Much has been said about the spread and conduct of terrorism via the Internet. Terrorist groups have embraced technology and leveraged it to attack enemies and distribute propaganda. The internet and the information age link terrorists like never before, giving them unprecedented access to each other and the terror victim. Groups based in
There is another group of Middle Easterners that use this same system to network. This group connects via the internet. They plot and plan. They spread their views throughout the world. Yet, these Middle Easterners contribute to an over all global conversation that in turn contributes to democratization and the mobilization of soft power the likes of which the world has never seen. With the spread of connectivity comes the spread of public diplomacy, as well as a voice to react to the legacy media of the West and the state run media at home. These are Middle Eastern bloggers.
Something to Say and Somewhere to Say it.
What is a blog (weB LOG)? Generally an online journal meets the criteria of blog when it is regularly updated, past posts are archived and posts are dated. Additional criteria may be attribution through linking and Real Simple Syndication (RSS). As this new media evolves what a blog is will certainly change. Blogs are “new.” The Internet as we recognize it is still only in its teens and blogs are slightly younger. Blogs numbered in the twenties before 1999. Now in 2007 if you ask the blog index and search engine Technorati to search for blogs containing the term “middle east” it returns 933,070 results.
Today you can find blogs all over the world touching on as varied subjects as the people who write the blogs, from an 18 year old Chinese girl living in Hamilton, New Zealand introducing herself to the world via MySpace to an American student in Dublin Ireland going on about his pub adventures via Blogger to a mother of three in Mosul Iraq trying to make sense of her chaotic life. Each of these people is an active participant in the new media of blogging. Each contributes to a massive dialog that is largely unfiltered, unedited and patently democratic.
Middle Eastern Blogs
Middle Eastern blogs are just as varied in content as any other part of the world. There are blogs that feature cats, blogs that feature art and certainly blogs that feature political commentary and analysis. One of the most prominent of these is Iraq The Model run by two Iraqi brothers, Omar and Mohammed Fadhil. Iraq The Model’s first post was on Friday, November 14, 2003 which makes it one of the oldest blogs in the Middle East and certainly
“Female. Twenty-something. Jordanian of Palestinian origin. Born in
Liberal. Feminist. Overachiever. Messy. Optimistic. Cynical. Slightly cocky. Major listening problems. Rather humorless. Tiny attention span. City person. Generally a very happy individual. Believes self-expression is an essential part of her identity. Complete nerd but partial geek. Looks forward to meeting new people. Obsessive by nature. Places logic above all. Art aficionado. Infatuated with design. Fascinated by the power of brands. Loves minimalism. Finds red irresistible. Fascinated by glue…
Loves shoes. Adores the internet. Admires Andy Warhol, Marcel DuChamp, and Leila Shawa. Willing to live on soda, brownies, and kubeh nayyeh.”
When Western minds conjure an image of a Middle Eastern woman Roba’s description of herself is not what comes to mind. The legacy media’s portrayal of Middle Easterners follows a particular stereotype. The new media blog works to counter preconceived notions. Bloggers and readers are no longer tied to the old media. There is no longer hegemony of information, sources and distribution. Information is now dirty and democratic. In fact blogs, as described in the 2003 debate between intellectuals and bloggers in
From social networking to political analysis blogs serve many uses each of which assumes at least one thing, an audience. How many and who is reading. In the run up to the 2004
Joseph Nye Jr. describes soft power as “the ability to obtain desired outcomes through attraction rather than coercion…” In the Middle East the emergence of blogs has given a voice to those that did not have one a few years ago. That voice is out there for billions to receive. Practically that voice may not be reaching but a few hundred thousand but given the exponential growth of blogs, the questionable nature of the Middle Eastern media, and the ease of access these blogs are “attracting” attention. During the recent Israel-Lebanon war blogs attracted the attention of the mainstream news. Blogs from both sides of the conflict gave us a raw and unedited view. While a hard power coercive war was being fought in southern
“…today Sayyid Nasrallah, in his interview on Al-Jazeera, almost answered Al-Mustaqbal by already deciding what the role of the Lebanese government should be: namely to receive all the international mediators, to take notes of their ideas and then to relay those ideas to Hizbullah, for Hizbullah to say, "Yes or No!"
I once wrote a post on this blog that said something along the lines of how in such a tiny place like
And in the comments that followed:
I think it's outrageous that a militia gets to decide for our government and our people. I've been outside
This back and forth and countless more like it constitute the information age version of public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is “the influence of public attitudes on the formation and execution of foreign policies…” The Middle Eastern blog dialogue grows everyday and with it the influence.
In the conversation below an Egyptian professor tackles three issues in the Middle East: hate culture, conspiracy theories and western views of the
“It is again the same culture that burned the consulates during the famous Danish cartoon protests in
From the comments:
“حفصوتشا ام مصطفيتش said...
what shall we say ?!!?? again its the wahabyah dogma that invaded the pure and simple rules of human living wihtout any consideration to others…
…i dont think that it was muslims who did the 11/9, its way beyond our abilites otherwise we could have done somehting long time ago, and lets say that it was done by arabs, i would assume that they were only puppets in the hands of bin laden whos another puppet in the hands of the states itself.”
The blogger responds:
“Nah·det Masr said...
I think as a community we have a problem in the tolerance department… However, I strongly disagree with you regarding the perpetrators of 9/11 since I have seen a TV show on Aljazeera, where Khalid Shaykh Mohamed described the details of their planning of their crime…”
Finally an American comments:
For an American...it is "easy" to talk about how people need to self-critic, debate, explore, criticize...but in much of the Arab world, people who write articles like this one and end up like Kareem [in jail] or worse. What were the authors own words about being afraid to speak his opinion in the mosque?
I admire you and the sites I am finding like this one.”
Nah·det Masr responds:
“Nah·det Masr said...
Howie, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I am sure that all of us humans share the same universal set of values…
Blogging is magical in that you get to express your true beliefs and thoughts under the false sense of security and anonimity. The good surprise is that you find that many people share your thoughts!”
Ten years ago what stars would have had to align for two Egyptians and an average American to be able to discuss openly radical Islam? Now via the internet worlds are close enough and the thought police are far enough to allow this example of public diplomacy.
Months from now there will be thousands of new blogs in the
Blogs are democratic by nature, each its own vote. Like all votes, by itself it is not very weighty but the aggregate of many like minded votes is powerful. Places like itoot.net network and sort thousands of Arab bloggers. Here one vote turns to many one voice joins many and attraction rather than coercion hold sway. The soft power of the Middle Eastern blog is in its infancy. As connectivity grows in that region so will the volume of the blog voice. Internet usage in the
Additional Sources Consulted
 Gill, Kathy, E., (2004) How Can We Measure the Influence of the Blogosphere? Pg. 1.
 Shaheen, J.G., Annals of the
 Doostdar, Alireza, AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, Vol. 106, Issue 4, pp. 651–662
 Nye, J., (2007) Understanding International Conflicts, Pearson Longman, 289
 http://nahdetmasr.blogspot.com/2007/01/culture-of-hatred.html Retrieved 1/11/2007