Even as I have been watching Egypt's brief flirtation with democracy come apart as quickly as it formed, I still find this particularly sad: Bassem Youssef is funny, and he is brave, and he spoke truth to power in a way that nobody in the Arab world ever does. (Or at least, that nobody tends to do twice.)
But Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is in power now, after winning 95% of the vote in the recent "election," and he's no more interested in allowing people to poke fun at him in public than Mubarak was. (It's really hard for me to tell the two apart nowadays. Mubarak had better hair.)
Really, what we're seeing is the inexorable force of economics. Egypt's economy is built on exactly two sources of revenue: the Suez Canal and tourism. As the Nile Valley gradually dries up and arable land vanishes (a consequence, in no small part, of building the Aswan Dam, which stops the Nile's annual flooding; they got electricity but lost their farmland, which is exactly what everyone warned them would happen), the countryside gets poorer and poorer, and people flocked by the millions to the cities. The government kept bread essentially free, keeping the population alive -- but that made wheat imports Egypt's top expense, and when droughts in the US and Russia drove wheat prices up, Mubarak's government collapsed.
At that point, the problem was that Mubarak had been pretty thorough about preventing any political organization among his opposition from ever assembling; as a result, the only group organized enough to run for office was the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been steadily (secretly) infiltrating large swaths of the judiciary and civil society for years. And so they elected their president, who turned out to be every bit as suspect and shady as you would expect the representative of the father of all modern Arab terrorist groups to be. (Literally: the PLO, Hamas, and so on all branched off from the MB)
But Morsi couldn't solve the basic economic problems any better than Mubarak could, so the protests never stopped, and then he was replaced in the you'd-better-not-call-it-a-coup-or-else. And now that this has been "legitimized" (I use the term loosely) by an election, and the military is back in control, together with an Egyptian Constitution which doesn't quite bring back the hated old Emergency Law, but go ahead and annoy the military and see how well it works out.
This time, though, there's a key difference: the same problems which brought down Mubarak are still there, and if anything have gotten worse. The Arab Spring was precipitated by a drought in Russia and Ukraine which was bad enough to cause Russia to stop all wheat exports; Morsi's ouster was precipitated by another drought. And it's not like wheat crops have stabilized at all, and the steady shift of the climate makes regular droughts a safe bet. So long as Egypt has only two sources of income and one giant expense, all of which are highly prone to oscillating due to forces beyond the country's control, there's no way to stabilize this, and no clear way to solve the pervasive unemployment problem. Basically, people are coming to the cities out of desperation, but the cities are no more able to support them than the countryside, and in the cities, they're suddenly concentrated enough to overthrow governments.
The question is, I suppose, if Sisi can use the military to keep himself in power long enough to do something about it -- and if, of course, he actually can figure out something to do about it. Because he's inherited a grade-A mess, and solutions aren't spectacularly evident.
But one thing was made clear today: Nobody's going to be laughing about it.