Sex, Blogging, and Area Comparisons

Some noteworthy articles to check out:

Ben Gilbert has a very good piece in Executive magazine on prostitution in Lebanon. The poor guy risked his life braving the super nightclubs of Maameltein to bring us this exposé, so be sure to check it out.  (download PDF – 2.1 megabytes)

lebanon_area3Lawrence Pintak and Yosri Fouda have a very strange article in the Columbia Journalism Review (“Blogging in the Middle East: Not Necessarily Journalistic“) that makes the most back-assward argument I’ve read in a while. They start off by stating, uncontroversially, that bloggers are not journalists, yet somehow end up concluding that “if journalist rights groups throw in their lot with [bloggers and political activists masquerading as real journalists], it will be hard to make a case that jailed Iranian and Arab journalists shouldn’t be tried right alongside “cyberdissidents” advocating revolution…” As if Middle Eastern regimes really needed an excuse to imprison anybody!

After you’re done reading Pintak and Fouda, read the rebuttal to their piece, also in CJR. Makes much more sense.

Finally, the map above somehow puts things into perspective. I don’t know what those things are or what perspective the map provides, but it just does. (h/t Ben Ryan)

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    16 thoughts on “Sex, Blogging, and Area Comparisons

    1. There’s been a huge ongoing debate on blogging vs. journalism in the US. Glenn Greenwald on salon.com has some good pieces on this.

      Posted by nadia | August 18, 2009, 4:34 pm
    2. Hi Nadia

      I’m familiar with some of Glenn’s work on this issue, but what I found to be wrongheaded about the CJR article was the notion that the West shouldn’t treat Middle Eastern bloggers as journalists because this somehow makes it easier for despots to throw everyone with an internet connection in jail whether they write on WordPress or the New York Times website.

      I think there are plenty of reasons to treat blogging differently from journalism but this is not one of them.

      Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 18, 2009, 5:09 pm
    3. Yeah, that’s one of the most ridiculous arguments I’ve ever seen for a whole list of reasons. I guess their hand-wringing over lumping in jailed bloggers with journalists really jumped out at me. I was imagining an 8 page Glenn Greenwald response post when I read this:

      But to lump them in with brave journalists who are being jailed, harassed, and even murdered for reporting facts—not rumor or innuendo—about government corruption, official malfeasance, and corporate misdeeds undermines efforts to bolster a free and professional media in the Arab world and Iran. And it’s an insult to those who are sacrificing themselves for that goal.

      An insult?

      Posted by nadia | August 18, 2009, 5:30 pm
    4. Yes, he is prolix, isn’t he?

      Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 18, 2009, 5:34 pm
    5. I guess one would want to ask the authors, “Is it somehow more acceptable to throw a blogger in jail just because s/he isn’t reporting on facts, but rather writing social commentary or opinion?”

      Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 18, 2009, 5:37 pm
    6. He is! And extraordinarily detailed – but par for the course for a lawyer.

      I just read the rebuttal, which I thought was good. I think the key point is that it’s obviously very difficult in some authoritarian regimes to even BE a professional journalist and to maintain any level of objectivity and critical distance from the state. A diversity of critical voices, especially in a less-restrictive domain such as the blogosphere is important. The sad point and why I brought up Glenn’s writing in the first place is that this also applies in so-called democracies. American journalists have a great deal of legal protection in most respects, but they are not entirely immune from pressure from corporate sponsors and politicians/government (esp given the profit/consumer-dependent structure of the US press). The blogosphere has been filling a void where the mainstream media and “professional journalists” fear to tread. Torture/”enhanced interrogations” is a huge case in point.

      I guess one would want to ask the authors, “Is it somehow more acceptable to throw a blogger in jail just because s/he isn’t reporting on facts, but rather writing social commentary or opinion?”

      I f that standard would apply to someone like Thomas Friedman, it might change things in my mind. HAHAHA

      Posted by nadia | August 18, 2009, 5:55 pm
    7. Re: the map – I am a little boggled by it, since I know the DC area somewhat.

      Reminds me why I used to tease my brother in childhood that if he fell out of bed (while visiting our family in Mieh-Mieh) he’d wake up in Israel. It is just ridiculously close. And yet people in Beirut often think of the South as this incredibly distant, alien, impenetrable region. Meanwhile, I met nice hijabed ladies at the waterfront cafes last year who were down from Beirut (southern suburbs) for the evening, because Saida is more “shaabi”.

      Posted by Leila Abu-Saba | August 18, 2009, 7:16 pm
    8. Great area comparison–but it’s quite scary to see how small Lebanon really is!

      Posted by Umm Kais | August 18, 2009, 9:10 pm
    9. Umm Kais,

      Hope all is well. I used to read Abu Kais’s blog in the past. Both of you where great. From a selfish point of view, I was dissapointed that Abu Kais gave up blogging, because he was very very good. Really enjoyed all of his writings.

      As far as how small Lebanon is comapared to a giangantic piece of land like America or Canada, I think good things come in small packages, and Lebanon is one of them small packages.

      Lebanon might be small allright, but it is the prettiest/most intriguing in its own crazy way.

      Give my best to Abu Kais.

      Posted by Ras Beirut | August 18, 2009, 11:38 pm
    10. There’s an element of professional amour-propre to the first piece which ignores affinities between bloggers and newsprint columnists, a status some journalists attain after years of scrabbling with lowly “facts.”

      How’s that for prolix? And I’m not even a lawyer!

      More importantly, the piece really doesn’t acknowledge that free speech principles apply in both cases (with civil remedies for libel, rather than criminal punishment. Has any web pundit faced litigation for claiming the mayor is a Freemason with a taste for pre-adolescent gymnasts? Any reason why it shouldn’t happen?).

      The argument as framed in the first piece comes close to inadvertently backing press laws in the region that impose criminal penalties for offenses like “publishing false news”, i.e., lapses of “professionalism.” The repressive governments are sharper than defenders of vocational standards on this point.

      Posted by J of Chalcedon | August 19, 2009, 3:07 am
    11. On blogging vs. journalism: at the end of the day, it all comes down to how one defines blogging.

      If blogging is defined by the medium — online, independently-run (usually with a “staff” of one), and free — then surely there can be some overlap with journalism in certain cases. If a blogger is actually out on the streets, gathering information from primary sources, reporting on events, etc. and writing them up on his/her blog in a just-the-facts-ma’am fashion, then I don’t see how this doesn’t qualify as journalism.

      If blogging is defined by the message — i.e. opinion-based commentary on the facts as they are provided by journalists — then we’re really comparing apples and oranges.

      Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 19, 2009, 10:48 am
    12. Hey Ras Beirut–

      Abu Kais is back to blogging–after a much needed rest. Who can stay away from Lebanese politics for that long, no matter how ridiculous?

      Check out AK’s blog. Sorry QN–not trying to promote other stuff on your blog!

      Posted by Umm Kais | August 19, 2009, 1:37 pm
    13. No, please feel free. I’m glad AK is back and at it.

      Posted by Qifa Nabki | August 19, 2009, 1:40 pm
    14. The article uses the word ‘expose’. If the writer wishes to publicise that Lebanon has ladies who decide what to do with their time, then its good. Otherwise if the writer wants to criticise these Ladies Of The Night, then the writer is talking like a Hindu on the payroll of Fox TV.

      Posted by Sameer, bangaore, india | August 31, 2009, 11:57 am


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