Has anyone stopped to ask where the headlines "Muslim Brotherhood Wins Egypt's Presidential Election!" originate? They come, of course, straight from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies—particularly the Qatar-based Islamist propaganda machine, Al Jazeera—and were then unquestioningly picked up and spread like wildfire by the Western mainstream media and talking-heads.
Left unquoted by the Western media are the many Egyptian analysts that have a different tale to tell—that the secular candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, has won.
But what does the Muslim Brotherhood have to benefit by claiming victory now, if official results might prove otherwise on June 21, a mere three days from now? Simple: they will be able to scream foul play—and gain the world's sympathy. For days the world will have been inundated with news that the Brotherhood won, so that, when and if it hears that Shafiq won, it will naturally conclude electoral fraud—which best serves the Islamists' interests.
Mahmoud Baraka, a Shafiq campaign spokesman, maintains that "their candidate [Shafiq] won the presidency, with 52% of the votes"—precisely the same number the Brotherhood is claiming—adding that the Brotherhood's claims to victory "are bizarre and unacceptable," a "big act."
Likewise, talk show host Tawfik Okasha appeared emphatically saying that the Brotherhood's claims are "all lies," that most polls indicate that Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Morsi "failed," and that the Islamist group's motive is simply to sow "discord and dissension." He proceeded to give several examples of how the Brotherhood's claims are incongruous with reality.
But why believe Shafiq's spokesman and staunch secularist Okasha? Good question. Here's a better one: Why believe the Muslim Brotherhood? Why follow the lead of an organization that has mastered dissimulation, an organization that promised Egypt it would not run a presidential candidate, only to renege once opportune?
Knowing the Brotherhood's deceptive tactics—"War is deceit" declared their prophet—there is good reason to think that they may have planned a propaganda victory well before the elections. They could claim victory, won fair and square; they could have their Islamist and Western media supporters trumpet it; they could embed it in everyone's mind over the course of three days before the results are formally announced—all to set the playing field to their advantage.
Then, if Shafiq wins, everyone—from militant Islamists in Egypt to a grandstanding U.S. Secretary of State—will shout, "foul play!" thereby exonerating the long promised civil war Egypt's Islamists vowed to wage if the election did not go their way—a rebellion that would then be portrayed in the West as a result of "grievance."
The truth is, as of this moment, no one knows which candidate won. What is known is that it's a close race. Perhaps Morsi will win; perhaps Shafiq. Short time will tell.
In the meantime, although the media need to "break the news" and not be left behind, prudence is in order. It is counterproductive for the West to eat straight out of the Brotherhood's hands—to unreservedly follow their tune and propagate their unsubstantiated information—which is precisely what the Islamists want: it works only to their advantage.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.