The initiative was first proposed by Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in an inspirational speech to the convened Arab leaders. As Sisi put it: ‘If you have two opinions, it means 50% of them are wrong. If you have three, then 66% of them are wrong, and if you have four, then 75% of them are wrong. It is clear that more opinions mean more falsehoods and untruths.’ This statement was accompanied by a powerful graph that convinced the assembled leaders of the danger of multiple opinions.
Sisi’s powerful argument, developed in conjunction with influential Egyptian media professionals, illustrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that reducing the number of opinions leads to fewer disagreements thus ensuring harmony and stability. The ultimate aim is to ensure there are no opinions whatsoever, thereby reducing the risk of disagreement as a source of friction to 0% effectively.
The Arab leaders debated at length the means of reducing available opinions and concluded that a universal ban would be the most effective option. The countries represented in the meeting will establish national agencies that will be charged with publishing guidelines determining the accepted truths, allowing citizens to express themselves freely without being burdened by the necessity to form an opinion first, or, even worse, subscribing to an opinion they encounter in the media or by reading a book.
It is understood that the guidelines will be comprehensive, offering standardised views on politics, religion, social affairs, sports and the Arabic version of The Voice. Each citizen will be issued with a series of cards divided in several colour-coded categories, on which are printed government-certified opinions. These will resemble the cards in Trivial Pursuit and they will also be available via a Smartphone App, thus ensuring that citizens can have quick access to authentic views, avoiding the potential for the spread of misleading opinions.
The leaders were unanimous in supporting the initiative, describing the woes that their countries have faced over the years due to differing opinions, sowing discord among citizens and dividing entire societies. The Arab Spring was at the heart of these accusations, as leader after leader used it as an example of how allowing divergent opinions threatens peace and stability. Never again, as the Saudi leader put it, should we allow opinions to split us apart.
The reform is particularly poignant considering the Arab predilection for forming opinions. As it is often said, ‘whenever two Arabs come together, there are three opinions’. The serious reform initiative will stamp out this social ill that causes more harm than smoking, drinking alcohol and drugs combined, according to statistics published by the Arab League central scientific committee.
Qatar alone had some initial reservations about the scheme, particularly considering that it has formed much of its reputation on allowing competing opinions to debate on its flagship broadcaster Al-Jazeera, whose slogan is ‘the opinion and the other opinion’. Indeed, Al-Jazeera’s talk shows, in which two guests scream at each other, have become a staple of Arab broadcasting, emulated by most broadcasters.
However Qatar was eventually convinced of the merits of the scheme, and Al-Jazeera will now change its slogan to ‘the accepted opinion’. The two guests can still scream at each other, but instead of having two different opinions they will now fight over who supports the official opinion more. This is expected to provide a healthy dose of passion, hoping to inspire citizens to compete over who embraces official opinions more and setting a good example for future generations.
The scheme has received support from an unexpected source, as Western leftist intellectuals declared it an important advance in the field of hermeneutics and an important step towards ‘combating the insidious cult of free speech’. The Left has been warning of the nefarious role of the mass media in spreading dangerous opinions that turn ordinary citizens into zombies and racists controlled by them for decades, and several of its leading lights have now urged Western governments to adopt similar schemes. Various Western leaders have indicated their willingness to adopt such measures, ‘subject to the matter being debated properly.’
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Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.
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