And the award for the Worst Piece of Writing On the Arab Spring goes to…
Congratulations esteemed New York Times bestselling author Harvey Mackay! You have written the most vapid, cliched, and factually incorrect–not to mention offensive to the entire Moroccan social justice movement–piece on the Arab Spring (well, in 2012 anyway). Your prose is gag-inducing, your perspective desperately and hopelessly tone-deaf. Your…ah, whatever, let’s just tear this thing apart, shall we?
Mackay starts off hackneyed, but alright, I suppose, nominating Mohammed Bouazizi as changemaker and noting, “Bouazizi ignited more than himself.” But then it’s all downhill from there, starting with the proclamation that Bouazizi ignited a “a Twitter-driven revolution” that “engulfed Muslim nations in the Mediterranean in 2011” (I mean, seriously, how specific can you get?)
But alas, cliché is nothing to write home about.* Alas, no, it is Mackay’s utter disregard for Moroccans’ continuing fight for social change and social justice that really gets me (well, and his use of Morocco’s repression of activists as a lesson for business, but let’s just ignore that for now).
First, says Mackay, “Morocco’s course also merits study. It shows one way meaningful change can be achieved without casting a society into turmoil.” Ah yes, meaningful change. That is, if by “meaningful change” you mean continuation of Makhzen cronyism, lip-service to reform, and crackdown on freedom of expression.
Then, in one of his six “pieces of advice”:
Act faster than expected The present king has already done more than his father did in a half century. Morocco’s Feb. 20 Movement barely gained traction this year. According to The Economist, “Unlike other Arab autocrats who dithered when uprisings erupted last spring, King Mohammed VI unveiled a new constitution within weeks.”
Okay, the second sentence might be true enough, but the February 20 movement didn’t fail to gain traction because the King unveiled a new constitution…there were a number of factors, to be sure, but repression was most certainly one of them.
Then comes Mackay’s advice to: “Pay more attention to world powers than neighborhood bullies.” I’m not quite sure who he’s referring to in this case, but maybe someone ought to educate him on how Morocco “pays attention” to the Western Sahara…by occupying land, brainwashing its citizens, and crushing opposition.
And then: “Morocco’s king proves once again one person can make a difference … but only if that one person puts the common agenda first.” Ah yes, the common agenda. Why didn’t I think of that? Would that be the common agenda in which the king ensures the ruling elite stay in power and wealth remains undistributed?
To be sure, a couple of bits of Mackay’s “advice” aren’t terrible: It’s true that the government has begun to wake up to the issues of rural poverty and the need for entrepreneurship, but let’s also remember that the country’s
illiteracy literacy rate continues to be amongst the lowest in the Arab world, owing at least in part to the repression of the Amazigh language.
But finally, the pièce de résistance: “Tweets let freedom ring … even where the king’s the thing.” Tweets let the freedom ring in Morocco? I’m sure that’s news to Walid Benhomane, Abdelsamad Haydour, and all of the other netizens the Moroccan government has persecuted over the years. But hey, tweets let the freedom ring, guys!
*see what I did there?