If anybody has doubts about the Blogosphere constituting a serious form of media expression these days, I would point to the Sunday New York Times turning to Iraqi blogs for response on the recent election.
I found the Times’ choice of blogs interesting.
The first blog quoted was: A Star from Mosul, written by “Aunt Najma,” a 17 year old school girl, who has been posting from war-torn Mosul, deep in Sunni Iraq. It is impossible not to like this charming young girl (proud of recently becoming an aunt), who posts fairly regularly concerning the dangers and inconveniences the war has brought to her life. When I began reading her, she was apolitical, but in recent months as the fighting neared her home, her postings became anti-American. Najma reports that a Mufti informed residents of Mosul this time that voting was a religious duty, and Najma’s family responded enthusiastically. Her election post ended on a patriotic note.
The Times’ second blog was predictable. It was, of course, Riverbend’s Baghdad Burning. Its author describes Baghdad Burning as a “girl blog,” and uses as an epigraph: I’ll meet you ’round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend. But Baghdad Burning consistently features a lot more strident and inflammatory anti-Americanism than it does healing and mending. This one was a dead certain cinch for NYT selection.
Riverbend tells us in the Times:
Many Iraqis went to vote because the current situation is intolerable. It’s not so much with high hopes for drastic change that people went to the polls as it is in the national aspiration of putting an end to the occupation, and to the tyranny of the last year in particular….
In my opinion, elections in Iraq cannot be democratic under a foreign occupation – especially when the election lists were composed largely of the same people who supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We are recycling the same names, faces and ideologies of sectarian and ethnic divide.
Even so positive a concession as the admission of a large electoral turnout was reserved by Riverbend for the Times. Baghdad Burning has not been updated with the material appearing in today’s Times, and sits sullenly without new postings since Thursday, December 15, just before the election. Riverbend is refusing to acknowledge the news she doesn’t like, news of the size of the turnout and the election’s success. I used to consider this blog worth a regular look. Its author was obviously a passionate America hater, but I thought the blog worth reading as an effective voice for a particular point of view. This little exercise in self censorship shows just how honest a voice Baghdad Burning really is. Chances are “Riverbend” has a great big, bushy mustache, and is really the nephew of “Baghdad Bob,” aka Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the former Iraqi Minister of Information.
No. 3 was an Iraqi blog I didn’t know, titled: Eject: Iraqi Konfused Kollege Kid. “The kid himself” brought an apolitical youthful rocker’s perspective to the election:
IRAQ’S first Election Day last January was another Anyday for me. As a so-called Sunni who would rather be identified as “Iraqi,” I wasn’t really into politics… Now, I’m not the kind of person who simply gets up and does whatever his ayatollah tells him to do, but I was rather fed up with all the bad blood that resulted from American-installed sectarian policy, and I felt that voting would restore much-needed balance….I chose List 618 (the so-called Sunni list), not because I want an Islamic government, but to restore the balance between Sunnis and Shiites. I considered the secularist Allawi list (731) for some time, but something told me that guy’s going to win anyway. Besides, Ahmad Radhi, Iraq’s most famous soccer player, is strangely supporting 618.
“The kid himself” is not a high volume blogger. He hasn’t posted since Monday, December 12, and his posts have nothing to say about politics. Way to go, Times, there’s a great job of journalism, really getting the real inside dope on the Iraqi point of view on the election.
No. 4 was Hassan Karuffa, a civil engineering student, and the author of A Star from Mosul‘s cousin, who writes An Average Iraqi. Hassan, like his cousin, was much more enthusiastic about this election. He does describe some of the electoral slates who were running in a recent posting. Alas! for the Times, Hassan too strikes a positive note:
Looking back at the things we achieved since the war, I feel very proud. Although we hear shootings and bombings every day. We reached this far, and we are going on, on and on to the finish. Yes, I am optimistic about the future. Life in Iraq has been so bad so far, but I see a bright future. I see an Iraq with full-time electricity, full-time water and full-time security.
Studiously overlooked by the Times were Iraq the Model and Hammorabi, both pro-American, and both far more more widely read, and much more politically substantive than the Times’ choices: three nice kids plus Baghdad Bob’s hairy nephew.