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How The New York Times Lied About Egypt
by Jared Israel and Samantha Criscione

We charge that the media falsified coverage of the conflict in Egypt, and we prove it in the case of the top human rights columnist for The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof, showing that his eye-witness report and video about the fighting between anti-Mubarak forces and their opponents in Tahrir Square February 2 constitute unbridled deceit.

Part 4: The videographer's art, enfin

* * *

Appendix: "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Square," by Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, February 2, 2011

Embedded video: "Meeting Mubarak's Supporters," by Nicholas D. Kristof and Jaron Gilinsky, The New York Times, February 2, 2011

* * *

The other parts of the series are:

"Part 1: A picture can refute a thousand lies"

"Part 2: To see a world in a grain of sand and mendacity in a thumbnail"

"Part 3: Better lying through technology"

============================================

As we have seen in the previous parts of this series, Nicholas D. Kristof lies in his column, "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Square" (see Part 1), and lies and attempts to cover up his lies in his video, "Meeting Mubarak's Supporters" (see Part 2 and Part 3), even before the video begins.

Therefore it is only fitting that, for a change of pace, Kristof should begin said video with an absurdity.

The video opens with some men chanting in support of then President Hosni Mubarak. The stage thus set, Nicholas D. Kristof appears on screen and  proclaims that:

"Mubarak today seems to have sent in the thugs to try to restore his role to Tahrir Square. There have been people pouring in with exactly the same talking points, with very similar signs."
[Our emphasis -- TENC]
-- New York Times video, "Meeting Mubarak's Supporters," 0:17, embedded below

Aside from the fact that in telling us that Mubarak wants to "restore his role to Tahrir Square," Kristof sounds as if he is translating 'restore his control of Tahrir Square' from some other language into English using Babel Fish -- aside from that, there is a wee difficulty with Kristof's opening remarks.

As you may recall Kristof begins his New York Times column by stating that he was "watching" as:

"Pro-government thugs at Tahrir Square used clubs, machetes, swords and straight razors on Wednesday to try to crush Egypt's democracy movement [...]."
[Our emphasis -- TENC]
-- "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Square," The New York Times, February 2, 2011, posted in full in the Appendix

So Kristof opens his column by saying that the men he calls "pro-government thugs" attacked with "machetes, swords and straight razors," but he opens his video by saying they attacked with "talking points" and "signs."


========================================

Would that be 'Weapons of Talk Destruction' (WTD)?

========================================

In the real world, if people "used clubs, machetes, swords and straight razors  [...] to try to crush Egypt's democracy movement," they would not also try to crush said supposed movement by talking, and therefore, except in a farce, if Mr. Mubarak had mobilized "pro-government thugs" for lethal attacks he would not have worried about getting them to memorize "exactly the same talking points," i.e., arguments, or indeed any talking points at all.

By saying that "the thugs" are "pouring in" in order "to crush Egypt's democracy movement" with "talking points" and "signs," Kristof invites a cartoon parody in which said "thugs," although supposedly carrying "machetes, swords and straight razors," torture their victims by endlessly repeating the same arguments and waving similar signs until said victims break down and renounce democracy.

The problem here -- and, as we shall see, this is Kristof's main problem throughout the video -- is that during his day in Tahrir Square he could not come up with any photos or video footage of "Mubarak's Supporters" doing anything but talking.  No "gun."
[1]  No "clubs, machetes, swords and straight razors."  No intimidation.  Not even a mean look.  As we have seen (in parts 2 and 3 [2]), even the threatening image he used for the thumbnail representing this video about "Mubarak's Supporters" is in fact a laboriously doctored photo of Mubarak's most extreme opponents. Faced with this obstacle -- the discontinuity between what he claims and what is true -- Kristof turns to what we have seen is his customary solution: he makes something up.


====================================

Footage inserted to deceive

====================================

Kristof says that Mubarak has sent "the thugs" "pouring" into Tahrir Square immediately after the video opens with footage of a group of pro-Mubarak demonstrators chanting. His obvious intention: to get us to believe these are some of "the thugs."  Yet all we actually see is a dozen men chanting while one holds a hand-made sign, so why should we believe Kristof's accusation?

