As Cairo resident Adam told us: "Picture a thief tied to a lamppost. He has been beaten to within an inch of his life. There is euphoria around him; his captors are celebrating their swift imposition of justice. Some are taking pictures with their phones."
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images
It's never too violent outside for a selfie.
Were those guys actually guilty? Who knows -- an angry mob of revolutionaries full of pent-up rage is subject to even less oversight than the corrupt Egyptian cops who were unjustly pummeling them in the first place. As Adam put it, "They gradually become enforcers of a 'law' that is essentially a result of their own opinions and sometimes mood."
Jim, the British student/teacher who was working in Cairo during the second revolution, had to avoid the protests entirely -- white people don't blend in terribly well in Egypt, and word was beginning to spread that foreigners were secretly spies, aligned with whatever hated ruler happened to be in power. "You were at risk even trying to have a look. It was a running joke among me and my friends ... me looking like a spy." Jim wasn't just being paranoid -- an American student (in Egypt to teach English, just like Jim) was stabbed to death at a protest by pro-military rebels swarming an office of the Muslim Brotherhood. He wasn't attempting to block the entrance or hold anyone back -- he was literally just standing there, being obviously non-Egyptian, and he took a knife to the chest for his trouble.
"Wait a sec ... this guy doesn't walk like us at all."
The fact is, large groups of angry people don't tend to make the best decisions, and suddenly handing them the reins of power after decades of government pacification gradually dulls the "righteous fury of revolution" to the less-dazzling "self-righteous fury of revolution," until eventually all you have is just plain old fury. And once the government is out of the picture, the only thing left to vent that fury on are the people you claimed to be fighting for in the first place. It's like that friend you had in 5th grade who was really cool until he became a hall monitor and immediately transformed into an insufferable shitbasket.