The Narrative

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

Last week you published my letter arguing that media coverage of Egypt had - remarkably - not fallen into overly simplistic narrative cliches, as another of your readers feared. Well, I'd like to revise that view, especially in light of Daniel Larison’s concerns. Watching the first hour of coverage following Mubarak's resignation, I'm hearing news anchors resort not just to the obvious "history in the making," but also to phrasings like "the rebirth of Egypt" and "the people rise up in unity, with one voice," as if these were neutral descriptions. Larison is right: They're not. They're little encapsulated narratives, which like any good story can move us emotionally while possibly being quite misleading.

"The people" in particular is a deeply loaded term. But I guess you don't get to be a TV news anchor by saying things like, "There's a lot of noise and excitement, but to be honest, no one knows yet what 'the people' think or what it all really means."