What Kristof needs is some supporting evidence, and therefore at 0:22 the video jump-cuts from a shot of Kristof telling us about "the thugs" "pouring in" to a shot of an unidentified man, walking and talking on a cell phone, holding what appears to be a police billy club. 

The star of this inserted footage is the apparent billy club.  It is the video's only image of a possible weapon, and, inserted here, seconds after we have been shown Mubarak supporters chanting, and have been told that Mubarak has "sent in the thugs," the billy club is obviously intended to convey the impression that "Mubarak's Supporters" are armed.  (Although keep in mind, Kristof has not shown us any of the "machetes, swords and straight razors" that he claims he was "watching" in Tahrir Square.  Nor does he ever.)

The insertion of the footage at 0:22 is an attempt to manipulate our perception, but it does not stand up to scrutiny:

A) Since we do not know when or where the man with what appears to be a billy club was filmed or by whom, there is no evidence of a spatial or temporal connection between him and the pro-Mubarak demonstrators shown in the opening shot.

B) Therefore we have no reason to believe this lone man is connected to "Mubarak's Supporters" or for that matter to the anti-Mubarak forces, nor have we any reason to believe that he is a "thug."  Indeed, we have no way of knowing who he is -- a policeman possibly?

What Kristof is relying on here is that, snowed by the status of The New York Times, we will suspend our critical faculties and accept that Kristof has shown us armed "thugs."  In fact, he has only shown us that he and his associate, Mr. Gilinsky, who is credited with doing Kristof's camera work (or "videography," as the video credits put it, rather pretentiously
[3]) are dishonest film editors, thus foreshadowing the dishonesty that is yet to come.


=========================================

When there's statutory duty to be done (to be done),
a Kristof cameraman's lot is not a happy one (happy one).

-- With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance

=========================================

In his Times column Kristof tells us that the pro-Mubarak people ---

"singled out foreign journalists [for attack -- TENC], especially camera crews, presumably because they didn't want their brutality covered."
[Our emphasis -- TENC]
-- See text of Kristof's Times column in the Appendix

--- indicating that they fought not to be videotaped displaying their brutality.

But he also writes that when he and cameraman Gilinsky tried to videotape an interview with two "pro-democracy" sisters ---

"thugs swarmed us again. I appeased the members of the mob by interviewing them (as one polished his razor), and the two sisters managed again to slip away [...] ."
[Our emphasis -- TENC]
-- ibid.

--- indicating that they fought unless they were videotaped displaying their brutality, thus putting the poor cameraman in the position of the Fool in King Lear [4], trapped, if we may mix our metaphors, between Scylla and Charybdis.

Kristof would want to prove both these claims by showing us the footage in which the pro-Mubarak people threatened his own cameraman (at 1:17 in the video Kristof says this did happen) as well as the footage where (he claims) he started to interview the two alleged "pro-democracy" sisters, whereupon the "thugs," so-called, "swarmed us again," and Kristof "appeased [...] the mob by interviewing them (as one polished his razor.)"

Since according to Kristof all this happened while his videographeur was at work, camera rolling, this sensational material, which would provide such strong evidence for the case Kristof is trying to make, should be in this video, right?  It has to be in this video, right?  Especially that guy polishing the razor.  Don't leave him out!

Let us investigate.

In the video there are two interviews.  The only one involving a group is the first, which starts at 0:27. In it, Kristof interviews an English-speaking man identified as Ismail Farouk, an engineer, while a small group of men chants enthusiastically in the background.

The problem is, during said interview:

A) The two supposed sisters are nowhere to be seen. What happened to the crowd of "Mubarak's Supporters" who supposedly threatened to attack while Kristof and Gilinsky were supposedly filming an interview with the two sisters, forcing them to interview said "Supporters" instead, while one "polished his razor," all of which Kristof and Gilinsky supposedly got on videotape? 

B) Neither Farouk nor any of his associates pressure Kristof to interview them (as Kristof claims) or not to interview them (as Kristof also claims). Rather it is Kristof who seems hyper as he questions Farouk, while Farouk appears relaxed and focused.

C) None of the pro-Mubarak people filmed during the interview, or indeed elsewhere in the video, threaten Kristof or seem the least bit hostile, although he is manifestly a Western reporter, and therefore, according to Kristof, they should be primed to assault him (for one reason or the opposite).

