Mubarak, Stalin and media! A.K. 2012

Asmaa Khairy 

Term paper; submitted to Dr. Peter Polak Springer

Course: Europe ,the cold war and world since 1945- Qatar University


This was a paper I did a year ago for a cold war course, I’d like to have your reflections on it!


Why did Stalin survive as a leader to the last minute of his life but Mubarak didn’t?

 By the passage of time, it becomes clear that media is one of the most powerful tools to lead the people and to either reveal or cover truth!

Two of the most famous dictators’ eras; Stalin and Mubarak, have many similarities in many ways, especially when it comes to usage of media.

Stalin’s era, started 1941, just after the death of Lenin; was full of crimes, mistakes, lies and yet good achievements to some extent. Mubarak’s era, started 1981, also just after the former leader –Sadat –was assassinated. His era was not as bloody as Stalin’s, but yet they had their similarities. Mubarak’s era is similar to Stalin regarding specific aspects. Lack of freedom of speech is one, secret police, show trials and denouncing of high ranked oppositions or people with high influence. They also are similar when it comes to implementing education in society. Stalin was denounced once dead. While Mubarak was forced to step down by a revolution backed up with military.

As a start, I’ll look into the common cultural in the countries where the dictators ruled. As well as, in the light of what’s mentioned above, I’ll be looking into the usage of media in covering up, explaining and supporting both dictators. I’ll also look in the differences of their times, and how the digital era-in one way or another helped in bringing down Mubarak.

Through case studies and comparative methods, I’ll be looking into the role media played in shaping public’s opinion. In addition to that, studying the effect of an alternative informal media tool: such as social networks and blogs, on dictator’s propagandas.


             During the 30s, Stalin murdered out the intellectuals throughout the USSR and started to instill the soviet ideology in every cultural elite[1] so it paves the way for the investment of Art in all its shapes in favor of the great power.  Stalin believed that an artist is the engineer of the human soul[2]; he used art to re-engineer the cultural identity of the USSR. He has changed history of cities for example Breslau, which was a German border city and when Stalin shifted the borders, he created a whole new identity for the city to convince the people that it was Polish and that Moscow got it back for them[3] . To cut a long story short; Stalin created a cultural identity that was solid enough to pave the way for him to cease the ultimate power.

However on the other hand, Mubarak didn’t create this culture base. He sure have worked through songs and different methods to cease people’s love for example, there was a song called “ekhtarnah” means: we chose him that says: “O’ we chose him, O’ we chose him, since the first time we heard him, O’ we chose him, O’ we chose him, from the start of his era we understood him, O’ we chose him, O’ we chose him, and we’d follow him to wherever God would take us.”[4]. It would be useful to mention that Mubarak wasn’t elected; power was handed over to him after Sadat was assassinated and he remained in power and was introduced to the people as the safe guard of the people and the state, under emergency law.

 Likewise, Stalin gained his power from the idea of “permanent revolution” after World War 2; that revolution is always in need for a wise and strong leader, which is able to lead the nation to its success. This leader should be from the people and working for the people, and Stalin was introduced to the people as this person. However his failures in achieving the nation’s goals (i.e. famine, low industrial quality); conspiracy theory works best in covering up for Stalin and answering people’s doubt.[5]

However, Mubarak didn’t need to create a public culture to support his domination at the time he was appointed a leader; since the public had this wisdom that scares anyone using the word “Never talk in these two, religion and politics”. This thought was very popular within people, especially with the terror Jamal Abd el Nasser and Anwar Al Sadat have created in the way they’ve dealt with their political opponents.[6]

Back to conspiracy theories, as for Stalin’s era, “Man of Marble” film explains how it works clearly; when discussing “pass the brick” conspiracy. For the sake of rapid industrialization, a builder decided to challenge his limits and line up 30k brick in one shift. He does achieve his target and became famous for being a public hero. He travelled around the country to demonstrate his experience, however, the brick industry doesn’t keep up with him, and so bricks won’t be left to cool up and were used hot, and burnt the workers hand. The blame was put on the co-builder; as he was wearing gloves so he must have known the brick would hurt him. Therefore, this is a conspiracy from enemies –French Jews- to destroy the hands of the countries precious workers.

