My friend Stephen, the musician (among many other skills and attributes including a PhD) touring Kuwait, Syria, and Lebanon, was astonished to find how far and quickly his letter to America had permeated the Internet. After appearing here on Blogcritics.org last week, it was disseminated far and wide (especially by Glenn Reynolds and James Taranto, but please also see the pings at the bottom of the post), striking a viral chord. Whether your view is right, left, top or bottom, it seems clear to many that the media emphasizes negative news over positive, sensational "events" over prosaic process, noisy dischord over quiet accord.
Stephen writes again today:
- Thanks, Eric :-) I have a slightly better connection now. I'm up to 9600 baud...and sharing the modem between three machines.
I'm amazed to see that my writing about Iraq/Syria/Kuwait has turned up all over the net since I left. It's amazing how a point of view that presents an alternative to the mainstream can get such coverage. In fact, my Dad wrote me from Vancouver saying he had woken up to find my views on Iraq presented in one of his daily e-mails from a news agency, about two days after I wrote it-- it was news to him, too. Gives me faith in the internet...
The piece of the story that I did not mention, and that (I hope) is not too OT, is how the mainstream Arab media have also gotten the story wrong. Again, there are plenty of Iraqis who will tell you about their utter disgust with Al-Jazeera and Manar-- yet we are constantly told by our own CNN, NYT, etc., that somehow these agencies are the voice of the people, the "Arab Street."
The point is, all this talk about the "Arab Street" (how do I get there again? Turn left at "Africa Street"?) is a useless generalization, reinforced by a bunch of journalists sitting around the Al-Rashid and Palestine Hotel bars, while they wait for their drivers to pick them up in air-conditioned SUVs for a day trip out to Fallujah or Ramadi. Is there a "White Street," an "Asian Street"? It's a ludicrous and vaguely racist concept to begin with.
I have spoken to loads of Iraqis, Syrians, Kuwaitis etc. and what I have seen is the definitive breakdown of "Arab Unity" as a generation of academics (the ones who taught me at least) knew it. As I mentioned in the last e-mail, the graffiti on the walls of Baghdad University is not "US Go Home"-- it's actually...."Palestinians Go Home. The Free Ride Is Over"!!! There is a sea change going on, right now, and CNN will be the last place to learn about it.