Did the Egyptian Gov't Write This Headline?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Did the Egyptian Gov't Write This Headline?

Okay, imagine for just a moment that you write headlines for the New York Times newspaper. And imagine that someone has asked you to write a headline for this news article:
Wielding bamboo batons and small leaded clubs, Egyptian security agents attacked and beat protesters on Saturday as they tried to rally in the central Tahrir Square here, chanting slogans calling for the end of Hosni Mubarak's 24-year-reign as president.

The police battled protesters Saturday as one carried a sign calling for an end to "24 years of oppression" under President Hosni Mubarak.

A contingent of several thousand black-uniformed riot police officers, with shields and batons, together with squads of plainclothes agents, each armed with a blackjack, cornered small groups of protesters and then beat them, often tearing their clothing, as commanding officers, with stars on their shoulders, shouted for the beatings to continue.

... Wael Khalil, an organizer of the protest, and about 20 others who were turned away from Tahrir began chanting, "Down, down, Hosni Mubarak," as they ran in the center of a busy downtown street. A group of the riot police officers chased after them, surrounding the group and hitting demonstrators with bamboo poles.

The protesters broke out of the cordon, but the police tried to grab Mr. Khalil. They beat him until other protesters pulled him free. Moments later, plainclothes agents surrounded Mr. Khalil and he was taken away.

A local journalist, Shaaban Abdel Remin el-Dabaa, collapsed on a car after being beaten. "People of Egypt, here is the terrorism," Safaa el-Moleihi, a colleague from the same newspaper, shouted as he waved his colleague's press card in the air.
So, based on the reporter's article (which you've just read), would your headline read something like this?
Egyptian Police Attack
Anti-Mubarak Protesters
Or would you write a headline like this one?
Anti-Mubarak Protesters
Clash With Police in Cairo
If you chose the latter, you'd apparently feel right at home working at the New York Times because that's the headline that the newspaper ran with this article on page 6 of Sunday's edition.

This was a strange choice of headlines. The word "clash" places the events from Saturday in a distinctly neutral fame.

Armies clash. Rival street gangs clash. But anti-government protesters who were ostensibly unarmed do not clash with baton-swinging police.

Nowhere in the Times news article is there a single reference to the anti-Mubarak protesters instigating violence, destroying public property or otherwise inciting police to take the kind of violent actions that they took. This headline should have conveyed that one side was the aggressor, and that side was the Egyptian police.

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