Objective Nonsense (part 23)

Editor Chris Johns claims National Geographic has no agenda, and that it is “committed to an unbiased presentation of the facts.”

But Zahi Hawass puts such nonsense to rest. In this interview, Hawass — who was appointed Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities by President Hosni Mubarak just days before Mubarak was forced from office — is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He is one of the marquee talents who personify the National Geographic brand. He’s one of Our Guys.

Watch and listen to this interview — initially posted by the BBC on February 6, 2011, in the midst of the massive protests in Egypt — and see if you can spot any bias or agenda:

Zahi Hawass: Catch me if you can! (part 2)

Zahi Hawass, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

February 22, 2011

Zahi Hawass, who was recently appointed Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities by Hosni Mubarak: The demonstrators on Tahrir Square have done a wonderful job. I was there on the streets. I am proud of these young people with their flags of freedom and democracy. (via Spiegel Online)

February 25, 2011

Protesters called on the military-led transitional government to fulfill demands made during the 18-day protest in Tahrir Square, including the release of political prisoners, the removal of all ministers appointed by Mr. Mubarak and the prosecution of the former president and high ranking members of his party for corruption and abuse of power. (via The New York Times)

≡ photo via The Globe & Mail

Zahi Hawass: Catch me if you can!


SPIEGEL ONLINE: What sort of relationship did you have with the former president?

Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarek & Dr. Zahi Hawass

Zahi Hawass: I will tell you quite openly: Mubarak was not a bad man. He was a war hero and a man of peace. He had his merits. But I can also tell you that it was time for him to go. I cannot accept that a leader would cling to power for so long. But we do not need to insult him now that he has stepped down. Everyone is insulting each other. Why this lack of respect?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So you think the protest movement has gone too far?

Zahi Hawass: No! No! The demonstrators on Tahrir Square have done a wonderful job. I was there on the streets. I am proud of these young people with their flags of freedom and democracy. ….

In other words: I agreed to serve as Minister of Antiquities in Hosni Mubarak’s cabinet when everyone in Egypt was demanding Mubarak resign AND I’m proud of the young people who demanded that Mubarak resign. … Confused? Troubled by this contradiction? Well, let me explain by saying: BOOYAH! <fist pump> 🙂

Any other questions?

Would someone please give Steve Burns a newspaper?

For Zahi Hawass, the walls are closing in

“The functionaries of a dictatorship,
perhaps of any order,
take on the character of their leaders.”

Read the whole article here.

Doubling down on a (former) dictator has its price

Zahi Hawass, the National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
who chose to join Hosni Mubarak’s cabinet
just days before Mubarak stepped down as President,
seems to have a problem:


UPDATE: 14 February 2011, 7:30am
Evidently, the protests have already begun

Pharaoh is gone. But where’s Dr. Hawass?

February 11, 2011 (The New York Times)

It’s a monumental day in Egypt — and a wake-up call for autocrats everywhere.

But, what happens now to Zahi Hawass, the National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who doubled-down on a dictator?

Former Egyptian President Mubarak; Dr. Zahi Hawass


Dear John,

As the people of Egypt celebrate, and then buckle down to build a democracy, will National Geographic help or hinder their struggle?

(From left) Editor of National Geographic Chris Johns, Executive Vice President of National Geographic Terence Adamson, Emirati Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak al-Nahayan, Editor of National Geographic Al-Arabiya Mohammed al-Hammadi (Photo: AFP)

We now publish National Geographic in Arabic, which means we can share our Society’s message with people in Egypt and in 14 other countries across the Middle East and North Africa. It’s a big microphone. What will you do with it?

Will you publish more stories, facilitated by Dr. Hawass, about the glories of Pharaoh? (Hawass is an official adviser to NGM’s Arabic edition.) Or will you emphasize our society’s — and our Society’s — democratic heritage? Will you tell Chris Johns that it’s time to cut back on those Pharaoh & cheetah stories, and beef up our coverage of  Thomas Jefferson & James Madison… and the heroes of Tahrir Square?

Yes, it’s true, our “Arabic partners” in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Libya — and our “partners” in the People’s Republic of China — don’t want such stories circulating among their people. But that’s what leadership is all about: Taking a stand. Doing the right thing. Living a story that you’ll be proud to tell your grandchildren.

How much longer will you remain silent, especially after Dr. Hawass, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, formally doubled-down on a dictator who has just been overthrown by… well, by the people who might buy your magazine?

One of these dreams is not like the other

Dr. Zahi Hawass,
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence:

from drhawass.com

The dream of the Egyptian people:
Ending the reign of Pharaoh.

Anti-Mubarak protest in Cairo (via AP)

But President Mubarak refuses to resign.
Instead, he fired his old cabinet,
and appointed
Zahi Hawass
(among others)
to his new cabinet.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarek & Dr. Zahi Hawass

Nothing new, say the people.
Democracy activists call yet again for Mubarak to leave,
proving that their dream of a democratic Egypt
is “more than just imagination.”

Wael Ghonim addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square on Tuesday. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters via The New York Times)

President Mubarak tells the people
where they can put their dream:

“We will not accept or listen to any foreign interventions or dictations,” Mr. Mubarak said.

Which shows that the story
that Zahi Hawass is still narrating…

… and the story that National Geographic
continues to showcase (with monotonous regularity)…

… is not about Way Back When,
but about Right Now:

“We were once at the very top,” Dr. Hawass has said,
referring to the time of the pharaohs.
“Be proud of this heritage,” he tells young people.

To which we reply:
Thank God Egypt’s young people
are looking elsewhere for inspiration.

Unfortunately, when they open National Geographic magazine,
they’ll get a motherlode of Pharaoh —
and mountains of landscape photos to
inspire people to care about the planet” —
but nothing about…

NGM, February 1976

… because we don’t publish stories like this anymore.

Any comment, John?

≡  photo of Zahi Hawass & sphinx via Glenn Ashton

What is National Geographic trying to do?

Tom Friedman

In 40 years of writing about the Middle East, I have never seen anything like what is happening in Tahrir Square. In a region where the truth and truth-tellers have so long been smothered under the crushing weight of oil, autocracy and religious obscurantism, suddenly the Arab world has a truly free space — a space that Egyptians themselves, not a foreign army, have liberated — and the truth is now gushing out of here like a torrent from a broken hydrant….

“We got a message from Tunis,” Hosam Khalaf, a 50-year-old engineer stopped me to say. “And the message was: Don’t burn yourself up; burn up the fear that is inside you. That is what happened here. This was a society in fear, and the fear has been burned.” Khalaf added that he came here with his wife and daughter for one reason:
“When we meet God, we will at least be able to say: ‘We tried to do something.’ ”

— Tom Friedman, Speakers’ Corner on the Nile, February 7, 2011, The New York Times

In related news: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak recently appointed Zahi Hawass, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, to his new cabinet.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarek & Dr. Zahi Hawass

It wasn’t always this way:

Dear John: What matters most?

In July 1991, when National Geographic published a feature story about China’s youth, we documented how democracy activists in Tiananmen Square were brutally crushed by their own government. For our society — and our Society — freedom and democracy were a top priority.

Today in Egypt, democracy activists are being brutally crushed by government thugs in Tahrir Square. But what is our Society’s top — and evidently only — priority in Egypt today? Mummies and golden death masks. Taking the lead in defense of those ancient artifacts is Zahi Hawass, who Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak recently appointed to his new cabinet, and who John Fahey long ago tapped to be a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.

Here’s what’s changed at National Geographic (click to enlarge):


Dear John,
Why do you seem to care more about a dead civilization
than about
a free and democratic one that’s struggling to be born?

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