’t plausibly going to go down without a fight. But there’s no alternative which isn’t horrible in the short term, the long term, or both, which isn’t also even less plausible than Mubarek going into quiet retirement.

    (By the way: do these comments support tags of any sort? Putting things in quotation marks is dandy but not as clear as making them italicized or blockquoted…)

  • Daniel Fincke

    yes, you can use html tags