25 killed as Egyptians clash with army in Cairo

Video shows security forces storming al-Hurra TV headquarters, forcing end to broadcast.

In the worst violence since February when 18 days of demonstrations lead to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian military police clashed with protesters in the centre of Cairo yesterday, leaving 25 people dead and 272 wounded.

Tahrir Square became the epicentre of renewed violence when rioting spread from a nearby state television building. According to the Associated Press, Coptic Christians protesting against the demolition of a church in southern Egypt "came under assault by people in plain clothes and were later confronted by security forces." Further into the evening, Christians and Muslims were killed by gunfire and armoured vehicles after 1,000 troops deployed by state authorities moved into the centre of the city.

Egypt's official news agency, Mena, reported that dozens of "instigators of chaos" were arrested following the clash. A curfew over the city was lifted at 5am GMT Monday.

The video above shows Egyptian security forces entering the headquarters of all-Hurra TV news station during the violence. The broadcast was very shortly removed from the air.

UK foreign secretary William Hague has released a statement in which he withholds suggestion of an instigator for the violent outbreak:

I am deeply concerned by the unrest yesterday in Cairo and I condemn the loss of life. I urge all Egyptians to refrain from violence and support the Egyptian prime minister's call for calm. It is essential that all sides take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and engage in dialogue. The freedom of religious belief is a universal human right which needs to be protected everywhere, and the ability to worship in peace is a vital component of any free and democratic society.

Commentators on Twitter, meanwhile, have been laying blame for the deaths on the ruling military council, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces -- see #SCAF

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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I am special and I am worthless: inside the mind of a narcissist

There's been a lot of discussion about narcissists this week. But what does the term actually mean?

Since the rise of Donald Trump, the term “narcissistic” has been cropping up with great regularity in certain sections of the media, including the pages of this journal. I wouldn’t want to comment about an individual I’ve never met, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the troubling psychological health problem of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

People with NPD (which is estimated to affect about 1 per cent of the population) have a characteristic set of personality traits. First, they have a deeply held sense of specialness and entitlement. Male NPD sufferers frequently present as highly egotistical, with an unshakeable sense of their superiority and importance; female sufferers commonly present as eternal victims on whom the world repeatedly inflicts terrible injustices. In both cases, the affected person believes he or she is deserving of privileged treatment, and expects it as a right from those around them.

Second, NPD sufferers have little or no capacity for empathy, and usually relate to other people as objects (as opposed to thinking, feeling beings) whose sole function is to meet the narcissist’s need for special treatment and admiration – known as “supply”. In order to recruit supply, NPD sufferers become highly skilled at manipulating people’s perceptions of them, acting out what is called a “false self” – the glittering high achiever, the indefatigable do-gooder, the pitiable victim.

The third characteristic is termed “splitting”, where the world is experienced in terms of two rigid categories – either Good or Bad – with no areas of grey. As long as others are meeting the narcissist’s need for supply, they are Good, and they find themselves idealised and showered with reciprocal positive affirmation – a process called “love-bombing”. However, if someone criticises or questions the narcissist’s false self, that person becomes Bad, and is subjected to implacable hostility.

It is not known for certain what triggers the disorder. There is likely to be a genetic component, but in many cases early life experiences are the primary cause. Narcissism is a natural phase of child development (as the parents of many teenagers will testify) and its persistence as adult NPD frequently reflects chronic trauma during childhood. Paradoxically for a condition that often manifests as apparent egotism, all NPD sufferers have virtually non-existent self-esteem. This may arise from ongoing emotional neglect on the part of parents or caregivers, or from sustained psychological or sexual abuse.

The common factor is a failure in the development of a healthy sense of self-worth. It is likely that narcissism becomes entrenched as a defence against the deep-seated shame associated with these experiences of being unworthy and valueless.

When surrounded by supply, the NPD sufferer can anaesthetise this horrible sense of shame with the waves of positive regard washing over them. Equally, when another person destabilises that supply (by criticising or questioning the narcissist’s false self) this is highly threatening, and the NPD sufferer will go to practically any lengths to prevent a destabiliser adversely influencing other people’s perceptions of the narcissist.

One of the many tragic aspects of NPD is the invariable lack of insight. A narcissist’s experience of the world is essentially: “I am special; some people love me for this, and are Good; some people hate me for it, and are Bad.” If people with NPD do present to health services, it is usually because of the negative impacts Bad people are having on their life, rather than because they are able to recognise that they have a psychological health problem.

Far more commonly, health professionals end up helping those who have had the misfortune to enter into a supply relationship with an NPD sufferer. Narcissism is one of the most frequent factors in intimate partner and child abuse, as well as workplace bullying. The narcissist depends on the positive affirmation of others to neutralise their own sense of unworthiness. They use others to shore themselves up, and lash out at those who threaten this precarious balance. And they leave a trail of damaged people in their wake. 

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times