D) Mr. Farouk does not rant against the anti-Mubarak forces, but speaks calmly and thoughtfully.  Too thoughtfully for Kristof, apparently, as demonstrated by a little editing trick Kristof and cameraman Gilinsky pull off at 0:57-0:58. 

Kristof has just asked Farouk, "Do you think that the police and the soldiers, should they remove the protesters or not?"  Farouk appears to reply, "I hope that. For all Egypt, we need stability," which would mean, 'I hope that the police and soldiers do remove the protesters, for the sake of stability.'  Not a statement suggesting that Farouk means to lead a charge to drive away the anti-Mubarak people, to be sure, but not inconsistent with the accusation that Kristof (and all the rest of the media) have made, that, as Kristof puts it in his Times column, the pro-Mubarak people "arrived in busloads that mysteriously were waved past checkpoints," as part of a scheme to justify police and military action to crush the anti-Mubarak forces. 

So: in these remarks of Farouk's, has Kristof supplied the first piece of actual evidence to support his case?  No, he has not.  We do not know what Mr. Farouk said to Kristof -- only Farouk and Kristof and cameraman Gilinsky know that -- but, what is almost as helpful, we know that he did not say, "I hope that. For all Egypt, we need stability."  We know that because, if one looks carefully between 0:57 and 0:58, one will see that, immediately after Farouk utters the word "that," there is a visually evident break.

Something has been cut out.

To be precise, Kristof and Gilinsky have removed whatever Farouk and possibly also Kristof said, whether he or they spoke for a minute or an hour, between Farouk's words, "I hope that," and his words, "For all Egypt we need stability."

We can get a clue as to what has been cut out from an earlier exchange between Kristof and Farouk.  At 0:31 Kristof asks, "Do you think the demonstrations will be over now, the protests will be over, do you think, or not?" and Farouk answers, "I think the destruction now is finished." (Our emphasis -- TENC)

In this exchange, Farouk answers like a thoughtful Egyptian, not a media-informed Westerner.  The Western media created the impression that there were demonstrators (who were idealistic and peaceful) and then there was burning and looting (carried out by persons unknown), but Egyptians know that the so-called demonstrators were the ones who did the burning and looting.
[5] So when Farouk is asked if the demonstrations will be over, Farouk answers, quite reasonably, "I think the destruction is now finished."  (Our emphasis -- TENC)

Therefore, regarding what Kristof and Gilinsky have cut out between 0:57 and 0:58, it is very likely that, when Kristof asked Farouk if the police and military should now remove the protesters, Farouk said something like:

'I hope that the police and military will put an end to all violent actions and only permit peaceful expression of opinions. President Mubarak has promised reforms, but for the government to institute these reforms, for all Egypt, we need stability.' 

These remarks would also be consistent with what an oil worker tells Kristof later in the video (quoted below), and with comments that pro-Mubarak people make in a Time magazine article that presents both sides of an Egyptian street debate on whether Mubarak should be forced out of office. [6]

Notice that if Farouk did indeed say something along these lines, he would not be calling for a police and military crackdown on dissent, as Kristof's tricky video editing makes it appear; he would be calling for the country to return to normal, which, we believe, was the desire of most Egyptians and still is. 

The fact remains, whatever Mr. Farouk said, Kristof/Gilinsky have cut out a chunk of his words to make it appear that Farouk called for a police and military crackdown on free speech. This so-called 'journalism' is shameful; Nicholas D. Kristof will get a third Pulitzer.

E) Notice that neither Mr. Farouk nor his associates are armed.  This  certainly presents a nasty difficulty for Mr. Kristof: nowhere in the video is anyone shown carrying a weapon of any kind (except for that footage of the man holding what appears to be a billy club, which Kristof/Gilinksy inserted earlier, and which was filmed who-knows-where-and-when, or by whom, and which depicts who-knows-who doing who-knows-what.)

