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Blockheads

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The genius of turning the Black Bloc into the new enemy is how perfect they are for it

Mahmoud Salem

Mahmoud Salem

In 1996, the Egyptian government’s security forces started a witch hunt against ‘satanists’ in Egypt. They arrested musicians in shitty Egyptian metal bands, and their fans, and submitted to the public the great evidence collected in such arrests, which included black clothes or even black T-shirts.

Egyptian parents, the non-hysterical logical creatures that they are, went through their kids’ closets and got rid of any suspicious black t-shirts they could find. It was a period that most Egyptians would like to forget, partially because it ended up nothing but a media circus, but mostly because it was a national embarrassment for everyone involved.

The parents were embarrassed for being idiots, and the children were embarrassed because they discovered that their parents were idiots. Luckily, the Y2K scare came along, and people scared themselves for another 4 years, just to enjoy that whole “we are idiots” feeling once again. It’s our national pastime now.

In 2013, an anarchist group called the Black Bloc appeared on the Egyptian revolutionary scene and got incredible media attention. Despite their very low numbers (maximum 100 combined in all incidents all over Egypt), the media went into a state of utter frenzy over this new group and the circus started in earnest, culminating in the appearance of one Black Bloc member on a TV show with a sock on his face. The fun thing about this absurdity is that everyone seems to be taking them seriously, but the dangerous thing is that it might continue.

Every regime’s purpose is to find a segment of its population to vilify, and thus appear to be fighting the good fight for the good and decent majority. Traditionally in Egypt you always needed an illegal and forbidden group, which has been the Muslim Brotherhood over the past 60 years. However, ever since the deal between the Military and the Brotherhood back in early 2011, to form the new regime, the need to manufacture a new forbidden group has been in constant demand. Given that it couldn’t be an Islamist group for obvious reasons, 6 of April was originally the target they had in mind, hence that SCAF statement against them back in the day.

The hilarity that ensued was the transformation of any and every activist into an instant member of the 6 of April group. The perfect example of this was Amr Gharbeia; when he was captured during the first Abbasiya clashes, he was promptly accused by his captors of being a 6of April member, which was more offensive to Gharbeia than actually being captured by a group of thugs in the middle of the street in broad daylight.

Suddenly, in the pro-SCAF media, every activist was a member of 6 of April, and a group that was in the tens before the revolution was believed by gullible people to be the force behind the revolution in the first place. Thankfully, 6 of April imploded and splintered into three different groups, and the alliance that Ahmed Maher made with the Brotherhood for Morsy’s election made it impossible for them to frame them this way. Thanks to our hilarious insistence on never to organise in any meaningful way, no other group sprung up to take that place, until the Black Bloc arrived.

The genius of turning the Black Bloc into the new enemy is how perfect they are for it. An anarchist group that targets the police, public structures and roads, juxtaposed against the Brotherhood who are always calling for stability. It doesn’t hurt that the Black Bloc has no real structure, charter, spokespeople or leadership.

There are Facebook pages and twitter accounts, but their fans insist that the Black Bloc don’t have any presence on social media. All of those reasons combined makes the arrest of anyone for being a “Black Blocker” (a BB? a Blockhead?) fairly easy: They only need to be revolutionary while wearing black. Six were already arrested yesterday, with probably their black clothes being used as evidence of the prosecution. Remind you of anything?

There are naturally other benefits of the emergence of the Black Bloc for the current regime. They delegitimise all the peaceful protesters, and deem them revolutionary sell-outs, aided by the fact that the revolutionary population has grown disillusioned with peaceful protests, and is becoming more radicalised with every death and arrest in their ranks, thus welcoming a more violent group, and the door it opens for other violent groups to emerge.

They also end any possibility for a political solution for the crisis, since the Bloc are not represented by anyone in the realm of political parties and movements, and, given their anarchist nature, are supposedly anti any kind of compromise with the current regime. And how could they be, if they are simply a glorified media invention anyway?

Luckily, we don’t have to worry about the Black Bloc‘s negative effect for long. Since anyone can be a Blockhead by virtue of having three friends who will join him in wearing black masks or their mum’s black nylon stockings, and since there are no real rules or structure to the group, offshoots and splinter groups will start forming immediately.

I personally cannot wait for the emergence of the Grey Bloc, their political arm that they will immediately disavow, or the green bloc, their fundamental Islamist offshoot, or the Pink Bloc, their radical feminist wing. And while our media will bombard us with statements and analysis of each group, many of us will wonder when the revolution started sounding like the AUC cliques. And then people will realise that we were simply enjoying our monthly dose of “we are idiots” once again, and will feel embarrassed for a while, before throwing a fit over the emergence of our first radical animal rights group, the “Angry Donkey brigades”, or something equally preposterous. Just keep watching the talk shows.

About the author

Mahmoud Salem

Mahmoud Salem

Mahmoud Salem is a political activist, writer, and social media consultant. His writings could be found at www.sandmonkey.org and follow him @sandmonkey on Twitter

  • Tironsja

    Great piece !

  • Zoraida

    So this piece was written before white blocs emerged.. Not one bit surprised. I’ll probably wake up to “angry donkey brigade” tweets tomorrow!

  • Hamid

    The Black Bloc is a tactic, not an organisation, much less a party. Thus to criticise it for for its lack of “real structure, charter, spokespeople or leadership”, as you do, is ignorant nonsense. Then you compounds your ignorance by rambling on in the concluding paragraph, supposedly wittily, about “splits” and the “Grey Bloc”, “Pink Bloc” and so on! It would have been a good idea for you to find out some elementary facts about the Black Bloc before trying to write about it.


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