It’s been called “the joke of journalism.” Osama Saraya, the man ultimately responsible for its publication, fancies it “expressive.” There is a lot one can say about the doctored photo of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which upon its discovery has become a media sensation and a source of embarrassment to the Egypt government and its official newspaper (and apparent Photoshop user) Al-Ahram. Funny? The comparison of the photos is, undoubtedly. Inspiration for online parodies? Done—you can see Mubarak lead the moon landing. But CNN has called the controversy a triumph of new versus old in media—and in this case falls guilty of wrongly extrapolating from Western expectations.

Al-Ahram’s sneaky attempt to place Egypt in the forefront of the peace process was spotted by blogger Wael Khalil, whose blog post has since made the rounds of major media publications. Khalil himself seems to be amused by the attention his post has received—as recounted by the Huffington Post, his Twitter account announces, “Currently enjoying my moment as a famed blogger.” Video of the procession of leaders confirms Khalil as correct.

Given Al-Ahram’s reputation as a government-supporting publication—its directors are officially appointed—one might assume that the move was a subtle one related to regional politics. Placing Mubarak in front of Obama and the Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian leaders could imply Egypt possessing a leadership role in the Middle East peace talks. Taking a step back, Al-Ahram’s decision would seemingly indicate self-doubt about Egypt’s leader’s role, with the paper uncomfortable showing him in the back of the group.

Adding to the embarrassment would be the stance of CNN’s Middle East blog, “Inside the Middle East”—that new media in Egypt can now pack a punch and reach a wide audience, while Al-Ahram is fumbling and out of touch.

Unfortunately for lovers of “new media”—presumably CNN’s phrase for “blogs plus Twitter”—the reality may not be so convenient.


Mubarak’s Fancy Footwork