Mubarak, however, uses some similar conspiracy theories and some different ones. Through the uprising of the 25th of January 2011, Mubarak used the Israeli conspiracy to rule Egypt; the uprising was thought to be a Zionist movement against the regime to bring down Mubarak and make it easy for Israel to invade[7]. A citizen, who was later known to be a reporter at the state TV[8], called and said that they started off as peaceful rallies and the weird people started flooding in and weird slogans, that weren’t agreed on by most of the youth in the rallies were raised, and that the youth is trapped in Tahrir and can’t leave though they don’t want to bring down the father president Mubarak.

On the other hand, he differed from Stalin that, not only did he used nationalism conspiracy theories, he also used religious ones. Once a political debate is raised during the last 5 years of Mubarak’s rule, media would bring up a subject like character drawings that are offensive to the Muslim prophet Muhammad to distract the people[9]. They also created accidents, like bombing churches, and accused Muslim parties of it (i.e. Al Quidisin church bombing Dec2010), to create the idea of conspiracy between both Muslims and Christians; and make Christians believe that the regime is their safe guard[10].

Moving on, one of the similarities between Stalin and Mubarak is the secret police. Stalin has had the NKVD which interfered in people’s life, they hear every word spoken and they note it down[11]. Thus, any political opposition was killed or destroyed at its first steps. Mubarak however didn’t interfere in people’s life, but he used State security department as well as the intelligence to invade the political opponents’ parties[12]. He used them as spies who filled him in with plans, and rage and anything that might be twisted and used in favor of the regime.

Apart from spying on the opposition, both Stalin’s and Mubarak’s secret regime were known for their torture to political opponents. The NKVD used cold water and prohibiting the prisoner from sleeping in order to make him confess[13]. Mubarak’s state security used the same methods in addition to flogging the prisoners and leaving them naked in terror in dark underground rooms. After the Egyptian rage in 2011, an activist, Adel S.: who has been in Nasser city’s department of state security’s invasion March 2011 Says: “When we went down to the underground cells, we smelled a weird odor, an odor that had four different odors collected (blood, sweat, urine and stool) we called it the odor of torture”[14].

However, why did Stalin stand till his last minute while Mubarak didn’t? Stalin has created a cultural base that believed in him as a leader, this culture has passed from one generation to another. They cherished him and believed in his vision. Mubarak however, only depended on the fear that was spread in the culture from politics. This fear wasn’t passed from one generation to another. The new generation was furious from what was going on in the country and the system couldn’t contain the rage.

Media, propaganda and conspiracy were used in Stalin’s era to cover up for the system and contain any rage. Mubarak tried to do the same but he couldn’t; since a new type of media has been used. New media: social networks and blogs that is dependent on the citizen journalism. Wael Abbas a well known blogger in Egypt, sets an example for a blogger who managed to draw attention to an incident of torture known in Media by Emad Al kabir’s incident says: “It was only an hour and my blog had 500,000 views. Not one of us-the bloggers- have had this number of views before and we’re amazed of how fast it spread!”[15]

A counter culture was developing through that alternative media. This new media has spread among the youth and eventually managed to break out the revolution by collecting masses together. However, this counter culture was not yet mature, so there was no alternative for the system, but it was able to bring down the head of the system that however, remained in power.  If there was a counter culture during Stalin’s may be he wouldn’t survive, however, this counter culture in Egypt was what brought down Mubarak. This shows clearly when Stalinism falls eventually, after Stalin dies, it fell apart due to counter culture that rises up in the 60s and 70s.

To conclude, media is very powerful, it’s called in some countries the fourth authority. It can be used by dictators to pave the way for them remaining in power; it can also be used as a tool of counter cultures against the authoritarian ones.

[1] m.zubok, v. (2007). A failed empire. chapel hill: the university of north carolina press .p 165.

[2] Classroom lectures

[3] Classroom lectures

[4] Song. (1999). Ekhtrnah. Retrieved from

[5] Man of Marble, film.


أمين, م. سنة أولى سجن. cairo.

[7] Egyptian national state TV, maspero, 29th January 2011, Tamer from Gamrah’s testimony.

[8] Bothina Kamel, opposition and former anchor in state TV, testimony.

[9] Amr Adib, Al Qahira AL youm, OrbitTv, 2007.

[10] Leaked State security files, Egypt, March2011.

[11] Man of Marble, film.

[12] Personal practice of politics through 2010-2012

[13] Classroom lectures

[14] Interview in March2011

[15] Al jazeera documentary

Men’s Unemployment and Women’s social status