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July 27, 2006


Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur

Ammar, I believe that blogging is a great political tool, but its impact is limited in the Arab world because of the limited internet penetration.


Vox, the limited internet penetration will not be an issue anymore. For example, 'Saudi Jeans' is a blog that was banned in Saudi Arabia but thanks to the noise Saudis made over it, it has been unblocked. Public pressure will do wonders to a government's policies. We're battling this. Blogging is a great way to fight for our rights to freely express our opinions, and I believe that our media laws will change because of it. Agreeing with Ammar, then, I'll say that this is just the beginning.

I'll also say that many Arab blogs are very educational, and are beginning to lean towards moderation and more liberal ways of thinking thanks to the exposure to Israeli blogs and the like. Without technology, we never really had the ability to debate with the "enemy." But we're living in a completely different time period and we can use technology to our advantage this time. It's an incredibly strong tool. You can not only use it to be understood, but you can also use it to understand.

The number of Arabic blogs dedicated to democracy and civil rights is astounding. It's inspiring people to get more involved in local politics, and being active in the promotion of political rights within the country and beyond.

- Esra'a

ghassan karam

Telecommunication is a major force that is helping change the world and shape it for decades to come. Obviously one aspect of this tremendous revolution is the internet and all its attendant developments; email, IM, interactivity, blogs etc...

Besides the industrial and commercial applications for efficiently managing far flung enterprizes it can be argued that IM, email and bloging have introduced a sea change in establishing new channels of communications between the different people of the world. It is true that Blogs are only a tool but their primary contribution stems from the fact that they are free tools that empower individuals to express their feelings, ideas and aspirations concerning any subject matter that is of interest to them. Controlloing, managing or interfering with this tool will only contribute to making it less effective and not more so. We should not lose any sleep over the power of radical groups utilizing the internet to promote their objectives. If we have any faith whatsoever in our programs of liberal democracy and individual freedom then we should be eager to create a vigourous and robust free market of ideas. Our democratic ideals will spread and gain the upper hand only if the positions that they advocate are attractive and make sense.

The current war in Lebanon between Israel and HA has probably spawned more interactions between Israeli citizens and their Lebanese counterparts through the medium of blogging than at any other time over the past sixty years of the conflict with Israel. Furthermore, it is my considered opinion, that these interactions and exchanges have at times been very productive, informative and beneficial. Both sides, for better or for worse, have gained more insight into the thinking and rationale of their opponents.

The same argument can be made regarding the so far nascent democratic tradition in the Arab world. As the use of the internet and the blogging medium increases then social organization, fundraising and communications will be enhanced. As NGO's become better organised and their membership more spread it is hoped that their influnce to democratize, spread awarness about human rights and political responsibility through blogs , emails and web sites will become an important force in shaping the contours of a new civil Arab society.


Indeed, Esra'a, blogging is opening new vistas for us. Individual activists can now be heard and can influence events, no matter how minimally at this stage, because of their blogging activities, and they can begin networking with each and with like minded people across the region and the world. This has enabled many to move from being individual activists to becoming part of a larger whole, and this is only the beginning.


To my mind, blogging can never truly be effectively used by repressive and oppressive force, for exactly the reasons you cite. Although the internet can certainly be utilized by repressive movements, the nature of blogging is inherently one of freedom of mind. It has an egalitarian bases. Writing, thinking, debating are all activities that promote analysis of ideas and demand that we hear others...at least some of the time. They are skills of the mind rather than ones of phyiscal action/reaction. They mediate against and in oposition to violent responses. It is absolutely a democratic praxis. Therefore, it will always be the weapon of those in search of negotiation and compromise, opening up rather than shutting down.

Murky Thoughts

Raw text nurtures misunderstandings and cloaks absurdities. Take the Bible for example. So I think blogging is great for topics we don't care too much about, but dangerous for those we do. When the Web becomes a place for interactive video with sound we'll be better off. Still, it's best to know somebody before you start swapping ideology with him or her.


I believe all text "nurtures misunderstandings and cloaks absurdities." These are the dangers of writing. Videos might solve part of that problem. But, frankly, until we become all telepathic, I see nothing that we can do to prevent misunderstandings and absurdities from clouding our judgment and complicating our inter-communication.

Murky Thoughts

Not as rebuttal, but just as a point I wish I'd come closer to making the first time: Along the lines of "knowing" who you're exchanging words and ideas with, the root liability I think is the "no one knows you're a dog" problem. There's no admissions test or economic barrier or even a standard of civility standing in the way of blogging or commenting online. You can get online from prison in the U.S. and other wealthy countries I suppose. Nevermind the issue of outright deception, how about knowing whether somebody is credulous or histrionic or stupid or has a peculiar dislike of dogs. What we get online is more testimony and rhetoric than argument or referenced reporting. The first thing out of the mouth of one person on one subject is likely to differ in credibility and conscientiousness than what comes from another. I think we rely a lot more than we realize on credentials and context. If it's in the produce aisle it's not poison. If she's a "Professor of X" she's liable to know something about X and if she's the Chair of X at Harvard she's liable to be quite wise about X. What good is a report of the discovery of alien life if the quoted expert is just "Joe" and the publication is spray paint on the wall? Joe may be a brilliant astronomer held in awe for his exceptional caution and skepticism by his entire field and may have found the telltale evidence of aliens himself five minutes ago. Or he may be a 7 year old who heard the story from HER best friend. Actually the quote may be extremely telling with regard to something interesting whoever said it, but we may not know what to make of it if all we have besides the words themselves is that they come from "Joe." I think the blogosophere exciting but profoundly weird, and I'm not sure what to expect from it.


I see your point, but I think we have the same problem in all types of media. There are so many people out there posing as experts on a variety of issues that may people get confused. I think the Internet and blogging might enhance this tendency at times, but it does not create the problem.

I mean, there are institutes that graduate astrologers out there in the “real” world, and these people can speak with authority on a verity of topics, always claiming insight and expertise, and will always have people who think them credible. There is a problem with the recipients, and I am not sure how it can be addressed.


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