Remember, in his New York Times column Kristof told us he was "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Square."  (Again, that is the title of the column.)  Remember, he had his own camera, plus he had cameraman Gilinsky with a video camera by his side.  These fellows are from The New York Times, so one imagines they know how to shoot a picture.  And remember that Nicholas D. Kristof has told us, in his column:

"But when I tried to interview them [i.e., the two "pro-democracy" alleged sisters, who are the heroines of his Times column -- TENC] on video, thugs swarmed us again. I appeased the members of the mob by interviewing them (as one polished his razor), and the two sisters managed again to slip away and continue toward the center of Tahrir Square [...]."
[Our emphasis -- TENC]
-- See the full text of Kristof's column in the Appendix

"On video" -- those are his own words. But somehow in the video we never see any of "Mubarak's Supporters" interrupting an interview with two women and aggressively demanding that Kristof interview them instead, let alone 'polishing his razor' while being interviewed.  We never see any of "Mubarak's Supporters" doing anything but chanting, holding signs, and talking, thoughtfully.

F) During the interview, Farouk's colleagues chant in the background.  They are not threatening; they chant enthusiastically and cheerfully, and they carry a motley assortment of hand made signs -- hand made, that is not stamped out in bureaucratic uniformity by some government agency, as Kristof implies in his column.


=========================================

Evaluation of Kristof's evidence

=========================================

So how do the accusations Kristof makes in his New York Times column hold up against the video evidence so far? 

Well, the men he has described as a mob of threatening thugs in fact appear calm and friendly.  Their body language is not threatening and their facial expressions are not harsh.  They seem earnest, just as one might expect from Egyptians naively trying to enlighten foreign reporters, and, through them, to reach Western audiences, unaware that Kristof and his associates will attack them whatever they say, making things up as required to fit their assignment of smearing those who oppose the anti-Mubarak forces.

And allow us to repeat, the pro-Mubarak people have no weapons. Contrary to Kristof's assertions, none of them are armed; none of them threatens any women; none of them polishes any razors. 

Contrary to the claims Kristof makes in his column about what he supposedly filmed in Tahrir Square on February 2, in fact the people in his video "Meeting Mubarak's Supporters" are unarmed except for their voices: they are armed with words, not weapons.  Period.

Following his first and quite unthuglike exchange with Mr. Farouk (indeed, in this first exchange it is Kristof not Farouk who seems pushy, although Kristof is also not polishing a razor) Kristof addresses us again, claiming that the "pro-Mubarak forces" have tried to break his cameraman's camera.  (Apparently this has occurred when "Mubarak's Supporters" were in their no-interviews mode.) 

If Kristof is not lying, why does the video contain zero footage of this supposed incident, which would be so useful to his argument?  Indeed, why does all the footage in the video show the pro-Mubarak people acting perfectly cordial?  Are the pro-Mubarak people violently hostile only off-camera?  (But that unlikely explanation won't work because, remember, Kristof claims he videotaped "Mubarak's Supporters" being violent.)

Really, why should we not conclude that Nicholas D. Kristof is lying?

But let us go on.

Kristof next shows us a conversation with another of "Mubarak's Supporters," an oil worker identified as Mohamad Magdi, who again is a) not armed, b) not hostile, and c) articulate.

Mr. Magdi says about Mubarak:

"I want him to stick to the end and then there will be a new president chosen by the people. But he should go out in dignity. He has helped this country."
-- New York Times video, "Meeting Mubarak's Supporters," 1:28, embedded below

We then watch Mr. Magdi argue in Arabic with Kristof's two alleged sisters.  During this exchange, a) nobody is arguing on Magdi's side (that is, contrary to what Kristof claims in his column, the two sisters are not subjected to a mob gang-up) and b) the two sister's are entirely unintimidated.  If anything, they are scornfully mocking. 

