On Tuesday, a Twitter rumor of Hosni Mubarak's death gained momentary traction in the West, but as The New York Times pointed out on Wednesday, speculation about the former president's health is a daily thing in Egypt, where people write off the news as political manipulation. As The Times' Kareem Fahim and David Kirkpatrick explain, news of Mubarak's failing health, once illegal to report, is now being circulated regularly by ruling generals apparently hoping to soften public opinion about moving him from his prison hospital bed to a military one, "or perhaps trying to build sympathy for the longtime autocrat to diminish opposition to his former prime minister," Ahmed Shafik, who's running for president. But they're apparently overplaying their hand.
"Mubarak dies three times a day," Ashraf al-Baz, a 42-year-old computer engineer and activist, told the reporters. "It doesn’t affect us. We don’t believe anything any longer. They think if people think he’s on the brink of death, this will calm people down." al-Baz said nobody paid attention to the coverage of Mubarak's health because "everyone knows he is going to be released." A hotel security worker interviewed later in the story said the aim of the constant health news "was 'to win sympathy' for the former president, but the effort — whoever was behind it — was wasted." Now that Mubarak's no longer in charge, nobody cares.
So what will happen when Mubarak actually dies? At this point it sounds like the response from many Egyptians will be, "finally." That is, once they're convinced it's true.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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