“Rubin: In view of all this, how to explain the great optimism of the Western media beginning with the Arab spring in January 2011 concerning the prospects of the democratic-revolutionary movement — the dawn of a new glorious age?
Laqueur: I wish I had an answer. To read now the comments of the correspondents of the New York Times reminds one of Alice in Wonderland. They were so utterly mistaken. It is probably unfair to single out one specific newspaper because the illusions were so widely shared even by the experts. In part, the roots of the misunderstandings were, of course, psychological. For so long, reports from the Middle East had been negative and depressing: autocratic governments, riots, terrorism, corruption, civil wars, and so on. And now suddenly, there was this great, intoxicating promise of freedom and progress — a beacon of light to the whole world….
There was a total misreading of the Egyptian situation and the prospect and the reasons should be examined very, very carefully.”
Laqueur may be right to argue that it would be important to critically examine the pre-dominant “Alice-in-Wonderland”-reporting and commentary on the so-called “Arab Spring,” but there is little reason to think that there will really be serious efforts to do so – not least because a more realistic view of the Middle East would shatter some of the most cherished media “narratives” about the Arab conflict with Israel.
However, the BBC did have an investigation of its “Arab Spring” coverage, which reportedly uncovered only relatively minor shortcomings. By contrast, we will probably never know the findings of the 2004 Balen Report on the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because the BBC fought – and won – a long and costly legal battle to keep the report from being published.