Mr. Magdi is translated saying that nobody can sleep or go to work, apparently because of the disruption caused by people burning down buildings and rioting in the streets.  He then says: "Let it be a smooth transition instead of destruction," meaning, 'Let Mubarak finish his term and then Egypt can move to a new administration without people burning and looting half the country' (as the anti-Mubarak "protesters" had in fact been doing; see footnote
[5]), to which the women scornfully (not timidly) reply not that Mr. Magdi is wrong about what anti-Mubarak forces have been doing, but, "Enough of fear!"  Apparently this means, 'Throw caution and the country to the winds, you wimp.'  This by the way echoes an exchange in the Time magazine article, "Cairo Street Debate," in which someone objecting to the massive destruction by the so-called protesters says, "Look at it --- look at the looting, look at the burned buildings," to which a woman replies, "So what? We will clean it up and rebuild it."  And adds, "What are you getting so angry about?" (See footnote [6].)  As if the looting and burning and/or other destruction of buildings all over Egypt, including police and fire stations, libraries, hospitals, shopping centers, jails, private residences, the National Council for Women, the Egyptian Museum, and so on -- as if all this were of no consequence. (See footnote [5].)

Mr. Magdi's sentiments sound neither pre-programmed nor thuggish, and remember: he is neither threatening nor armed.  Nevertheless, after Magdi's interview and argument with the two women, Kristof appears again and tells us, referring to "Mubarak's Supporters":

"One had a machete; another had a straight razor; several had sticks; there's stone throwing in various places. It seems to be an effort to create violence by these provocateurs and thereby perhaps create a pretext for a crackdown or at least simply scare people out of the democracy movement."
-- New York Times video, "Meeting Mubarak's Supporters," 1:50, embedded below

Since cameraman Gilinsky has filmed Kristof telling us the above in Tahrir Square; since said cameraman has filmed a couple of groups of pro-Mubarak people with signs, as well as two interviews and an argument (Mr. Magdi and the scornful ladies) -- since, in other words, Kristof and Gilinsky have been filming hither and yon where the action is, how come Kristof has no photos or video footage of mobs of thuggish pro-Mubarak people attacking with swords or machetes or straight razors or clubs, or at least pushing and jostling, or at the very least threatening somebody, anybody?

Why does nothing Kristof tells us correspond to anything he shows us in the video?

In the very title of his column, Kristof claims he was "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Sq."  Pray tell, in what world did Nicholas D. Kristof 'watch' them?


======================

A tale of two worlds

======================

It would appear, the problem is that Nicholas D. Kristof occupies two worlds.

In one of these worlds, so-called "pro-Mubarak" people -- that is, people opposed to the forces that have created a reign of terror, burning and looting all over the country, intimidating ordinary people with a goal of bringing Egypt under clerical fascist rule -- want to show people outside Egypt that most Egyptians oppose the destruction and want to convince honest people among the Tahrir Square "protesters" to part company with the destroyers.  This world could be found in Tahrir Square on February 2, but although its existence is confirmed by what people say and do in Kristof's video, Kristof tries to convince us that this world does not exist.

In the other world, lethally armed pro-Mubarak "thugs" threaten timid but brave "middle-age[d]" sisters, break cameras and attack the anti-Mubarak people with razors, machetes and swords.  This world could not be found anywhere at any time except in the heads of Nicholas D. Kristof and his cameraman, as well as Western leaders and other Western reporters; nevertheless Kristof tries to convince us that this world does exist and that he saw it and filmed it, even though he shows us no footage of this world -- none at all.

Having of necessity filmed the real world of pro-Mubarak talkers, Kristof tells us about the imaginary world of pro-Mubarak killers, with the result that his video exemplifies the doublethink about which George Orwell writes in 1984.  (You know, where they show us war and they tell us we have been shown peace.)  Here we are shown thoughtful discourse, while we are told we have been shown murderous mob intimidation.

You say you are worried about democracy in Egypt?  With media like The New York Times, how can we have democracy in the U.S.?

-- Jared Israel and Samantha Criscione
Emperor's Clothes



============================================


"Meeting Mubarak's Supporters," video by Nicholas D. Kristof and Jaron Gilinsky, The New York Times, February 2, 2011

If your browser does not show this video, it can be viewed on the New York Times website, at http://video.nytimes.com/video/...-supporters.html



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Footnotes and Further Reading

============================================

[1] In his column, Kristof claims that at least one of "Mubarak's Supporters" had a "gun." He writes that on February 1 (the day before the fighting in Tahrir Square):

"One man, a suspected police infiltrator, was caught with a gun on Tuesday quite close to me, and I was impressed with the way [anti-Mubarak -- TENC] volunteers disarmed him and dragged him to an army unit --- all while forming a protective cordon around him to keep him from being harmed."
[Our emphasis -- TENC]
-- "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Square," The New York Times, February 2, 2011, posted in full in the Appendix

