‘And Then God Created The Middle East… And Said Let There Be Breaking News’

‘And Then God Created The Middle East… And Said Let There Be Breaking News’

12 October 2018

Priyanka Mogul, Communications Officer

Europe and the Middle East – we’re like the Rachel and Ross of geopolitical history… I found myself in a unique position of bringing two cultures together – making the West understand the Middle East and vice versa.

This was how Karl Sharro became Karl reMarks, the online satirist and author of the new book, And Then God Created the Middle East and Said “Let There Be Breaking News”. Packed with hilarious sketches and wry observations of the way that journalists report on the Middle East, the book tackles delicate and complex topics in tweets, memes and cartoons – and we were lucky enough to have him join us at the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2018 to share some of these and more.

Originally from Lebanon, Karl explained that his first pieces of work were mainly focused on his own country. However, when the Arab Uprising took shape in 2011, he became “really intrigued by the emerging punditry about the region and the people who take it upon themselves to explain what the Middle East is about.

“We were being treated to these opinion pieces and articles regularly after the Arab Uprising started: ‘Is the Arab world ready for democracy?’, ‘Why Western democracy can never work in the Middle East’, ‘Why Arab democracy will fail’.

“I realised then that in my unique role as someone from the Middle East, who was in London at that historic moment, instead of allowing those designated pundits and journalists to explain what the Middle East is about, I could do my own explainers.”

This then led to the beginning of his observations on Twitter.

Pointing to the sensationalisation of news reports on the Middle East, Karl joked that he often wondered if he was reading Moliere rather than a news article. On the other side of Western reporting, he pointed to journalists like Thomas L. Friedman, whose articles, ‘Syria is Iraq’ and ‘Freud and the Middle East’, made Karl question why he bothered writing the rest of it.

However, what Karl most enjoyed when it came to Western reporting on the Middle East was the analysis. Whether it was the “cyclical waves of articles that suggest the solution to everything is always to either partition a country or join two countries together (generally do some form of redecoration in the Middle East)” or the explanations of ISIS, Karl had something to say (or tweet).

“Western pundits, when they try to explain ISIS, it always had to be one thing. It had to be very simple. You couldn’t have two reasons. Whatever your pet cause is, that’s what caused ISIS: “Climate change caused ISIS, inequality caused ISIS, Iraqi government caused ISIS.”

The evening was packed with previews from his book, as well as material that didn’t make it into the book; including the introduction of his WENA (Western Europe and North America) Studies programme, observations about Brexit and Trump, and a carefully plotted diagram that illustrated how the better the food in a country, the worse the government.

Watch the full event here

There’s lots more coming up at this year’s Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival – check out the full programme