I’ve been a little obsessed with the changes in the Arab blogosphere over the past year, and the Syrian blogs are among the most interesting to me, perhaps because I’ve been reading several of these bloggers for years. The shift in perspective as a result of the uprising is remarkable. People like Robin Yassin-Kassab and Off the Wall (and their readers) are elaborating, dialectically, a new meaning of Arab liberalism.
Here are the first few paragraphs from my weekly piece for the New York Times global opinion page, which deals with this subject.
The images out of Syria this month are gut-wrenching. Two suicide bombers killed dozens of people in Damascus on Friday, an alarming ratcheting-up of the violence in a conflict that some fear is starting to look more like a civil war by the day.
Within hours of the attacks, Twitter, Facebook and the Arab blogosphere were boiling over with claims and counterclaims. Some accepted the Syrian government’s statement that Friday’s bombers were affiliated with Al Qaeda; others, who are sympathetic to the opposition, want to see President Bashar al-Assad fall (see here, here and here).
This highly polarized response is symptomatic of a broader culture war that has recently emerged among Syria watchers. For the first decade of Assad’s presidency, most Syrian blogs I read were fairly supportive of the regime because of its commitment to the Palestinian cause and its opposition to the United States and Israel. But this year has changed everything. (keep reading)