Notice that Kristof claims he was an eye witness. Why then doesn't he show us a photo of this sensational capture in his column, or include footage of this remarkable supposed event in his video?  A possible reason: it did not happen, or it did not happen in the way he describes. For example, perhaps there was no gun; perhaps the man was not a plain clothes policeman; perhaps, having no weapon, he was not disarmed but was beaten senseless for expressing unacceptable views, as happened to the Mubarak supporter in the pictures below:

http://tenc.net/images/silenced-bw-540.jpg
Source: http://framework.latimes.com/2011/03/02/behind-the-stage-at-tahrir-square-in-cairo/#/4 Photo #5
(C) Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times 2011. Reproduced here for educational purposes, for Fair Use Only.
http://tenc.net/images/silence-withcaption.jpg
Source: http://framework.latimes.com/2011/01/28/protests-in-egypt/#/19 Photo #20
(C) Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times 2011. Reproduced here for educational purposes, for Fair Use Only.


The two photos above were taken by a Los Angeles Times photographer on February 8 or 9, more than a week after the famous fighting in Tahrir Square.

The caption reads:

"A pro-Mubarak supporter, who made his way into the center of a massive anti-regime crowd, is silenced after shouting his support for the beleaguered president." [Our emphasis -- TENC]

Silenced for "shouting his support." So according to the L.A. Times, the man's crime was speech.  As you can see in the color photograph, the man's forehead is dented and discolored.  Apparently he has been struck with a blunt instrument.

[2] "Part 2: To see a world in a grain of sand and mendacity in a thumbnail" is at http://emperors-clothes.com/kristof2.htm

"Part 3: Better lying through technology" is at
http://emperors-clothes.com/kristof3.htm

[3] At the end of Kristof's video, the credits read, "Videography: Jaron Gilinsky."

[4] King Lear, Act I, Scene IV

Fool: I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are:
they'll have me whipped for speaking true, thou'lt
have me whipped for lying; and sometimes I am
whipped for holding my peace.

[5] We have started publishing material documenting the campaign of military-level destruction carried out by Egypt's anti-government "protesters" with our exclusive report on the destruction of Egypt's National Council for Women, the government agency devoted to fighting for women's rights, which can be read at http://tenc.net/time.htm#II

In "Egypt: Colonialism, terror and deceit," we analyze how the Western media twisted news reports so as to present those who burned down fire stations and fired rocket-propelled grenades at police stations as "protesters":  http://tenc.net/col-1.htm

In coming days, we will publish more evidence of destruction and attempted destruction of libraries, hospitals, fire stations, police stations, private residences and shopping centers; murder of policemen; heavy weapon attacks on jails involving release of thousands of inmates including terrorists; and evidence that on February 2, contrary to the media and Western government statements, it was the anti-Mubarak forces, not "Mubarak's Supporters," who instigated and sustained the fighting in and around Tahrir Square.

In the meantime, this is what remains of the Al Bahr Al A'zam Library in Cairo, destroyed on January 28, 2011 by the forces of the Egyptian so-called "revolution":

http://tenc.net/images/bhr04.jpg
http://tenc.net/images/bhr08.jpg
Source: Cybrarians: the Arabic portal for librarianship & information science
http://en.cybrarians.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=334:dgsl


[6] The Time article "Cairo Street Debate: When Mubarak Foes and Backers Clash" by Rania Abouzeid (January 31, 2011) is posted on Emperor's Clothes with commentary by Jared Israel.
The commentary is at http://tenc.net/time.htm#IV 
The text of the article is at http://tenc.net/time.htm#V


============================================

Appendix: "Watching Thugs With Razors and Clubs at Tahrir Sq."
By Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, February 2, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/opinion/03kristof.html

[Nicholas D. Kristof's column begins here]

Pro-government thugs at Tahrir Square used clubs, machetes, swords and straight razors on Wednesday to try to crush Egypt's democracy movement, but, for me, the most memorable moment of a sickening day was one of inspiration: watching two women stand up to a mob.

