A foreigner walks into an Egyptian café, and surveys the crowd. His eyes scan the crowd, and focus in on three Egyptians sitting at a table. The unsuspecting Egyptians greet the guest warmly, and he is only too keen to butter them up: "I really like you," he says.
The conversation turns political: One of the women at the table says she overheard talk of a conspiracy against the army on the metro. "Really?" the guest intones in English, and the word echoes ominously. He then begins writing a message on his smartphone – presumably, the commercial implies, to his foreign paymasters.
This ad, which appeared on Egypt’s state-owned Nile TV, has resurrected fears among journalists of a repeat of the spasm of xenophobia that accompanied last year’s revolution. Mr. "Really?" is only doing what reporters everywhere do when news breaks — asking locals their opinions of the state of their country. If that’s a crime, journalism has become illegal.
(Thanks to Menna Alaa for confirming the ad’s appearance on Egyptian television)
David Kenner is the Middle East editor for Foreign Policy.| Passport |