Last week, as he made a bid to become Egypt’s latest dictator, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis, and drawing new crowds to Tahrir Square, TIME magazine interviewed Mohamed Morsi. The ‘exclusive’ interview took the title ‘We’re Learning How to Be Free’ — which, in light of Morsi’s recent attempt to grant himself un-democratic powers, seems just a little dishonest. The opening gambit seems to credit Morsi for the ceasefire in Gaza, and acknowledges the county’s crisis, but the three interviewers — TIME managing editor Rick Stengel, editor-at-large Bobby Ghosh and Jerusalem bureau chief Karl Vick — never seem to press him on the point.
The interview begins with this note:
in previous stories, TIME had spelled the President’s surname as Morsy, based on his Ph.D. dissertation for the University of Southern California; his advisers in Cairo say the preferred spelling is Morsi.
A kind of pedantry which would have been better applied, in this interview, to Egyptian constitutional law.
The interview — even in full transcript — seems wildly superficial and full of odd attempts to describe Morsi’s personal side:
On accusations that he is a new pharaoh and tyrant: New pharaoh? [Laughs] … I went to prison. [He touches his tie.]
And, apart from that, see the weird mentions of his memories of watching ‘U.S. television’ during his Ph.D. in California — does this make him seem more human? — and his love for Gone with the Wind and the original Planet of the Apes.
I remember a movie. Which one? Planet of the Apes. The old version, not the new one. There is new one. Which is different. Not so good. It’s not expressing the reality as it was the first one. But at the end, I still remember, this is the conclusion: When the big monkey, he was head of the supreme court I think — in the movie! — and there was a big scientist working for him, cleaning things, has been chained there. And it was the planet of the apes after the destructive act of a big war, and atomic bombs and whatever in the movie. And the scientists was asking him to do something, this was 30 years ago: “Don’t forget you are a monkey.” He tells him, “Don’t ask me about this dirty work.” What did the big ape, the monkey say? He said, “You’re human, you did it [to] yourself.” That’s the conclusion. Can we do something better for ourselves? I saw it 30 years ago. That is the role of the art.
Issandr Amrani, writing at the Arabist, comments that Morsi is calling the Supreme Constitutional Court a “monkey”.