The Arab Spring and the discourse of desperation
As the above extracts demonstrate, both Ben Ali and Mubarak laid the blame on a minority of protesters who were seen to be manipulated by foreign agents working against the country’s interests, in the belief that Arabs would rally behind their governments against any foreign intervention. The ‘perpetrators' are referred to anonymously and described as violent mobs. (Extracts 1 & 2).
When this strategy failed and the protesters showed no signs of backing down, the presidents tried blaming Islamists for the unrest – an approach designed in part to maintain Western support by magnifying the Islamist threat (Extract 4). While Ben Ali was very explicit in referring to Islamists, Mubarak used vaguer terminology in the knowledge that his audience would read it as a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood and others (Extracts 5 & 6). This strategy failed in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Islamist element in the protest movements was relatively small. Both also tried to appeal to the domestic 'law and order' lobby, emphasizing the danger of chaos.
مناوئون مأجورون ضمائرهم على كف أطراف التطرف والإرهاب التي تسيرها من الخارج أطراف لا تكن الخير لبلد حريص على العمل والمثابرة
Hostile elements in the pay of foreigners, who have sold their souls to extremism and terrorism, manipulated from outside the country by parties who do not wish well to a country determined to persevere and work. (Ben Ali’s speech: 10 January, 2011)
قوى سياسية سعت الى التصعيد وصب الزيت على النار استهدفت امن الوطن واستقراره بأعمال إثارة وتحريض وسلب ونهب وإشعال للحرائق وقطع للطرقات واعتداء على مرافق الدولة و الممتلكات العامة