كيف يعمل عقل السيسي؟
Tiny details, often reveal, larger story lines. The case with Abdel Fatah El Sisi and Mada Masr is such an example. In police states like Egypt, when plain clothed security officials “make inquiries” about a senior editor, such as Shadi Zalat, working for highly respected independent media Mada Masr, there is reason for concern. Zalat was arrested less than 72 hours after running a story about the sending off of Mahmoud Sisi, the president’s son, to Russia as a military attache due to professional failure, internal dissent and political damage to the senior Sisi worry mushrooms.
On Sunday, 9 security officials stormed Mada Masr offices, confiscated phones, accessed computers and detained 3 journalists, including Editor Lina Attallah. Zalat and his colleagues were released. The next day, the regime claimed Mada Masr is a Muslim Brotherhood tentacle. Atypical for this regime? No. But it forces the question: How does Sisi’s head work?
Sisi is the new age Machiavelli, a ruthless blood thirsty political manipulator, glimmers of foreign policy genius one minute and full throated, low IQ, arrogance the very next. Violence delivered with a smile, encased in a framework of daily lies, sheathed in arrogance, make Sisi an interesting study subject and the most dangerous President in modern Egyptian history.
The Narcissist Requires A Media Echo Chamber
Take for example regime loyal journalist Yasser Rizk, issuing this statement: “the state, under Sisi’s leadership, has given journalism freedom of speech and creativity” only two hours after the raid on Mada Masr. This, of course, echoed Sisi’s statement to CNN: “ I do not want to exaggerate but we have unprecedented freedom of speech in Egypt’’. Yet, somehow, Sisi, is on the record for saying Egyptians should only listen to him, sees no problem in shutting mouths- especially if it involves family.
“What happened’’, said a deep state source of the Mada Masr affair was a necessary pull of the ears, there are always red lines when it comes to the security apparatus and deep state affairs.
Sisi, like his American counterpart Trump, believes the press to be the enemy of the people. Unalike Trump, he is smart enough not to go public. Sisi, instead, was caught with his “Big Brother” pants on, in a private senior military gathering, not long after the revolution of 2011. He spoke of controlling the press. In answering a junior officer about the shackles being removed and red lines being crossed by media in a post revolutionary Egypt, during Morsi rule, Sisi told the officer not to worry. To retake control of the media universe “ you need arms, and the arm takes time and effort” but “Are we working on this? Certainly. Getting results? Sure”. He was right, the control would come. Sisi’s dream of Egyptians listening only to him has become every Egyptian’s nightmare.
L’Etat C’est Moi
Is this arrogance part of every presidential personna? No.
Sisi’s lavish lifestyle caused the biggest fissure, thus far, in 65 months of rule. A tour de force of Sisi’s arrogance, on public display, which humiliated 60% of Egyptians perceded the tumult. After the World Bank declared that 60% of all Egyptians are either poor or vulnerable, Sisi did not contradict Mohamad Ali’s assertions about the many palaces - he blasted: “I will keep building and building”. In an autocrat’s mind, one who wears “l’Etat c’est moi’’ like a second skin, the building of new palaces for himself is “building a new State”. He and the state are one.
The Psychopath Within
Marrying the unmarriable: an inferiority complex with a superiority complex, explains Sisi’s penchant for violence and blood. Like a surgeon who sees the knife as singular solution, Sisi views military solutions as optimal.
Sisi and Violence
On July 25th, it became clear that Sisi’s orders were shoot to kill: 26 dead, 850 wounded, uncovering Sisi’s disregard for Egyptian lives. Friday, the 26th, brought a dangerous turn in Alexandria when Sisi supporters clashed with demonstrators: 5 were killed and more than a hundred were injured. With each drop of blood, the questions multiplied: why was the violent option chosen? How and why would a man claiming to save Egypt from a civil war be pushing it towards just that? Sisi, and his military accomplices were recalibrating domestic and foreign public expectations of a regime centered around basic human rights. Troublingly, Sisi’s militarized mind, one that sees conflict in binary terms of acquiescence or death blasted the furnace. The events which followed: the evisceration of the Muslim Bortherhood, short term, and governance, long term, bore the stamp of success at all cost. Before the Rabaa massacre, on July 27th 2013, 82 Egyptians were mowed down without a peep from the Egyptian mainstream. The Sisi mindset was superimposed onto the national psyche. By the time 1000 Egyptians were brutally gunned down and burned in the Rabaa massacre Sisi’s vision was no longer a mystery: kill or be killed.
Egypt's #Sisi is a cocktail of paranoia, megalomania, narcissistic personality disorder and, most importantly for the coming period, a sociopath killing without regret. No need for experts here, we have his own revealing words.
After arresting its editors, the regime branded independent media Mada Masr a Muslim Brotherhood operative. Atypical for this regime? No. But this forces the question: How does Sisi’s head work?
So how could such a violent man with a singularly toxic dehumanizing perspective on opponents be called a romantic with a gentle touch? Abdel Fatah is a man who thinks himself the smartest in the room, it is a deadly disease because it leads to a belief that he alone understands what he is doing and that he is not transparent to patient analysis.
The Liar In Chief
Two years into his presidency the BBC dubbed Sisi “President Smiley face’’. Laugh if you will, but it is a weapon for Sisi; not to mollify critics, but rather to secure the adoration and brainwashing of millions that are his hardcore supporters. Forever linked to this autocrat is the phrase “Do you not know that you are the light of my eyes or what?”. He looks longingly into the camera as though his constituency is an attractive woman with whom he flirts as he tells comically unbelievable tales of heroism and sacrifice. In fact, in an incredible moment of misogyny Sisi spoke in sexualized terms of Egypt! In belittling the revolution, yet again, Sisi said “Egypt revealed its back and bared its shoulder in 2011’’.
Sisi does so, and so frequently, he believes his own lies. So certain is Sisi of his cult-like following that he once said he “lived for 10 years with nothing but water in his fridge’’. While the claim is insulting to the average person’s intelligence, it is both repeated by his media and unquestioned by his supporters. In Sisi we have a man who believes he can do or say no wrong. Doubt it? He once described himself as a “physician of philosophers”, an “idol of politicians, intelligentsia...and the world’s greatest philosophers”. When you occupy a space inhabited only by your thoughts, divorced from reality, hallucinations reign supreme and the lies told by Yes Men serenading you daily become your black magic carpet.
And when a man who promised not to run for the presidency during his days as a defense minister proceeds to run twice and seek to extend an 8 year, two term presidency, to 16 years it is factual to say: he is, daily, infected with the lying bug. Yet, managed to once say “my big problem is that I am very honest”.
Dissidents must be wary of a leader who views the world in absolute terms: you are either with him, dead, or tortured in his growing network of jails. Sisi, while strategically sane, is a cocktail of paranoia, megalomania, narcissistic personality disorder and, most importantly for the coming period, a sociopath killing without regret. No need for a Phd here, we have his words, we have seen his actions and they speak loudly and revealingly.
Armed with an understanding of Sisi’s internal storms, opponents possess a most dangerous weapon: information.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Raseef22