This article appeared in the special topic issue of Culture Critique entitled: “Fantasy, Image, and the Arab-Western Encounter”. It aims to debunk Western mediation of local events in an effort to refocus resistance efforts from a defensive posture to an offensive and pro-active stance.
This is in stark contrast to the Western media portrayal of the event, where the thrown shoes took precedence as (symbolically-speaking) the single worst gesture an Arab or Muslim (depending on the given trope) is capable of, and deserving in and of itself – devoid of context and history – extensive analysis. Despite the fact that the Arab-shoe-as-potent-symbol has been debunked by various academics and writersii who are much better informed about such things, the sheer gusto and glee which has been brought to bear on the object – instead of the subject – by various media reporters in print, on television, and on the radio exemplifies a particular pride
in dubious knowledge concerning the Eastern Other that has kept Edward Saïd’s Orientalism in reprint all these years. This is testament to Saïd’s premise that the West as subject has endeavored to literally pin down the East as object, employing baseless, self-referencing, and self-aggrandizing pseudo-scholarship. If we discount as artificial the given East/West dichotomy as expressed these days, it nonetheless stands if we instead remap it, focusing on economic and class disparities, as opposed to ethnic or cultural ones.