By YVONNE RIDLEY
THE Western media has been somewhat caught out by the rapid demise of one of the most brutal dictators in the world.
But not to worry, the CIA famously missed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 after working around the clock 24/7 for five decades warning us constantly of the dangers of ignoring the Red Peril. Still, we all have our off days.
However, when journalists did finally catch up with events in Tunisia it was the plight of the British holidaymakers that grabbed the headlines, not the scores of locals who had been gunned down by government forces.
So what harrowing tales emerged at the airports as the Brits piled off the planes to freedom?
BBC Five Live reported the trembling words of a Yorkshireman who said: "We cant believe it. They shut all the bars. Then when we got t'airport duty free were closed!"
Yes, the BBC went right to the heart of the matter showing once again it had its finger on the pulse of popular opinion.
That was on Friday and then more dramatic stories emerged the next two days as returning tourists talked about roaming street gangs looting and setting fire to property, and what a grand job the police were doing.
The so-called "roaming street gangs" were in fact highly organised thugs in the employ of the Tunisian Ministry of Interior on a black propaganda exercise designed to demonise the ordinary people who had finally snapped after being bludgeoned physically and mentally by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his police.
Of course most of the Brits were probably unaware they were holidaying in a police state in the first place - it's not mentioned in the brochures ... funny that!
The reactions of the traumatised tourists prompted one leading Tunisian blogger to Tweet this rather blunt, if not personal piece of advice: "A revolution is ongoing, take your drunk ass somewhere else. Return after elections."
Now that the 'human interest' angle of the terrorised tourists has been virtually exhausted, the western media is trying to explain the ongoing demonstrations and the cause of the revolution. They even gave the movement a name ... the Jasmine Revolution after the country's national flower. How civilised.
As far as the media is concerned the revolution erupted thanks to Wikileaks, Twitter and Facebook. What nonsense and what an insult to Tunisians, young and old. The revolution was driven by ordinary people who finally snapped because of the soaring cost of food prices, rising unemployment and the brutality of the police state.
Many of the revolutionaries were also protesting the dictatorship and lack of real democracy and freedom of speech. Throw in the police brutality, corruption of the ruling families and censorship of the social networks (Youtube was blocked and Facebook accounts and bloggers were regularly hacked) and something was bound to snap.
We Westerners, hooked up to our Blackberries and iPhones were merely given front row electronic seats from where we could cheer on the real revolutionaries who physically took to the streets and faced down live ammunition, baton charges and tear gas.
Now we are told there will be elections in Tunisia in the next 40 days or so and when the people make their choice of government I hope the Western media, Western Governments and the United Nations set aside their usually prejudices and accept the outcome ... unlike what happened in Gaza.
Even today the population of Gaza is suffering from a collective punishment at the hands of the West for democratically choosing Hamas. But as Ben Ali has now just learned you can't impose your will on people because in the end they will rebel.
Without outside interference, I am confident the Tunisian people will make the right choices for them and whoever or whichever party they choose we should respect the outcome.
There is already excited chatter of trade unionists, former opposition parties and a few Islamists forming a coalition government.
Personally I don't care who takes power as long as those elected are the peoples' choice and they put the people first.
(British journalist Yvonne Ridley is the European President of the International Muslim Women's Union. She regularly contributes to theMuslim.ca)