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Opinion

The Egyptian video scam that duped the media

The viral video failed to raise suspicions in the media, when even a cursory analysis raises several red flags.

Last Modified: 28 Jul 2013 10:29
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"The blind acceptance of both videos and the publicity given to them must, in hindsight, serve as a potent warning," writes Daud Abdullah [AP]

On July 6, a five-minute video [re-posting of the original] entitled "Muslim Brotherhood & Gama'a Islamiya throw kids off buildings in Sidi Gaber" was posted on the internet. Within hours it went viral, evoking a torrent of hysterical commentary from every quarter. Reactions were not limited to social networks; Egyptian and international TV channels also weighed in. Regrettably, few took the time to either examine the authenticity of the video or verify the alleged crime.

Was it just a co-incidence that the location of the incident was the Sidi Gaber district in Alexandria? No. In 2010 Egyptian police tortured and killed a young man, Khalid Said, from this very district. The sheer brutality meted out to him made him a cause celebre . Many believe that his killing was one of the immediate catalysts which triggered the January 25 revolution.

In this context, some may view the July 5 video alleging the Muslim Brotherhood and Gama'a Islamiya throwing kids off buildings as an attempt to erase the memory of the martyr Khalid Said.

But it would be a travesty of justice if a poorly produced video would achieve this end. There is virtually no context to the production, except for the pervasive sound of gunshots in the background. The idea is to give the impression that there is some kind of confrontation. Despite its intensity and apparent erratic nature, not a single person is hurt in the shootings. Indeed, no one captured on camera seemed worried about being shot.

Staged filiming

As for the actual filming, it starts suddenly with a shot of the "kids" and ends abruptly with their fall and alleged "death". Curiously though, there was not even an attempt to focus on the dead bodies, as would be expected. Likewise, no attention was drawn to people's reaction. In fact there is no clear action happening below the building.  

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On the whole the film is rather short and each scene seems to be rushed - the "beating and killing behind the reservoir" lasts for 20 seconds; and the throwing off for another 20. That was the "ultimate scene". In the end of the video shows the individuals present behaving as if the "fall" is the end of the film. They casually move on with no visible alarm or shock, given the gruesome nature of what had just happened.

Another curious aspect of the video is the tone of the commentator's voice. Like the main characters, he is totally dispassionate and expresses no shock or horror; the type that would naturally be associated with such an occurrence. The narrator's disconnect is so complete that it does not allow them to show any measure of sympathy that would normally be expected of an onlooker.

When some emotions are expressed, they are clearly feigned, and often unrelated to the actual scene. We are told, "look, they are killing them," where nothing can be seen. Similarly, we are told, "he's dead," whereas few people would be so certain that falling off a 4-5 metre height would kill a person.

The logical conclusion after viewing this video is that this was a staged-managed exercise intended to incite public opinion against coup-resistors, solicit support for the coup and justify the persecution of Islamists.

The speed with which this poor production has spread, not only on social networks, but on several Egyptian channels as well as major regional channels such as Al Arabiya and Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) [which have been staunchly supportive of the coup] gave its allegations a huge measure of uncritical publicity.

Another questionable video 

Two days after the release of their first video the shadowy producers posted a second film on the internet , claiming that it covered the incident from an alternative angle. If nothing else this second video showed conclusively that someone, or group, somewhere, was absolutely determined to "prove" the veracity of their claims; given the manifest flaws of the first production.

When taken altogether it is hard not to conclude that both productions were commissioned by the same source. Their ultimate objective was the same: to manipulate the viewers into believing that they are watching a crime being committed; a violent crime and, more crucially, a religiously and politically motivated crime.

The blind acceptance of both videos and the publicity given to them must, in hindsight, serve as a potent warning. That there are people and institutions who believe it is necessary to fabricate such productions in order to support their claims about "Islamist terrorism" and advance their political agendas. The complicity of certain sections of the media in this operation is obvious as it is shocking; and in the absence of an impartial and credible media, poses serious questions for the future.

 

Dr Daud Abdullah is the director of the Middle East Monitor, London

Editor's note: The second video mentioned in the text was initially hyperlinked incorrectly, it's now been updated to link to the video the auther discusses. 

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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