Column: Denial on de Nile
The whole world holds its breath as we view through splayed fingers the unrest that is the Egyptian uprising. Or as Hosni Mubarak sees it: 10 or 20 rabble-rousing, unemployed, slacker agents of the West with too much time on their hands, up to no good.
That's the problem with entrenched dictators: they interact with their people less often than they enter Sinai Peninsula sheep-shearing competitions disguised as shepherds' assistants. The man is so far behind the insurgency curve he probably sees his own running feet in front of him, and even that has failed to fill him with any discernible alacrity.
Typically, these ingrained despots try to apply 30-year-old answers to modern problems. With denial being a major arrow in their ancient quiver. Denial on de Nile. Mubarak keeps asking what the pesky agitators want.
"Well, sir, they want you out."
"How about if I replace the Cabinet with different cronies?"
"Sir, sorry, but you don't get it. The people want you gone. A memory. In the archives. Flying down Abdication Street. Walk like an Egyptian, only really really fast. Don't let the door knob hit you in the butt on the way out of town - gone."
"Wait, I know. A vice president. We've never had one before. Maybe our former head of intelligence."
"No, sir, seriously, you don't have to stop being president of every country, you just have to stop being president of THIS country. The only time they want to see your face again is on a coin, with a four digit number to the right of the dash after your birth year."
Along with scary implications for touring mummy exhibits and world energy prices, this incipient revolution raises fears over the future of Facebook. How does a government shut down the entire Internet? Falling into the wrong hands, this information holds the chilling prospect of huge numbers of young people forced to spend much of their free time watching syndicated episodes of "Two and a Half Men." The one piece of good news: this summer's Nile River cruise packages - going for a song.
Further demonstrating a cluelessness best measured in Jersey Shore degrees, the Egyptian president screwed up the order of the Unofficial Despot Rebellion Response Handbook, unleashing a mob of pro-regime protesters before blaming the press for all of his problems. Every second-year Egyptian Military School cadet knows the first thing you do is blame the press. One thing I've always been curious about: what do pro-regime protesters chant? "Up with Repression!" "Jobs Aren't for Everybody!" "We Want Better Torture!"
Pro-regime protesters: a polite way of saying government thugs whose sole purpose is to crack heads at peaceful demonstrations. Or, as they're known around here, the FBI. Speaking of us, whom the whole world revolves around, American outcry has been remarkably muted even though we witnessed the unspeakable horror of seeing Anderson Cooper punched and Katie Couric jostled.
Diplomatically, of course, Obama needs to be careful. His task is to encourage the demonstrators while allowing the Egyptian leader to save face. Fortunately, equivocation is one of our President's strong suits. This guy has straddled so many fences he could build a tree house in a redwood from the splinters in his butt. A skill Mubarak must now regret he never bothered to learn.
San Francisco-based political comedian Will Durst often writes: this is an example.