The people of Cyprus are pretty religious and very Orthodox Christian. They keep icons on their desk in business offices, including the bank. Wednesday, the 15th, is dedicated to the Mother of God and it's a national holiday. Everything is closed.
But the cheapest satellite network here is the Nile Network [NTN], which the British here subscribe to for their holiday rental apartments and houses so that people on holiday have something to watch and they don't have to pay much. The Nile Network includes both Al Jazeera and CNN, and breaks 5 times a day for Muslim prayer. In the middle of an old American action movie (in English, with Arabic subtitles), an imam will come on and preach Islam - with English, Russian or Greek subtitles, depending on which holiday makers he is in the mood to hit today - for 15 minutes. The Nile Network tells you when a movie will be on, not as "Tuesday the 14th at 6 PM", but rather as "The Second Day (or 3rd) day of Ramadan at 6PM", so you have no idea when this movie is going to be on unless you check the Islamic calendar.
This place is pretty amazing. Most Greek Cypriots just basically ignore it all, never would subscribe to the Nile Network even for their holiday rentals, and kind of think that the British are a bit nuts.
|A beach in Cyprus
Nile's Wikipedia page lists the network's goals thus (emphasis added):
- Address foreign viewers in Egypt and all over the world with regard to culture, economy, tourism, and art, and to initiate a constructive dialogue between different cultures in foreign languages.
- Present the views of the Egyptian government and people on various issues concerning the Arab World and the Middle East, as well as global issues.
- Reflect the image of modern Egypt, and all its concrete achievements in the form of national projects in the fields of education, women's rights, health care, and the establishment of a democratic atmosphere.
- Broadcast news events from Egypt and the Arab World, and analyzing and discussing them with officials, politicians, analysts and cultured Egyptians, Arabs and foreigners in foreign languages.
- Present objective news on international events, analyzing and discussing those events to help foreign viewers understand the truth about the Egyptian and Arab stances on the current international events in order to protect foreign viewers from falling prey to biased media.
- Present images of Egypt and reflect its religions and values, humanitarian and tolerance.
All the standard buzzwords and catchphrases are there. When you distill the verbiage, you're left with an understanding that Nile is an Egyptian propaganda channel. There's nothing wrong with that, mind you. But it's very interesting that they wrap that propaganda in American action movies - hardly a reflection of Egyptian "religion and values."
I've observed a similar phenomenon in Serbia, where a network called B92 injects its propaganda (also called "news") into a stream of American entertainment programming. Not surprisingly, B92 was directly funded by the Empire for years - and may still be; though the station's ownership has supposedly changed, its slant hasn't changed in the slightest. The difference here is that NTN is spreading Egyptian propaganda abroad, while B92 is spreading Imperial propaganda at home (sometimes with hilarious results). Yet they have the same modus operandi: come for the fun, stay for the indoctrination.
Needless to say, this kind of propaganda works best on a thoroughly disoriented audience: people whose own culture, heritage, identity and values have been systematically stripped away. That way, when someone else's ideas and values are presented to them, they are embraced as a breath of fresh air. Earlier this year, indie Finnish satire Iron Sky played this for laughs in a subplot where a PR wizard earnestly brands an electoral campaign with ideas from actual Nazis (from the Moon!).
Have the British been so tenderized? Brendan O'Neill seems to think so, illustrating the claim with examples of reactions against the people who dared dislike the opening ceremony of the Olympics. He also argued that the arrest of a boy who sent a nasty tweet to a British diver showed a "culture of intolerance" that has developed in the UK - paradoxically, in the name of imposing "tolerance" and "diversity." British tourists are already showing an alarming lack of judgment by choosing to watch TV while vacationing in what is by all accounts an exceptionally beautiful country. So, who knows?
Nile TV is merely exploiting an opening provided to it by culture warriors in the West. Serbs at least have a cause to be angry at B92, as it both creates and exploits the confusion in their society. If the British tourists fall for any of Nile's propaganda, it will be nobody's fault but their own.