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HALA ELKHOLY > Egypt struggles in a confusing sea of information

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An unyielding chain of immediate reactions to false information continues to sidetrack Egypt from most of its priority issues. From fears of national security threats to rumors of sabotage that pass through retaliatory exchanges of insult and character assassinations all the way to notions of marred dignity, many Egyptians are incapable of shifting focus to what really matters now. The myriad of mostly either unreal or very much exaggerated information of one thing after the other has served to create more confusion and a definite illusion of chaos and curtails much productive ability in the country.

In the past week alone, as Egyptians felt the frustrating delay and shut down of their access to internet service, immediate information exchanged rumored the capturing of three divers who allegedly cut Egypt’s internet sea cable! If that found a few non-believers, the reports of a global hacker attack could have been more plausible, especially when their last possible culprit was declared to be sabotage by a neighboring country. The immediate reactions to all three presented scenarios seemed to fall right on target as the fourth began floating in the media and information channels. It must be yet another ploy from the regulator to re-bug or reconfigure the system for more eavesdropping facilities.

The prominent opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei of the Salvation Front was reported to be in the Arab Emirates. Immediate rumors of him giving up on fighting for Egypt and accepting a job offer there began circulating. Then it was the rumored decision of the Arab League to move its headquarters from Cairo to Doha that went slightly less noticed as news of the king of Qatar not receiving Egypt’s President Morsi personally at the Doha airport overshadowed that and, after being confirmed correct, continues to irk many who consider it an insult to the nation.

This is just a miniature sampling of the kind of confusing information that has been bombarding so many Egyptians daily. Add this to the almost daily scenes of clashes, tear gas and deadly encounters on the street of the country, keeping so many anxiously alert to any piece of information, true or false. An environment of extensive rumors, misleading information or the creation of emotional hype are not surprising. The one sad reality lies in the curtailed ability of the receivers to filter and scrutinize as they muddle through the overwhelming flow of information. Years of controlled media and directed information coupled with crippled educational environs that favor the set right answers instead of questioning and critical thought has left most Egyptians at the mercy of anxiety, skepticism and a vicious cycle of negative energy.

Meanwhile, more serious developments or at least sources of more positive energy go quite unnoticed. Some humble attempts to provide timely and accurate information, although providing some solace and hope for a few, leave much to be desired. Egyptians are learning the hard way to navigate their trust and their understanding in a confusing sea of information as they begin to question the world around them and take time to cross reference or corroborate their information before they conclude or take action.

March/30/2013

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