I was on Tahrir Square, watching armed young men pour in to scream in support of President Hosni Mubarak and to battle the pro-democracy protesters. Everybody, me included, tried to give them a wide berth, and the bodies of the injured being carried away added to the tension. Then along came two middle-age sisters, Amal and Minna, walking toward the square to join the pro-democracy movement. They had their heads covered in the conservative Muslim style, and they looked timid and frail as thugs surrounded them, jostled them, shouted at them.

Yet side by side with the ugliest of humanity, you find the best. The two sisters stood their ground. They explained calmly to the mob why they favored democratic reform and listened patiently to the screams of the pro-Mubarak mob. When the women refused to be cowed, the men lost interest and began to move on --- and the two women continued to walk to the center of Tahrir Square.

I approached the women and told them I was awed by their courage. I jotted down their names and asked why they had risked the mob's wrath to come to Tahrir Square. "We need democracy in Egypt," Amal told me, looking quite composed. "We just want what you have."

But when I tried to interview them on video, thugs swarmed us again. I appeased the members of the mob by interviewing them (as one polished his razor), and the two sisters managed again to slip away and continue toward the center of Tahrir Square, also known as Liberation Square, to do their part for Egyptian democracy.

Thuggery and courage coexisted all day in Tahrir Square, just like that. The events were sometimes presented by the news media as "clashes" between rival factions, but that's a bit misleading. This was an organized government crackdown, but it relied on armed hoodlums, not on police or army troops.

The pro-Mubarak forces arrived in busloads that mysteriously were waved past checkpoints. These forces emerged at the same time in both Alexandria and Cairo, and they seemed to have been briefed to carry the same kinds of signs and scream the same slogans. They singled out foreign journalists, especially camera crews, presumably because they didn't want their brutality covered. A number of journalists were beaten up, although far and away it was Egyptians who suffered the most.

Until the arrival of these thugs, Tahrir Square had been remarkably peaceful, partly because pro-democracy volunteers checked I.D.'s and frisked everyone entering. One man, a suspected police infiltrator, was caught with a gun on Tuesday quite close to me, and I was impressed with the way volunteers disarmed him and dragged him to an army unit --- all while forming a protective cordon around him to keep him from being harmed. [Since Kristof claims he was an eye witness, why doesn't he show us a photo here, in his column, or include footage in his video of this remarkable supposed event?  An excellent possible reason: it didn't happen, or did not happen at all in the way he describes. -- TENC]

In contrast, the pro-Mubarak mobs were picking fights. At first, the army kept them away from the pro-democracy crowds, but then the pro-Mubarak thugs charged into the square and began attacking.

There is no reliable way of knowing right now how many have been killed and injured in Egypt's turmoil. Before Wednesday's violence, Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said the death toll could be as many as 300, but she acknowledged that she was basing that on "unconfirmed" reports. There are some who are missing, including a senior Google official, Wael Ghonim, who supported the democracy activists. On Wednesday, the government said that three more had died and many hundreds were injured; I saw some people who were unmoving and looked severely injured at the least. These figures compare with perhaps more than 100 killed when Iran crushed its pro-democracy movement in 2009 and perhaps 400 to 800 killed in Beijing in 1989.

Chinese and Iranian leaders were widely condemned for those atrocities, so shouldn't Mr. Mubarak merit the same broad condemnation? Come on, President Obama. You owe the democracy protesters being attacked here, and our own history and values, a much more forceful statement deploring this crackdown.

It should be increasingly evident that Mr. Mubarak is not the remedy for the instability in Egypt; he is its cause. The road to stability in Egypt requires Mr. Mubarak's departure, immediately.

But for me, when I remember this sickening and bloody day, I'll conjure not only the brutality that Mr. Mubarak seems to have sponsored but also the courage and grace of those Egyptians who risked their lives as they sought to reclaim their country. And incredibly, the democracy protesters held their ground all day at Tahrir Square despite this armed onslaught. Above all, I'll be inspired by those two sisters standing up to Mr. Mubarak's hoodlums. If they, armed only with their principles, can stand up to Mr. Mubarak's thuggery, can't we all do the same?

(C) The New York Times Company, 2011. Reprinted here for educational purpose, for Fair Use Only.

[Nicholas D. Kristof's column ends here]

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